Building Competitive Talents

Recently I attended a tea talk by a chairman from one of the biggest GLC in Malaysia. He spoke of need for local talents to be competitive. He added that in the rage of globalisation and borderless uncertainties, a nation like Malaysia cannot sit on our laurel and celebrating for we’ve become one of the most respected ASEAN countries. Yes, Malaysia has leaped and achieved many successes. Nonetheless, who doesn’t around this region? Look at the Koreans, Singaporeans, Thais, Indians and the Chinese. It is not surprising that looking for talents is much harder these days because of their mobility across the region. What about the stayers? How to make our local talents be more competitive and boost productivity and economy?

Let’s look around 40 years ago when access to education was hard. Hard in many ways – financial, entry level, language requirement, logistical and so on. The government started to build greater access to education by setting up smaller education centres, better roads, financial aids to name a few. I went to MARA Building recently and saw a photo taken around the 60’s showing rural folks were proud for completing their sewing class. The then Prime Minister attended the graduation ceremony. I was blown away how things have changed, guys we’ve moved very far and very fast. Few questions come to mind.

But how did we arrive here? What makes us change back then? Was there a time where people suddenly change? Who started it? What was the push factor? Who supported it? Well, I don’t have all the answers. I simply try to understand the logic of today’s dampening culture of laziness and non-competitiveness. Did you know recently Malaysian voted top 10 the laziest country in the world? Let me give my opinion.

When the country was poor back then, there was a need to become better. You see, sometimes it’s easier to see a situation hits rock bottom because the only way is up. So the government did everything and anything they can to lift it up. That’s not all, they were focus too. The main goal was simply to alleviate the burden of the majority. New policies made, programs and funds flow in beyond the colour of your skin, stronger political will because the politicians are one of us and as a result – a united force.

As a saying goes, “the problem starts when we get better, because we start to slow down”. I don’t know where I got this, but I heard it somewhere. Take exercise as an example, I think many of us are good starters but weak finishers. We pay gym membership, health drinks and supplements but once we get better we stop. Same as reading, I am sure many of us buy books but how many of us finish reading it? Understand the book’s message and learn? Practicing the new learning? Similarly with working, we’ll try to maximize the time given even we could have done it faster, perhaps. Many of us are weak finishers.

A recent study on brain also confirms this. One of the ways the brain used to build memory is called executive. This part allows the person to self-control and awareness, big picture, long term view, conceptual and delay gratification. Interestingly the study also said that many of us have weak executive function. Imagine if a great majority of us think alike, no wonder our country seems going backwards and fail to be reinvigorated; yet. We need to a leader to whip and push things. Our PM Najib through his programmes (GTP) may have done several good things, but there’s more to be done and can be done only if all of us do our own part. Simply because we are part of total equation. 😉

Coming back to making local talents competitive, here are my suggestions:

1. Speak up your mind folks!

> Those in leadership position must be able to gain from feedbacks from the people. Failing to listen will only amount to greater backwardness. But then again, it starts with self leadership. Parents have to be proactive parenting and listen to your children. Our corporate brothers and sisters must find ways to work together.

2. Create new education programs

> I am glad to see the new Education Blueprint. Of course there were still loopholes, but hey the proof of the pudding is in the doing. Education has helped this country once to produce the critical mass of the current “new economy”. Now, I do hope that by strengthening our education programs we’ll make another leap in the next 10-15 years. This applies to corporates and business sectors as well. Share your wealth with the people that work for you through education.

3. Focus on sustainability

> Stop building new things just to create jobs. Let’s look at moving up the value chain one by one. As skills of the people improved, new jobs will be created both top and bottom. Look how congested our capital city has become because of rampant development? It will kill us. Let’s embrace sustainability and invest in the development of the people. This can also curb brain drain.

4. Be transparent and tolerate failures

> It is very important to be honest especially when things go wrong. The mobility and access to information has changed the way we think. Yes, it is true that younger talents may not know how to work about certain things, well this is where they need help.  I suggest all of us to have greater tolerance level when dealing with failures. Talents need to be creative and innovative, these skills can only happen in an open and safe environment.

5. Create leadership opportunities

> A chat with one MNC top boss recently confirmed this, as you climb the corporate ladder you need more leadership than technical skills. While we may have enough leaders now, we need more especially thoughtful leaders. Leaders that develop people and give back to society. Leaders that is hungry to excel and push people to speak up and be better. Leaders that promote innovation and creativity by hiring people that’s smarter than him.

I believe just by considering some of these suggestions, we can make a difference. Remember, the goal is not just about making a difference – it’s about attaining excellence! Another saying, “your actions express your priorities.”

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