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Hiring in Northern Region: Northern Region to see strong hiring demand led by manufacturing boom

Businesses in Malaysia adapted to a new normal in 2022 as people and countries learnt to live with covid-19. According to LeeLing Lim, Manager for Northern Region, Robert Walters Malaysia, the implementation of the National Recovery Plan (NRP) since June 2021 was an effective start to Malaysia’s recovery from the health and economic crises.

“As companies have better visualisation over future directions and growth plans, hiring activity in 2022 increased across all sectors in the Northern Region, from manufacturing and retail to financial services,” says LeeLing.

Just as the world learnt to adapt to safety measures to contain the spread of covid-19, the reopening of travel saw energy demand and prices rising further in 2022. There were challenges retaining operational costs with the increase in global fuel prices, impacting timely movement of cargo and consequently resulting in delays across supply chains.

“Supply chains will have to be more flexible in logistical set-ups, looking at alternative sourcing options, and accommodating both local and global disruptions,” says LeeLing.

Some sectors may have been hit harder by the covid-19 pandemic. Notably in tourism, LeeLing shares that there has been a shortage of skilled talent as those who had previously lost their jobs may have moved to other industries and are no longer looking to return.

Read on as LeeLing shares her expectations of the labour market and hiring trends in the Northern Region in 2023.

Hiring trends in 2023

LeeLing believes that hiring in the manufacturing industry will continue to rise in the Northern Region in 2023.

“Manufacturing companies increased their footprints in Malaysia and started operations in the Northern Region in 2022. Despite operational delays amid lockdowns in Malaysia, many plants and facilities have moved into production or mass production. We expect 2023 to follow the overall positive trend of 2022,” she shares.

This growth is expected to be seen in strong hiring activity across all functions contributing to plant readiness, such as HR, finance, engineering, supply chain, and technology.

There is also tremendous demand in analytics across all functions, as many companies are looking to hire professionals capable of studying, digesting, and interpreting data for business decisions and business continuity plans.

“Businesses are gearing up to ensure they learn from past experiences to be ever-ready to embrace the future,” says LeeLing. More companies will also be adopting hybrid or alternative work arrangements, she adds, as the workforce has clear expectations about health and sustainability of their careers in a rebounding economy.

“More empowerment and trust have been established as we witnessed employee efficiency amid the public health crisis. Candidates are now strong believers of remote work, as they are able to maintain productivity and continue to deliver up to expectations,” says LeeLing.

Technical roles, transformation, and talent management in demand 

LeeLing shares that high hiring demand can be expected for technical roles in engineering and technology, as the Northern Region is dubbed "the Silicon Valley" of Malaysia.

Amid the increased fuel prices and logistical delays across supply chains, candidates with strong experience in driving transformation, business continuity planning, and creating alternative supply chain processes will be in high demand.

As business development activities revert to pre-pandemic days, companies will be looking to increase sales and demand for sales and marketing professionals in the Northern Region will be high.

The competition for talent will drive organisations to seek candidates with experience in employee engagement, compensation and benefits, employer branding, and talent management to stay ahead in the candidate-short market. On top of technical skills, companies will also be looking at hiring candidates with soft skills in emotional intelligence, growth mindset, and strong communication skills, adds LeeLing.

Attract and retain talent with competitive salaries and flexible work options

Amid higher staff turnover rates and culture of quiet quitting, LeeLing observes companies turning to aggressive counteroffers to retain talent capable of attending to the immediate needs of businesses. However, constant counteroffers will further increase salary expectations across markets.

 “To attract and retain talent, companies should offer competitive and attractive packages. The reason is because the talent pool of highly skilled talents is relatively limited, and they are well-compensated by their current companies as well as new players in the industries,” she says.

A swift hiring process and short turnaround times for interviews will help companies secure the best talent in the market.

Besides having a competitive edge in salary packages, LeeLing recommends companies consider offering flexibility and remote work arrangements, as candidates in the market no longer subscribe to traditional pre-pandemic expectations of work productivity. 

“Companies should also shorten the hiring process and keep turnaround time short to secure the best talent in the market. Candidates are like hot cakes who will not sit around for opportunities and will grab the best ones that come along,” she says.

Northern Region salaries to grow amid gaps in talent pool

In 2023, salaries in the Northern Region are expected to see steady growth, as new players in the market are fighting over the same limited talent pool. Companies will need to pay attention to overall compensation and supply demand gaps.

LeeLing shares, “We expect there will be general annual salary reviews across organisations in 2023. For employees staying in their current organisations, they can expect rises of 3-5%. Job movers can expect increases of 15-20%, though some in-demand positions can garner increments of up to 30%.”

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