The battle for talents

Malaysian employers are thinking up hard and soft solutions to tackle a MICE talent crunch.

The expanding business events industry in Asia-Pacific has created an employee’s market where salary alone will not attract and retain quality staff.

In Malaysia, industry employers are realising that this talent crunch is exacerbated by opportunities for staff to build their career overseas.

Retaining millennials is more difficult in today’s workforce

To attract and retain talents – particularly the millennials – employers have discovered that the key is providing employees with opportunities for continuous training and skills enhancement from within the organisation, job empowerment through decentralisation of responsibilities, as well as career growth.

In an effort to tackle the talent crunch, the Malaysia International Trade & Exhibition Centre (MITEC) launched its Continuing Personal Development (CPD) programme for full-time staff in May. All qualified staff were given a budget for internal and external training, as well as overseas job exposure.

A unique aspect of CPD is the staff’s freedom to choose programmes they feel would advance their career. Their attendance will also contribute to their job performance appraisal.

Rohizat Baharum, director of human resource at MITEC, told TTGmice that more than 50 per cent of full-time staff at the venue are millennials aged under 35.

While Rohizat acknowledges the benefits of providing staff training – that it “helps retain staff and improves motivation and skill sets” – he was also quick to point out its limitations as a solution to retain millennial staff.

Rohizat said: “Retaining millennials is the most challenging as they don’t like to stay long within an organisation, preferring instead to move on after a few years. Moreover, training initiatives provided by employers is something that millennials regard as a given.”

Mona Abdul Manap, founder and CEO of Malaysian PCO Place Borneo, said companies hoping to retain staff must “keep the team motivated and interested in the job”.

Mona, who is herself a millennial, elaborated: “This includes empowering them in decision-making and allowing them to lead projects.”

A fun work culture is also needed, she opined, and offered an example of how Place Borneo does it – management meetings and strategic planning sessions are held away from the office.

She said: “In January, we went to a resort in Lundu (Kuching, Sarawak) where we held a strategic planning session for the next three years. We also hold weekly yoga sessions outdoors for staff. It helps with team bonding and curbs stress.”

All but one of her 11 full-time staff are under 35 years old. Mona said these efforts are needed as “it is difficult to get good talents in Sarawak. Many graduates who did event management courses eventually opted for government jobs, or a career outside the industry”.

The state government of Sarawak addresses the talent shortage through the Graduate Enhancement Training Sarawak programme, where diploma and degree graduates are provided with a 12-month internship with the private sector to acquire industry related skills. They are paid a monthly allowance by the government.

Place Borneo has converted three interns to full-time positions through this programme.

At Luxury Tours Malaysia, flexible work hours and a relaxed dress code are tricks to keeping its young staff happy The DMC has 75 per cent of employees aged under 35.

Its director Arokia Das said: “We also offer overseas sales trip opportunities. There are career advancement opportunities for those who are good in their work and interact well with clients.”

The Malaysian Association of Convention and Exhibition Organisers and Suppliers (MACEOS) does its part by working, over the past three years, with universities offering event management courses to provide internship opportunities to students.

Francis Teo, honorary secretary at MACEOS, remarked: “The manpower shortage will become more acute in the coming years with more hotels and convention centres opening in Malaysia, along with rising demand for Malaysian talents from regional destinations.”

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