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Here’s how SMEs in Malaysia can attract and retain quality talent

Here’s how SMEs in Malaysia can attract and retain quality talent

Small and medium-sized businesses are vital to the Malaysian economy, constituting of over 98% or almost a million business establishments1. Consequently, they have been adversely affected by the global health crisis, especially the Movement Control Order (MCO). A recent survey found that nearly 70% of Malaysian SMEs had experienced a 50% drop in business within a week of the MCO2. However, with the travel restrictions being lifted and life returning to normal, firms are looking to regain lost momentum by restarting hiring activities and restoring productivity.

Small and medium-sized enterprises need to forge business plans that ensure sustainable, long-term growth, and recruiting and engaging the right talent are key to realising these goals.

Attracting employees and finding the right talent is a challenging task for companies of any size. However, small and medium-sized enterprises have the added challenge of combating stereotypes about low pay and heavy workloads when engaging with prospective employees, not to mention often being unable to match the fancy perks offered by larger corporations But there is much professional value that SMEs can offer employees – it’s just a matter of communicating this to talent and extending them the benefits they both want and need. Here’s how smaller companies can attract the right people.

  1. Pay them the salary they deserve: While SMEs may not be able to offer as much as multinationals or enterprises, it does not mean they cannot offer other financial benefits to keep employees hooked. During the negotiation process, SMEs should be mindful of potential employees’ needs. According to findings from our Laws of Attraction survey, the most commonly sought-after financial perks are income, health insurance, and double-pay for working public holidays, as echoed by 64% and 67% of respondents, respectively. Allowances and bonuses also appeal greatly to talent, with 57% expecting to be paid a performance-based bonus and 55% saying a fixed allowance for work-related claims such as meals, parking and communication is a “must”.

  2. Give them the tools to make their careers soar: When considering an offer, talent  look at the quality of career development opportunities when joining the ranks of a new company. Promotions aside, they also look for mentorships, training and upskilling opportunities. Something to keep in mind is that for 59% of Malaysian talent already working in small companies, promotion opportunities are necessary, and that 48% expect to be provided with on-the-job training and development. For those in technical positions, specific skillset training is imperative, according to 40% of respondents. Additionally, those wishing to hone their leadership skills and take on managerial roles expect employers to provide them with the appropriate training programs to develop these soft skills and competencies (35%). For SMEs that are looking to be especially competitive, offering scholarships and subsidies to support higher education is a great move.  However, they also appreciate if their employers were to provide them with sponsorships, scholarships and subsidies to support their higher education efforts (28%) and overseas training opportunities, as echoed by 20%.

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  3. Enact policies that promote a healthy work-life balance:  While your team may be dedicated and enjoy their work, this does not mean they want to spend the majority of their time stuck at the workplace. They need breaks so they can rest and recharge. As ideas about work and workplaces begin to shift, it’s important for businesses to consider how they will work in the future. Nearly 60% of respondents prefer to stick to a pre-defined schedule, in the form of a five-day work week. Whenever possible, smaller companies should stick to working conventional hours, so employees are not overworked. In a similar vein, 42% of talent want employers to observe a no-work rule after office hours. When it comes to times when working late or putting in additional hours cannot be avoided, remember that talent want their work to be appreciated, and they want to be compensated fairly, especially if they are putting in long hours. . Almost 65% of talent want to be paid more for working on overtime or on public holidays. Annual leave is another highly-sought after benefit, with nearly two-thirds of talent working in smaller enterprises saying that receiving ample annual leave is a “must”. As for flexible work, 31% of respondents are in favour of it, and 34% want the option to go on unpaid leave or encash leave whenever needed.

  4. Make them feel secure in their jobs: Bigger companies often draw in talent by promising them stability and the assurance of an iron bowl – something that small and medium-sized firms often have to work harder to convince talent that they can find by working for them.  Stability is valued for talent, regardless of company size. Two-thirds want to work in a permanent role, while 60% want to work for an established and financially secure company. For smaller companies that are financially secure, but are still working to establish their name or brand, it is important to show jobseekers that they have a strong track record as a sign of future growth. Armed with these insights, those working to fill new roles for small and medium-sized companies can make informed decisions, as well as curate attractive compensation packages that offer not only financial rewards, but the benefits that talent value most.

For a better understanding of Malaysian talent working across various industries, specialisations, job levels and locations, please visit our Laws of Attraction website

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