How this Malaysian CE led his organisation out of one of the worst job crises in the country

How this Malaysian CE led his organisation out of one of the worst job crises in the country

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Since assuming the role of HRD Corp's Chief Executive in 2020, Datuk Shahul Dawood has seen a greater focus on digital transformation, increased support in upskilling, and more.

When Datuk Shahul Dawood took on the role of HRD Corp's Chief Executive back in 2020, Malaysia was facing one of the worst job crises it had ever seen. In May of that year, the unemployment rate had hit 5.3% when the Movement Control Order was first enforced.

No doubt, this meant an even bigger responsibility on the leader's shoulders. He reflects: "The challenge was ensuring that our country will not slide into poverty and widening inequalities. This means helping Malaysians who were retrenched or those who lost their source of income during the pandemic to retrain in other areas where there is employment or to find income-generating opportunities through freelancing or entrepreneurship."

As part of this, he and his team set out to launch a series of initiatives over the next few years. This included the Penjana HRDF programme, which offered five schemes:

  • B40 Development
  • SME Development
  • Place & Train
  • IR4.0
  • Gerak Insan Gemilang (GIG)

"Between 2020-2021, we trained close to 100,000 individuals through Penjana HRDF. Participants went on to start businesses and secure new employment after completing our training programmes.

"In 2021, we introduced the HRD Corp e-LATiH online learning platform that helps people learn and upskill anywhere and anytime. Today, e-LATiH has over 267,000 registered users and close to 700,000 enrolments across 2,000 courses," he adds.

In this interview with Priya Sunil, Datuk Shahul talks about HRD Corp's progress in its five-year plan since its rebranding, lessons he has learnt as a leader on this journey, how employers can address the gap between talent skills required and capabilities in the market, talent trends he foresees in Malaysia over the coming years, and more. 

Q As  HRD Corp officially rebranded in 2021, you launched the HRD Corp 5-Year Plan (2022-2027) in tandem, which included acceleration of digital transformation, internationalisation, and on the internal front - improved service delivery. How has the organisation progressed along these priorities, and what are some of the highlights/milestones in this journey so far? 

Being a 29-year-old company, it is important that we evolve and stay ahead of the nation’s human capital development trends so that we remain effective and relevant.

Our transformation from a company that collects levy from employers for training to being recognised as the primary custodian for all of Malaysia’s upskilling, training, and human capital development efforts is humbling yet commendable.

We also introduced more stakeholder-friendly policies designed to improve our efficiency, speed, transparency, and agility as an organisation. These include:

  • Individuals are only allowed to hold one directorship position for any registered training provider. In other words, the same individual cannot hold multiple directorship positions with many registered training providers.
  • Training providers must be registered with HRD Corp for at least six months before being eligible to apply for funding from government initiatives. This prevents organisations that had no reputation or credibility in the training business from being established for the sole purpose of applying for government grants.
  • We also introduced the Allowable Cost Matrix (ACM) for government funding to ensure fairness and consistency in terms of the training programmes and training providers that we approve.
  • HRD Corp now does direct engagement with all Trainers and Training Providers to eliminate red tape and bureaucracy.
  • Elimination of subcontracting

We also embarked on digital transformation to improve organisational efficiency and customer experience. This culminated in the launch of the MyHRDCorp Super App, which hosts all of our products and services for our stakeholders on one single platform.

Q What are some upsides and downsides you've faced in this journey, as well as lessons learnt as you plan to tackle the year to come?

The upsides:

  • Having a committed, dedicated, and solid team behind me who are able to move with the changes that I and the leadership team have in mind.
  • Supporting Malaysian talents during the pandemic when they needed us the most and now helping them thrive after – expanding our support to B40, former prisoners, single mothers, senior citizens, etc.
  • Getting the support of our stakeholders – growing our registered employer database to more than 80,000 – more than double in the last two years.

The downsides:

  • The pandemic and its continuing effects
  • Some internal team members and stakeholders are resistant to change.

