Article by Arlene Wherrett, VP & Managing Director, Sage Asia

Malaysia’s Ministry of Human Resources recently released a report on its 2019 achievements, detailing key initiatives such as the increase of the minimum wage rate, the introduction of TVET assistance programmes, the development of the National Wage Index. Indeed much has been done by the Malaysian government to propel developments in the areas of HR.

Whilst these efforts certainly provide assistance to the Malaysian employee, there is no real insulation for the employee facing the many foreseeable changes, ranging from global pandemics to local political changes.

Forrester, in its latest predictions for this year, marked 2020 as the ‘Year of People Management’. This is understandable, given that many businesses are still struggling to get on the digitalisation bandwagon while keeping costs under control. With the global outlook continuing to remain tepid as trade conflicts dominate the political agenda and countries face an uncertain future due to the coronavirus outbreak and local organisations adopt a wait-and-see attitude towards local political changes, businesses continue to be under increasing pressure from investors to remain profitable.

Despite all these challenges, the year ahead for the Malaysia employee is very similar – ride the winds of change or face the risk of being made redundant. For millennials taking their first step into the workforce, making the right moves at critical junctures is all the more important in remaining employable throughout their careers.

Here is what we all need to keep in mind as  2020 unfolds.

Embrace change

As technology continues to streamline processes and tasks in the workplace, we must constantly redefine our value to the organisation by staying ahead of changes.

 Look at your current job, take stock of what skills are required and how much of it can be automated today. Think about how your role might be replaced by technology and imagine how, if that happened, you could position yourself to do higher value work for the organisation — instead of being replaced.

Time is definitely not on our side. IDC found that the percentage of activities related to evaluating information performed by technology will grow by 28 percent in just two years, and 18 percent of activities related to reasoning and decision making will be performed by machines.

However, this may also be a blessing in disguise, giving us the much-needed impetus to rethink our careers and shift towards skills that will be much more valued in the digital economy.

Leverage on public initiatives and resources that are widely available, such as SkillsFuture, Professional Conversion Programmes (PCP), or speak to your managers on what training courses you can go for to keep yourself relevant to the organisation.

Having conversations like these early on with your superiors will bode well in showing your commitment and increase your chances of your employer reciprocating with investments in your career development for the long-term.

At the same time, the Malaysian Government has also signalled its intent to look at how it can best help businesses and individuals tackle the changing global environment in the  budget 2020 .

The sooner you act to adapt to the impending changes, the higher your chances of staying employed in 2020.

Step out from your comfort zone

For many of us who have worked in one industry or one company for years, it is inevitable that we will feel a lot of inertia when looking out for other opportunities.

However, holding on to this mindset is dangerous, especially in today’s competitive business environment where established businesses can quickly go bust when challenged by new entrants leveraging innovative technological developments.

Just as companies today are quickly moving into non-traditional business models to develop and maintain their customer bases, workers must also adapt along the same lines, and develop themselves in relevant capabilities that transfer across different industries and organisations.

In today’s economy where there are skill shortages in multiple sectors, why not take our capabilities to wherever there are opportunities and evolve our careers from there?

Technology has removed most barriers to communication and accessibility. Today, there are a wealth of opportunities for the taking, not just in Malaysia, but also around the region – if we are prepared to think big.

As local organisations take a regional perspective towards growing their businesses, we must break out of our comfort zones to search for opportunities.

Play the long game

Our careers are not built up in a matter of years but are defined by what we have experienced and achieved over decades of experience. It is important that every step we take contributes to getting us one step closer to our long-term career goals, instead of just achieving short-term rewards.

Every few years, change will upend our efforts put in over the preceding years, forcing us to recalibrate our approach to maintain our trajectory.

Fresh graduates are given a great chance of succeeding, growing up as digital natives which allows them to easily adapt to the continuous changes around them.

With data and digital experiences being the key business drivers for the foreseeable future, investing time in matching what they have learnt in school against in-demand skill sets will help them stay employable and relevant at the start of their careers.

For more experienced or mature workers, constantly looking towards future planning will be immensely helpful for their careers down the road. It is important to keep a close watch on sunrise and sunset industries and technologies to identify long-term growth opportunities and prepare ourselves accordingly.

Networking, too, is an important aspect of long-term career planning but few people actually invest effort and time in this. Beyond facilitating the closing of important business deals, having a strong network that spans multiple industries also helps when looking for a job switch.

Having good referrals from past colleagues, clients or customers on top of strong capabilities can often be the difference between a prospective hire and a shoo-in for the job.

As we have seen from past years, the digitalisation journey will continue to be challenging for businesses and amid a slowing economy, tough decisions will have to be made.

However, by staying ahead of the curve,  constantly upskilling ourselves in digital capabilities, remaining agile to take advantage of new opportunities and playing our cards right for the long-term, we should all be able to ride out 2020 without much of a hitch.

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