Talent Thoughts


Sumimasen, you speak English? Sure, countries like  Japan, Korea and Taiwan have excelled on the global stage without a strong command of English, but their success is underpinned by innovation argues JobStreet Malaysia CEO. She also shares other thoughts in Part 1 of a look at what talent is in today’s context.

What do you feel are the biggest changes to employers expectations of what talent is today versus 5 years ago before the end 2007 global economic crisis and the pervasiveness of always on technology in the form of smart phones and remote access to email?

I feel that the fundamentals of the expectation remain the same – Employers want talent that are self-disciplined, driven, able to learn fast, team player and having the right skills to perform his/ her job function well. However, the prevalence of computers and global connectivity also means that employers expect all employees to have the workplace computing skills and the technological savvyness to research, gather, analyse and use information at a much faster pace than before.

The pervasiveness of smarts phones and remote access to emails on the other hand has not yet influence the work of all levels of employees. Generally if the work requires quick response (especially if one is given a company smart phone… hint hint) then employees are expected to be “on the job” even after hours. Although more and more frequent is the expectation of senior managers being accessible at all times due to the pace of the competition nowadays.

On the flip side though, what employers do not expect but are beginning to realize, will be the reality that includes shorter tenure of employees within organizations – due to the mobility of workers, new technologies (jobsites, social networks) driving the global awareness of opportunities, amongst other reasons.

In Malaysia, at some point in the next few years, the number of Gen Y in the workforce will outnumber Gen X. Will this have any impact on the way Gen X manage their Gen Y talent?

Definitely! In many reports such as the PWC report on Gen Y/ Millenials, there are consistent patterns to look out for:

Job Hopping – there is much discussed about the job hopping nature. Nevertheless, if employers can ensure that the Gen Y staff are fulfilled with the right kind of work challenge, development, employer engagement etc. this would strengthen the retention of the talented Gen Y in the organisation.

Career Development – Gen Y highly value career development opportunities, and in many cases this is more important than remuneration. This includes training, different work assignments, portfolio expansion and working with strong coaches and mentors.

Work Life Balance – Gen Y can differentiate between mere action and lip service. Flexible working arrangement, wherever possible is something that Gen Y want employers to incorporate into their offering, although they also realize that this is not quite realistic yet in Asian countries.

Consistency Gets Stale – They want mobility throughout their career lifetime,

preferably involving overseas stints.

Gen X will have to be aware of the trends above and be more creative in managing the needs of the Gen Y staff in order to attract and retain top talent.

Do you believe that not speaking English well puts a limit to a person’s career growth?

We actually conducted a survey last year asking employers why fresh graduates were rejected after the interview session. One of the top three reasons was ‘poor command of English’. Majority of the employers still put emphasis on the command of English as it is deemed as business language and widely used in corporations locally and globally.

But, it is not just merely about speaking the language, as the importance of English at the workplace filters down to many aspects. A good command of English will enable clear communications both internally and externally leading to higher productivity. A person with good English ability will also be more confident and able to exert more influence in his/ her work as points are able to be articulated clearly. This will ultimately enhance team work and leadership ability.

If you answered Yes above, is that not a bit harsh because English is not the national language of this country and the example of Taiwan, Japan and Korea shows that English need not be spoken widely for a nation and its workforce to compete on the global stage?

Yes the developed countries that you mentioned are able to compete globally but these are also the countries that thrive on innovation as their value proposition. However, to conquer world markets, English is still a crucial factor. Most of their workforce at one point or another will still need to master the command of English to communicate with other parts of the world. Employees who can master English are also able to edge out their peers. Even CEOs of large corporations from these countries will converse in English when they address an international crowd.


The views expressed here are the personal opinion of the columnist.

Photo credit: Flickr user Les Roches Jin Jiang, Shanghai

Leave a Comment