Talent: Employers prefer all-rounders

This article first appeared in Enterprise, The Edge Malaysia Weekly, on February 11, 2019 - February 17, 2019.
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Employers need to work on their communication skills to stay relevant in the job market and retain talent. The trinity of soft skills — communication, active listening and empathy — would help employees feel valued and work better, according to recruitment consultancy Robert Walters.

Robert Walters country manager for Malaysia Kimberlyn Lu says companies need to enhance both their internal and external communication skills. “If a company is going through a merger or acquisition, it should not let its employees find out about the matter through the media. The same goes for clients and partners. When going into meetings, it is important to communicate your vision and mission clearly so that your clients and partners can work effectively with you.”

According to Robert Walters’ Salary Survey 2019, companies need to sell job opportunities to candidates more effectively and hiring managers need to communicate opportunities that may come with a particular role and how they can benefit the prospective employee’s career. Companies that are able to communicate well will gain a competitive advantage in securing quality talent.

Lu says the company constantly advises its clients to communicate with their employees. One of the things they should share with their employees are their short and long-term goals and, most importantly, what these mean for their employees.

“If the company is going in a certain direction, explain to the employees what it means for them, their jobs and careers. It really helps with retaining employees because they will feel that they are part of the bigger goal,” she says.

Active listening greatly complements clear communication because it helps both the employers and employees to build a better company. Lu says listening allows employers to pick up valuable insights into growing their business, regardless of whether they are communicating with their employees or clients.

“Active listening skills are not something a robot can take away one day. You need to be a human being to actively engage and probe others. Complex problem-solving will come with active listening,” she says.

The final skill to have is empathy as it makes employees feel important and valued. This is also needed when communicating with clients and stakeholders. Ultimately, it is important to remember that communication is a two-way street.

“You need to listen to your staff and what their concerns and issues are. Listen well and empathise so people feel that their views are heard and valued. I think that is important,” says Lu.

“The same goes for a client or stakeholder you are working with. If you empathise with his business needs, it really drives engagement. It is actually common sense, in my opinion, but sometimes it is not that common.”



Robert Walters expects a more optimistic recruitment market this year. Its Salary Survey 2019 shows that jobs in the legal, banking, engineering and technology sectors will be in high demand this year, particularly in Central and Greater Klang Valley due to the implementation of new government policies and increase in digitalisation of business processes. In Penang, engineering and mechanical skills will continue to be in high demand as the state strengthens its position as a manufacturing hub.

Strong tech talent will be highly sought-after. Companies will also be eager to hire human resources professionals with more than just generalist or administrative experience, preferring candidates with the ability to leverage human capital to add value to the business.

Employers are on the lookout for candidates with diverse skillsets that complement the job. This means it is best for employees to engage both their left and right brains and focus on their creative and technical skills, says Lu.

“If we look at engineering, in the past, you needed to do R&D to be a good engineer. But now, our clients tell us that they need candidates to have strong communication and presentation skills as they will need to present their ideas to stakeholders or bring in new clients,” she adds.

Mastering more than one language is important too. One would assume that Mandarin would be the preferred language, but Lu says there has been a surge in demand for Korean and Thai speakers as well.

“Quite a number of companies have set up here with shared service support for the region. So, there will be demand for people who speak Thai, Korean and even Japanese to support these markets,” she adds.

According to the Salary Survey 2019, hiring managers should consider candidates who may not immediately fit for a role and put in effort to train them as it will help them to feel valued. Lu says traditional hiring managers prefer candidates that can hit the ground running and immediately start contributing to the company.

“Obviously, companies are under pressure to deliver and they will not wait for the employee to come up to speed. But having said that, we find that there are a lot more hiring managers who are open to hiring someone with the willingness to learn,” she adds.

“They may hire someone who is 60% fit for the job and train them further. Additionally, someone who comes from a different background can bring a totally different mindset or point of view to a position, which can benefit the company.”

When speaking to clients, Lu finds that most companies are aware that if they do not provide training and development opportunities, the chances are quite high that their employees will start looking for another job. Thus, companies should be willing to invest in training programmes, whether the sessions are carried out over several days, at one-hour lunch-and-learn events or through mentorship.

“We tell our clients that it would a bigger risk to not train the staff who stay with the company than it is to train staff who eventually leave,” says Lu.