Q Upskilling is high on the agenda for many employers and talents in Malaysia - and has been a key focus in the National Budget in recent years. Where does Malaysia stand in the journey now? What are some gaps that need to be plugged, in terms of skills required and skills delivery, and at the same time, what can employers do better on this?

According to Randstad Malaysia, many industries are facing hiring challenges. Even as our workforce has become increasingly well-educated, our employees lack the specific knowledge to bridge the skills gaps in Malaysia.

However, I remain optimistic that Malaysia is on the right track in upskilling our talents.

Our Upskill Malaysia platform is one of the efforts to address this issue. It is a national single window that will host skills development programmes offered and funded by government ministries and agencies.

We also have the HRD Corp Placement Centre that can help unemployed youths and fresh graduates through placement opportunities, career counselling, and career matching.

With the industry increasingly needing workers who have sufficient technical skills, employers should look into the Technical and Vocational Education and Training (TVET) talent pool or introduce incentives to send existing talents for technical training.

Q The rise of digital talent: With digitalisation taking place at a rapid pace, comes the increasing demand for digital talent. Yet, a mismatch prevails between the skills required by employers and the capability of the talent pool in the market. What is your advice to employers looking to solve this challenge?

There is no quick fix to this issue. Employers, especially the management, need to think ahead in implementing digitalisation across their business practices. This means that they will need to have a long-term vision and plan by investing in digitalisation experts and upskilling their employees to ensure that the organisation has high digital readiness.

This is because digital transformation, in the modern sense, goes far beyond digitisation and encompasses the full businesses across all activities and existing and new ecosystems.

Q With Malaysia's GDP on the upswing, what's your vision for Malaysia's workforce in the next three to five years?

Apart from a strong GDP showing, Malaysia is also gaining a huge amount of foreign direct investments. For me, it is imperative that all parties come together to create a conducive environment to upskill the local Malaysian workforce.

This is so that our local workforce will gather strength to remain robust and dynamic. The next three to five years are extremely crucial, I hope that our employees will be incentivised to upskill themselves in order to ensure their own growth and upward mobility. At the same time, as the Malaysian workforce moves up the value chain and becomes more skilled and knowledgeable, it will also collectively contribute to Malaysia’s high-come developed economy aspirations.

At HRD Corp, we realised the importance of upskilling our workforce for all these benefits I outlined earlier. This is why all of our programmes and initiatives introduced in the last two years are geared towards supporting the government’s goal of developing a 35% skilled workforce in Malaysia by 2025, in line with the 12th Malaysia Plan aspirations.

In the same vein, what are the top trends you see shaping Malaysia's talent landscape in the next three to five years? What factors do you see intensifying these trends?

From the way I see it, two prevalent trends are digitalisation and the growing prominence of TVET.

Over the last couple of years, many industries were forced to adapt and embrace digitalisation. This will intensify the need for digital talents as the world moves towards a borderless working model.

On the other hand, the need for TVET graduates will be greater as more industries are relying on them. This is because their skills are needed by various industries to support operations requiring automation and technological information.

Q Finally, and more on the personal front, as a leader, how do you focus on upskilling yourself as part of a lifelong learning philosophy?

As a leader, I need to constantly remind myself that the world does not revolve around me and is moving forward all the time. This means that new trends and new skills are emerging all the time and I will need to keep myself abreast of the current happenings as well.

It is crucial for me to stay ahead of the curve to set a good example for my colleagues and peers. At the same time, it is my belief that we can always learn from each other. Therefore, I am constantly learning something new from the people around me as well.

This interview took place on the sidelines of HRD Corp's National Human Capital Conference & Exhibition (NHCCE2022), held on 29 and 30 November 2022. Read HRO's key takeaways and learning from the event here:

Image / Provided (Interviewee: Datuk Shahul Dawood)

Follow us on Telegram and on Instagram @humanresourcesonline for all the latest HR and manpower news from around the region!

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