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Human Capital: The Real Deal

Malaysian Reserve, May 11, 2012

Anthony Raja Q&A with Kelly Services' Anthony Raja Devadoss 

HUMAN capital is a hot topic of discussion that anchors the gathering of industry captains at large events for deliberations on how it can be improved and developed.

As there are a myriad of issues concerning human capital and the situation of talent availability, Outsourcing and Consulting Group of Kelly Services vice president, APAC, Anthony Raja Devadoss shares his insights about the current movement and development of human capital in the country that will shape the potential future of organisational cultures.

Q: It seems that there is a "talent crisis" in Malaysia, and while that continues to be an ongoing discussion, in what way do you think our talent gives the country a competitive edge above other developing countries?

Anthony: Malaysians possess very sound technical knowledge and expertise in the major industries of accounting and finance, information communications technology, oil and gas, and healthcare. But what makes us stand out is that we are people with an intrinsic cultural factor that makes us very adaptable to other countries, their cultures and environments.

Malaysians have the opportunity to be exposed to other cultures and the way they do things so that we learn and become more open minded. This comes from being very well travelled or by studying overseas, which gives us an incomparable and distinctive value to companies looking for talent. In fact, from our research and discussions, we've found that certain Malaysian talent is high in global demand especially in the US, Germany, Indonesia and Singapore.

Q: Do you think industry demands are too unattainable?

Anthony: Industry demands echo the needs and requirements of critical human capital to better the economy of Malaysia. If we keep doing the same thing we're doing,we're going to get the same result, which is a limited talent pool and a lethargic growth of leaders.

All this boils down to the perspectives, the situation and needs of the market, economy and the nation.

From the market perspective, we have not yet fully challenged ourselves to build our entire ability in entrepreneurial skills as well as the lack of actionable effort to beef up the education system. South Korea, for example, started off at a similar level in these aspects as Malaysia but the country is now well ahead of us because of their fast growth in their gross domestic product that is driven by enterprising businesses, strategies and systems.

Economically, we are doing quite well when compared to our neighbouring countries but to be more competitive, the country is developing and improving the highlighted areas and industries in the National Key Economic Areas. This leads to national perspective such as the Economic Transformation Programme initiative by the government. Although such an effort is helpful and success driven, the whole country is working within a very finite time frame and if it doesn't get its act together, it'll miss the boat come 2020.

All stakeholders, especially parents, teachers and key decision makers in the education sector, need to get on this boat (commit and cooperate to make things happen). Children need to be groomed at a young age to build their talent and become those who'll lead towards a brighter future of the country.

Q: Generation Y (born between 1977 to 1993), some of whom are the new leaders and successors of the Baby Boomers - the ones who've been in the workforce for 30 or more years with vast and extensive experience. To some extent, there is a generational clash between these young and fresh potentials and the Baby Boomers mainly due to different values and ethics. How can companies"manage" the new generation and see them assimilate with their senior co-workers as well as contribute loyally to the company?

Anthony: There's a strong perception about Gen Y, that they are very results orientated but focus on short-term goals and are job mobile. But they have a flair for creativity and technology - valuable skills that benefit most organisations. Having said that, all age groups or generations have their own set of values and talents, but it's how the organisation and its senior staff adapt and learn how to work with these Gen Y employees and vise-versa.

I like to give the analogy of bees where the beehive is the company, the bees are employees of all age groups and helping to cross pollinate the flowers is the work or project. The beehive has to be a comfortable yet inspiring place to work and live in, while teamwork between all members is also important. Employers and other senior staff can make an attractive beehive by constantly generating the momentum of excitement such as giving the younger employees more challenges and allowing them accessibility to a wide range of technology because that's what this generation lives by - they are the digital age who are boundless communicators.

This itself will bring tremendous value to the organisation,especially when it comes to liaising with internal stakeholders as well as interacting with customers all over the world. It will also keep them engaged and feel important in their roles and jobs.

If Gen Y is restricted too much, employers would quickly lose them to another beehive, and bid farewell to some exceptional talent and future leaders.