Association of Chartered Certified Accountants (ACCA) corporate sector head Jamie Lyon
WE need to talk.
No, not about a relationship break-up. This is about maintaining relationships – between bosses and staff, between an organisation and its employees.
With many young Malaysian employees expressing interest in working overseas, perhaps it is time for more Malaysian bosses to discuss their workers’ plans for the future openly.
Saying that it is a common mistake not to have such discussions, Association of Chartered Certified Accountants (ACCA) corporate sector head Jamie Lyon recommends that bosses have more “honest conversations” with their workers to understand and tackle issues.
“Employers need to find out how quickly people want to move, how many want to and what roles they plan to move to.
“For young employees, they question whether they will be getting any career development.
“How do employers tackle that? They start by having honest conversations with their employees. Ask them: what do you want from your career and what can we do as an organisation to support you in that?” he explains.
Lyon adds that employers should also think about offering their staff more coaching and mentoring.
“This is a generation that wants personalised interventions. They want that collaboration to happen.
“I think just talking to this generation, ensuring conversations flow through leadership and making leadership accessible to them is key, along with breaking hierarchies,” he says.
To harness the entrepreneurial streak in Gen Y-ers, Lyon also encourages employers to tap such interests by offering lateral moves within an organisation.
“If someone comes in as a finance person, it doesn’t mean they have to stay as that. Both employers and workers can consider a rotation or secondment in roles and see how such talent can be honed,” he suggests, adding that it is up to organisations to think creatively about creating opportunities for their staff to grow.
Giving a pay rise to workers may help entice them to stay, but Lyon believes that this is a short-term solution and companies should be thinking of more long-term, holistic solutions.
“If people are going to be happy in their careers, something has to be done about it. The irony is even though we live in a global knowledge economy, the biggest asset of a company is its people,” he points out.
As for his advice to Malaysian youth, Lyon encourages them to think out of the box.
“Sometimes, people think the better option is to go somewhere else. Start by having honest conversations with your employer. Think also about what options you have, not just by leaving office, but about how to build a portfolio of skills, which will be relevant in the future world of work,” he says.
While acknowledging that more open discussions should be held, Malaysian Employers Federation (MEF) executive director Datuk Shamsuddin Bardan admits Malaysian bosses aren’t very open with employees.
“We are very conservative in this area. But this should be one of our long-term goals,” he says.
Shamsuddin, however, says more employers are becoming more open with their workers, but this usually happens in bigger firms, and, “the reality in Malaysia is that 98% of employers run small and medium sized enterprises”, he says.
Shamsuddin observes that Gen Y-ers generally do not like to be monitored a lot and tend to prioritise a healthy work-life balance.
“As such, if Malaysian employers want to retain young talent in the long run, they are encouraged to create an attractive environment for this group to excel, including allowing them a certain amount of flexibility,” he says.