Demand for skilled technology professionals is at an all-time high in Malaysia this year, according to the latest labor market report by Randstad Malaysia. The government has been pushing for the acceleration of the digital economy in multiple ways: rolling out initiatives to attract MNCs in high-end tech industries, incentivizing local companies to digitize, increasing investments in digital sectors, and actively supporting tech startups. Budget 2020 sets aside billions of ringgit for the development and adoption of technology.
However, the supply of skilled tech professionals is still unable to match the demand, and the premium on experience is high. The Randstad report, released on Wednesday, suggests that experienced professionals in the applications space may receive a salary increment of as much as 20-25 percent when changing jobs. This is far above the estimated average of 17-18 percent (based on a 2019 report by employment solutions provider RGF International Recruitment).
As a result, companies will not only have a hard time finding candidates, they may have a hard time holding onto their existing talent as well. The Randstad report cautions that not only are skilled tech professionals highly mobile in the current market, they have high expectations and eclectic aspirations. They will want to play a part in creating new technologies, and some may even prefer new learning opportunities to higher remuneration.
“Tech experts are particularly attracted to companies that offer them the autonomy to own their projects, as they will have the flexibility to explore new and more efficient ways of doing things,” the report says. “Tech professionals also value a highly conducive and creative work environment, which is why offices with ‘Silicon Valley vibes’, such as dress-down days as well as colourful and collaborative spaces, appeal strongly to tech talent.”
The Malaysian government has set aside RM5.9 billion (US$1.45 billion) in its Budget 2020 to provide young people with technical and vocational training, which includes digital skills. However, the Randstad report points out that this is a long-term initiative which cannot do much to ease the extremely tight market for tech talent right now.
Various industry bodies and experts have put forward recommendations for companies attempting to compete for the very small pool of Malaysian talent. For instance, PIKOM, the national industry association for ICT, has proposed that the people management culture needs to evolve to better accommodate the needs of today’s professionals. Robert Walters Malaysia recommends flexible benefit packages to attract and retain talent. And Randstad, in its report, suggests that rather than rigidly insisting on candidates whose skills are a perfect match to the job, employers should look for learning potential and then train their new hires internally.