Technology has advanced at an astronomical rate over the past decade. Even the pandemic has done little to slow down this progress. As businesses and consumers turn to digital platforms, emerging tech will continue to influence demand for certain roles – such as those in software development or digital marketing. However, according to PwC’s Hopes and Fears Survey 2021, only about 19 percent of Malaysian respondents believe they have the adequate digital skills to effectively do their job.

The issue has become even more apparent under the current talent climate, where a ‘Great Resignation’ is taking place. Not only do organizations lack sufficient talent to utilize the latest technologies, they are also at risk of losing what talent they do have. This is why upskilling, and reskilling has become such a huge talking point for businesses around the world as of late.

HR Asia recently had a chance to interview Shweta Mishra, Human Resources Director at Rackspace Technology, Asia Pacific & Japan, who shared her insight on the current skills gap challenges in Malaysia.

“As Malaysia pushes its digital economy agenda, the prevailing talent gap will be a significant challenge for the country as it looks to fully benefit from emerging technologies such as cloud, automation, AI, Internet-of-Things (IoT) and 5G technology, which underscores the urgent need to address the current skills gap,” Mishra said.

She also mentions that a digital survey conducted by the Malaysia Digital Economy Corporation (MDEC) revealed that up to 85 percent of companies surveyed recognized the need to reskill employees as organisations have adopted more digital technology platforms to support operations.

Mishra also believes that the expansion of opportunities for Malaysians to upskill and get retrained will be crucial in ensuring the local economy is put on the road to recovery from the pandemic, as well as build a foundation for sustainable long-term growth and an inclusive future workforce.

Consequences of a Digital Skills Gap
With regards to the short and long term impact of the digital skills gap on businesses, Mishra believes that if it is left unaddressed, it will be an economic bottleneck for businesses. Some of the short-term impacts of the digital skills gap include low productivity and low-quality output, delays in launches and migrations, as well as increased workplace stress and high employee turnover. With businesses already struggling to make up for a global talent shortage, the digital skills gap will only add the many issues that organizations are already facing, putting a significant dent in growth and stunting economic recovery as the world heads towards a post-pandemic era.

In the long run, businesses that fail to prepare, plan, and address the skills gap are increasing their risk of being outpaced, out-innovated, and ultimately to a point of being ousted out of the market by competitors who do embrace change and innovation.

“According to the World Competitiveness Yearbook 2021 (WCY 2021), which benchmarks the competitiveness performances of economies, Malaysia is ranked 25th globally and 6th in the Asia Pacific in terms of Talent Ranking. While investments are being channeled towards talent development, we encourage the government to initiate more programs to upskill and reskill employees to keep up with new and emerging job challenges and nurture a future-ready workforce,” said Mishra.

Challenges Ahead
As previously mentioned, businesses are now facing the issue of a massive talent exodus. This combined with the digital skills gap that Malaysians face, could be potentially devastating. In an attempt to address this, organizations are turning to internal training and upskilling to makeup for the talent shortage, but such training takes time and effort that some organizations cannot afford. This is in addition to the fact that some employees may be reluctant to pursue such training on top of their other tasks.

“The rate and pace by which technology evolves can also be daunting for some, and the complexities of using and learning new technology at times act as a major roadblock, especially for mid-career professionals. While some organisations offer programs to reskill and upskill their employees, the lack of a defined career path can discourage employees from partaking in these pieces of training,” said Mishra.

“In addition, amid the changing business environment and uncertainty brought about by the health crisis, people development programs can be challenging. The blurring of lines that used to separate work from the other segments of employees’ lives has taken a toll on people’s mental health and well-being. Thus, we have seen many employees reassessing the timeliness of their career development plans,” she added.

What Can Be Done to Prepare for the Future?
Mishra has offered the following tips to help close the skills gap and brace for the future challenges to come:

  • Develop and train existing staff in new technologies for current and future roles and work to retain them. To accomplish this, organisations should first conduct a talent audit and skill gap analysis to give businesses a better idea of the expertise they hold, identify where the gaps are and fill them up accordingly. People managers should be able to ascertain how internal talents can be tapped and developed to meet business needs. With an inventory of talents and skills within the company, enterprises can rank the skills they need, and work on filling out high priority roles. Before looking for talent elsewhere, it will be best for companies to utilize internal resources first. By doing so, organisations are providing developmental opportunities for existing staff members.
  • Look to hire professionals with existing skills but be prepared to pay for them. Closing the digital skills gap within your organization requires proper planning and resources. From tapping the right talent pool to talent selection to putting together a competitive compensation package, employers should be more strategic to attract and retain the best talent.
  • Engage with a third party to leverage skills and experience. For instance, investing in business solutions and finding partners that specialize in specific needs is also another solution. Rather than seeing this as simply outsourcing, organisations should look to the value and expertise providers can offer. By leveraging business solutions, companies can optimize the resources they have and focus on growing their business.
  • Train the next generation workforce by collaborating with educational institutions. The demand for early exposure to digital skills is growing. Malaysia will benefit from school outreach programs to educate the young in terms of basic literacy, numeracy, and IT skills as a foundation.


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