What the Post-COVID-19 Job Market Looks Like in Malaysia

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Globally, a new workplace trend is emerging — one that is digitally-driven, more empathetic in improving society, and more agile in customer needs. And the primary catalyst for this overnight shift? A pandemic.

In Malaysia, the nationwide Movement Control Order (MCO) to control the COVID-19 pandemic has resulted in a significant economic contraction. This is primarily due to the sharp decrease in demand for manufacturing and commodities.

As in many other ASEAN countries, the tourism sector, which contributes largely to the national GDP, has also been hit hard by the pandemic. The international border closure and stringent interstate travel ban mean that people are no longer travelling for non-essential reasons for the time being.

The Department of Statistic Malaysia reports that approximately 745,100 people were unemployed in July 2020

The Department of Statistic Malaysia reports that approximately 745,100 people were unemployed in July 2020. To weather the impact of this adversity, the Malaysian government has introduced several measures in April 2020 in regards to tax relief, wage subsidies and other economic stimulus packages.

It is, however, without a doubt that these government measures are a short-term one; hence, employees must adapt to the new post-COVID-19 hiring trend and demand if they want to remain competitive in the Malaysian job market.

This post explores the top industries that are likely to hire more in Malaysia, benefits of hiring post-COVID-19, top factors that will affect recruitment, the relevant skills needed, and the future of the workplace in Malaysia.

Which top industries will be hiring post-COVID-19?

While it is true that some industries are badly affected, there are top three industries that are experiencing a boom amid the pandemic.

They are:

  • Food retail

As more people become housebound, food retail is increasingly regarded as an essential frontline service. McKinsey reports that not only are consumers simply increasing their online spending on food and grocery, they are also looking for value-for-money products and puts food safety and locally-sourced food as their top priorities.

Therefore, food businesses are providing abundant employment opportunities to people who are currently out of work. The growing demand for delivery also requires them to pivot to digital means more than ever now. Whether finding more drivers or riders to deliver the products or more strategists to reshape their business in a new normal, food retail is the emerging winner to support the livelihoods for millions of people.

  • Health and Wellness

As COVID-19 is the most significant global healthcare crisis in a century, it is only logical to see people getting more health-conscious, thus fueling the wellness economy and health industry, in general.

From healthcare analyst to data scientist, the boom in this industry is evident through many openings in career websites. Beyond the simple precautions of wearing a mask and rigorous hand washing, consumers are now looking into the pursuit of physical, emotional, social, environmental, and spiritual well-being. The proliferation of on-demand healthy food delivery, online health consultation platforms and wellness apps prior to the pandemic will only get bigger now.

  • Information Technology

Being digitally-savvy is a prerequisite for businesses to survive in the pandemic. From machine learning adoption, website creation, to secure online payment, businesses will be restructuring their ecosystem with a focus on technology.

Hence, jobs such as software developers, robotic engineers and digital marketers are in high demand as businesses strive to comply with stringent social distancing measure, while ensuring a seamless and highly-personalised customer experience

What benefits companies get from hiring new staff post-COVID-19?

  • Top talents are in demand

While it is true that many companies resort to layoffs in an economic recession, there are visionary companies and long-term thinkers who go in a completely different direction and start hiring top candidates to fulfil mission-critical aspects of their businesses. Even if you are not being laid off, the time is prime for you to keep an eye out for career opportunities should you be looking to switch industries.

  • Deal with immense growth in demand for labour-intensive activities

As aforementioned, the digitalisation of many businesses and the containment measure of COVID-19 has led to the growth in demand for labour-intensive activities such as product delivery and food retail.

Even if automation and technological substitution take centre stage in this pandemic, they take time to mature. Businesses will still have to hire new staff to meet current customer demands.

What are the top factors that will affect hiring post-COVID-19?

  • Transformed hiring process

With the limited physical interaction, companies will have to adopt a virtual interview process which largely involves video interviews. As a result, HR professionals are finding it harder to decide as candidates could not display the appropriate body language online that plays an important role in hiring.

Due to widespread retrenchments, candidates might also face longer interview processes and need to compete for roles, as many companies still refrain from hiring.

  • New skills needed

The shifting consumer behaviour that we are seeing when the pandemic hit is set to be a permanent change; hence, businesses need to be more agile in catering to consumer needs. Upskilling and reskilling are needed for candidates to remain relevant in the post-COVID-19 job market.

What type of skills will be relevant post-COVID-19?

  •  Soft skills: Communication and Empathy

The work-from-home (WFH) phenomenon, also widely known as remote working, requires office professionals to develop stronger communication strategies and skill. Developing the right digital body language is crucial to get the right message across a specific virtual platform for effective leadership.

The best leaders in major organisations around the world also prioritise empathy and humanity when running a business. In a post-pandemic world, we are expected to learn from the pandemic and pay more attention to the environment as well as local communities in need of societal and economic support.

  • Customer Service

Following the significant spike in e-commerce sales, e-commerce is likely to outlast the pandemic. With it comes the expectation of stellar customer service, as the failure to ensure that will result in customer attrition.

Therefore, job seekers not only need to have the basic skills of communication and problem-solving, but they also need to realise the importance of a seamless customer experience. A multichannel approach where customers can conveniently switch devices and/or channels as they require or like will give customers the ultimate flexibility to engage with businesses.

  • Data Science and Computer Science

The boom in data-driven technologies can be seen simply from the couch in our living room: Netflix, which enjoyed immense popularity at the height of the pandemic.

Without doubt, data science and computer science are playing a key role in many businesses today. The COVID-19 research in many countries is also accelerated by big data to track viruses on a global basis and develop treatment procedures.

Moving beyond traditional means of reports and number crunching, data science and computer science help businesses develop platforms to assess risk, realign strategies, and make stronger decisions based on it.

  • Digital Marketing and Sales

With the onset of the pandemic, most brick-and-mortar stores and events moved to the virtual space to generate leads and drive sales. In contrast to traditional marketing, digital marketing takes place entirely online which is proven beneficial when a stringent physical distancing is in place.

With the enormous amount of data and handy analytics tools, businesses can gain insights and analyze performance to maximize return on investments and make informed decisions.

In Malaysia, there are several institutions that provide digital upskilling to ensure Malaysians succeed in the digital economy. For instance, Malaysian Digital Economy Corporation (MDEC) offers digital skills training and courses for people with different levels of education, and also partners with top employers to provide digital reskilling for employees. Meanwhile, 42KL offers a free peer-to-peer program for people who are interested to jumpstart their career as a software engineer. Other similar initiatives include Akademi General Assembly (GA), NEXT Academy and Forward School.

What will the future workplace look like?

Remote working, once a fringe business practice, has become a required necessity for the masses. To adapt efficiently, businesses start leveraging communication and collaboration tools such as Trello, Slack, and Zoom to optimize work-from-home (WFH) productivity. Despite that, KPMG Malaysia reports that the challenges remain in terms of substandard network issues, digital communication barriers and lack of technology readiness.

Apart from that, during times of economic downturn, automation rapidly displaces human work as human capital becomes expensive in a financially-constrained business. While that is inevitable, automation and machines only primarily focus on data processing, manual jobs and administrative tasks, while humans still have the upper hand in skills such as decision-making and strategizing.

Hence, in a post-COVID-19 reality, robots and humans are expected to be working alongside each other. Workers who choose to adapt and possess a hybrid of soft and hard skills, especially ones that are digitally-driven, will remain relevant in a post-pandemic Malaysian job market.