With an intention to grow its Malaysia workforce by 3,500 in 12 months, as well as double its hiring of PwDs from the existing 130, Aditi Sharma Kalra speaks to Flex's SVP Operations to find out its hiring process, measures for inclusion, and more.

Manufacturing and technology solutions provider Flex has announced plans to grow its workforce in Malaysia by 20% in the next 12 months, which translates into 3,500 new job opportunities for Malaysians. Flex is already one of the largest employers in Malaysia, with over 18,000 employees across 12 facilities located in Johor, Penang and Selangor. 

This comes on the back of a strong year of hiring, with more than 9,000 employees brought on board in various positions in the first nine months of 2020. Of these, more than 6,000 were hired during the Movement Control Order (MCO).

The company is also one of the largest employers of People with Disabilities (PwD, or OKU) in the country, with over 130 PwDs employed in its facilities in Johor and Penang - for which Flex was recognised as a “PwD Friendly Employer” by the Ministry of Human Resource in April 2019. It is planning to double the number of PwD employees in its ranks in the near future.

Against the backdrop of its commitment towards hiring, and to mark its 30-year establishment in Malaysia, Human Resources Online spoke exclusively to Viswanathan Paramasivam, Senior Vice President of Operations, Flex, who has been with the company for the past 24 years. He is a strong advocate of sustainability programmes and under his leadership, Flex Penang has pioneered many D&I programmes.

Interview excerpts:

Q Flex has committed to growing its workforce in Malaysia by 20% by Oct 2021. This translates to over 3,500 job opportunities for Malaysians. What kind of business growth are you anticipating for such a rapid pace of hiring to catch up?

We work with global brands in healthcare, industrial, lifestyle and consumer devices, communications, enterprise and cloud and see growth potential in these areas. Flex is manufacturing products such as healthcare and life-science instruments and equipment, sound system and audio products, advance server storage system, networking equipment, complex switches and routers, industrial printers and robotic vacuum cleaners, among others.

Q What are some of the key roles you are looking to hire for?

We are continuously looking to hire engineers, technicians, quality control inspectors, buyers, programme administrators and production operators, among others.

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What does Flex's typical recruitment process look like? What are the milestones and are you planning to go digital?

For direct labour (DL) recruitment: Prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, hiring was done mainly via walk-in interviews. They can come to our facility or even meet our recruiters at recruitment roadshows. However, due to the COVID-19 pandemic, we have now adopted a digital approach to the hiring of DLs. Interested applicants can apply online via an e-application form, shared via our social media channels and WhatsApp group.

Our recruiters will review their application and set up an appointment for a virtual job interview – done via phone or video call (via WhatsApp or Zoom). By the end of the virtual job interview, we will be able to inform them whether they are hired or not and indicate when they can start. Before we officially offer them an employment contract, our HR team will need to do a thorough background check / obtain verification of their previous work status, furthering which they will also have to undergo COVID-19 screening before reporting to work at Flex.

For indirect labour (IDL) recruitment: Our IDL recruitment process has not been affected much by the pandemic. The only difference is that interviews are now mostly conducted virtually. We have also participated in a number of online career fairs to continue reaching out to potential employees.

Additionally, we have always availed the digital option for interested applicants to submit their resumes to us via our flex.com website. Since last year, we have also evolved our website’s Careers page to allow dedicated page for country-specific job-related information and application. For Malaysia, our country career page can be found here.

Most of our job vacancies are also promoted via our Flex social media channels and Jobstreet Malaysia, where interested applicants will be directed to the Malaysia Careers page to submit their resume online.

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Q Tell us more about your strategy for hiring PwDs.

Flex promotes and encourages diverse and inclusive work environment globally and wants to provide PwDs with equal career opportunities. Many PwDs are not given equal career opportunities, and Flex wants to make a positive difference in their lives. We have found PwD employees’ performance to be at par with other non-PwD staff.

The hiring of PwDs in Malaysia was made possible through Flex’s partnership with the Penang and Johor Deaf Association and JobsMalaysia (the recruitment arm of Malaysia’s Ministry of Human Resource).

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Q Flex is one of the largest employers of People with Disabilities (PwD) in Malaysia. What does it take for a manufacturing and tech solutions provider to build a PwD-friendly workplace? What measures have been taken for inclusion?

In total, Flex Malaysia has hired more than 200 PwD employees, making the company one of the largest employers of PwDs in Malaysia. Most of our PwD employees are hearing-impaired.

Measures for inclusion include:

  • Buddy system: We have put in place a buddy system to help each PwD employee. Our PwD employees work alongside other employees at the production floor without segregation.
  • Basic sign language training: Flex offers Basic Sign Language training for all production supervisors, department admins and HRBPs. This training is helpful in enabling better communication with our PwD employees. Through this, PwD employees also feel more comfortable to communicate with their supervisors and HRBPs.
  • On-the-job training: We provide PwD employees with classroom and on-the-job training for interesting and meaningful work. They are also given the chance to undergo job rotation in order to learn new skills.
  • Workplace diversity training: We organise workplace diversity training programmes for various staff from operations training, administrative department, brand protection, HR and recruitment. This training aims to help employees cultivate a sense of respect for one another in order to avoid any unforeseen sensitivities / situations prior to the arrival of PwD employees to the company.
  • Team building: Flex organises PwD team-building sessions under the guidance of internal trainers (with the help of a professional interpreter from the Penang Deaf Association). PwD employees actively participate in these sessions, displaying great teamwork while having fun.
  • Communication: Flex avails localised sign language videos to educate PwD employees about the company vision, mission, purpose and culture. We also produce Global All Hands sign language videos across Asia (Chinese, Malay and and Indian sign language videos) to help our employees better understand our leadership team’s key messaging.
  • Safety: Safety-related training sessions are regularly conducted by our environment, health and safety (EHS) engineers with the help of professional sign language interpreters and complemented by video presentation. Flex has also put in place:
    • Strobe light – Visual alert for emergency situations placed at prominent locations near employees’ workstations (this will help alert our hearing-impaired employees).
    • Emergency preparedness briefing & evacuation drill for PwD employees.
    • Buddy system helps provide a ready friend who can guide or help evacuate in case of emergencies.

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Among the several results we've seen from our strategy, I'd like to share the following:

  • Recognised by Government as PwD-Friendly Employer: Flex was recognised as a PwD Friendly Employer by the Ministry of Human Resource in April 2019 for embracing diversity and inclusion in the workplace.
  • Tuan Mohd Sazali, Head of Penang State Labour Department publicly mentioned that “With Flex hiring PwDs, I look forward to seeing more and more companies following Flex’s example. I endorse and commend Flex on this initiative.”
  • Sustainability & CSR Malaysia Awards: For the second consecutive year, Flex Penang has won the Sustainability & CSR Malaysia Awards in the Technology Solutions Provider Category with a special mention for the employment of people with disabilities (PwD) and continuous learning. The awards, supported by the Ministry of Women, Family and Community Development, recognise outstanding corporations that have transformed the Malaysian socio-economic landscape.

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Photos / Provided

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