Talent: Growing demand for hybrid workers

This article first appeared in Enterprise, The Edge Malaysia Weekly, on April 8, 2019 - April 14, 2019.
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Job seekers should take ownership of their careers to stay relevant in the digital era. Feon Ang, vice-president of talent and learning solutions for APAC at LinkedIn, tells Enterprise that graduates need to be open to growth and learn new things to remain relevant when a market shifts.

“No matter where they are, what role they have or are looking for, job seekers with the competencies and necessary soft skills for a job — such as empathy, relationship building and communication skills — will continue to be in great demand by organisations preparing for the future,” says Ang.

According to LinkedIn’s Emerging Jobs: Malaysia  2019 report, the top five emerging jobs in the country are data scientist, full stack engineer, drive test engineer, user experience designer and content writer. The report also highlights that new jobs and hybrid skills are emerging more rapidly than at any other time in history.

A full stack engineer is someone who can handle all the work of databases, servers, systems engineering and clients while a drive test engineer measures and assesses the coverage, capacity and quality of service of a mobile radio network.

“The rise of data is driving demand for talent and it cuts across all industries. In fact, the top three growth industries looking for digitally skilled hires are agriculture, the media and communications and manufacturing. These are traditional industries outside of the technology sector,” says Ang.

There is a new breed of employees — hybrid workers — on the rise as organisations are also looking for individuals with soft skills such as communication and leadership skills.

Ang says she encourages organisations that struggle to find talent with both technical and soft skills to carry out upskilling and reskilling programmes to develop talent and promote an adaptable mindset across the organisation. “Providing learning opportunities can help enhance the skillsets of employees and even advance their careers. For example, user experience designers who run projects with technical expertise can partner clients with good communication skills.”

Having said that, it is worrying that Malaysian candidates are lacking soft skills and this could stem from the less than holistic nature of the country’s education system. Ang says the measure of success is subjective to each individual and that individuals should be open to learning new skills, regardless of which point they are at in their careers. “This means being open to reskilling and upskilling opportunities, whether you are a first-year university student or 10 years into your career.”

Another concern is that technology may replace humans as organisations go digital. But Ang says the local workforce needs to understand how the future of work is evolving to succeed and thrive.

“That is why it is important to build a learning culture where we can reskill and upskill ourselves. Cultivating a community or network can also make a difference when it comes to helping us achieve our professional aspirations. A recent study, the LinkedIn Opportunity Index, found that a quarter of respondents in Malaysia think that a lack of network and connections are key barriers to accessing opportunities.”



According to LinkedIn’s Emerging Jobs: Malaysia 2019 report, Malaysian companies have put in significant investments to train their employees. An example cited was Maybank’s FutureReady upskilling programme, in which RM30 million was invested for employees to acquire new skills such as computer science, data analytics and data science.

The report also narrowed down the areas where digital talent can be found, specifically in Selangor, Kuala Lumpur and Penang, which have the top three highest supply of digital talent in Malaysia. Sarawak and Kedah are considered “hidden gem” locations, where the supply of digital talent is higher than the demand.

Although the desired soft skills have been identified — adaptability, working collaboratively, good leadership and communication skills — it still remains a challenge for human resources and talent acquisition teams to identify individuals with a sufficient level of skill.

Having said that, human resources and talent acquisition teams should look beyond job titles and focus on the skills needed for a role. They should also hire for the future of the company and look specifically at candidates with the potential to learn, grow and adapt in a world of digital transformation.

“The digital workplace creates a demand for multidisciplinary workers who can wield their hard skills to develop products or gain insights but also communicate and manage projects,” says the report.

“It is about soft and hard skills. But no matter how technical the role, it is the soft skills that will show you who is good versus great.”

It is also important to review the company’s hiring strategy and invest in the employer’s brand as hiring teams need to adopt a digital approach to finding talent. “Globally, more than 90% of tech-savvy talents are job hunting online. Traditional recruitment [methods] are no longer enough. Social recruiting is essential to get the talent in the door,” says the report.

“Build an attractive employer brand. Organisations must offer something different to discerning talent — understand what candidates value most in a job and give an authentic view into your culture.”

Hiring teams are also advised to use data to make well-informed decisions to anticipate what talent may be needed in the future instead of rushing to catch up with the job market. “Insights into the most in-demand jobs and skills will help talent acquisition teams understand talent availability in the market, make decisions on expanding their search and look beyond the obvious environments.”

Finally, be sure to invest in the upskilling of employees because when talent is thin on the ground, the “perfect candidate” will be highly discerning and expensive. Investing in employees is a vital part of an employer’s brand and it also helps with talent retention.

“In times of rapid change, the company that will succeed is the one that makes its workplace conducive to continuous learning. Organisations will benefit from investing in further training, either in-house or external,” says the report.

“An existing employee, with the soft skills to engage with clients and understand their needs, may be more suited to the role if they are taught the technical skills they need. An organisation’s next data scientist may already be working for the firm as a data analyst and the full stack engineer the team needs may be found in the software engineer who already understands the demands of the business and only needs to brush up on Cascading Style Sheets (CSS).”

CSS is a style sheet language used to describe the presentation of a document written in a mark-up language such as HTML.