The Covid-19 crisis has disrupted businesses in ways they could not have imagined and at a speed no-one predicted.
Half of the world’s workers fear losing their jobs in the next 12 months, says a new World Economic Forum report which surveyed 27 countries including Malaysia.
Released last week, the report also has some good news: new jobs are emerging. The catch is that they require whole new sets of skills and knowledge.
The labour market is changing fast, and the pandemic is accelerating the need for businesses to integrate technology into many more areas of operation. Inevitably, this requires that prospective workers learn new skills.
For new graduates looking to get a foot on the corporate ladder, being adaptable is more important than ever to get ahead.
Both employers and jobseekers need to be willing to learn new ways of doing old things and some completely new things.
Recruitment experts Pete Yoong and Jay Huang, who founded an employment platform based in Malaysia and Singapore, told MalaysiaNow that hiring by large corporations is in fact picking up despite the rising unemployment.
“During lockdowns, sectors like retail have been far less active or have migrated online, but makers of consumer goods are in a far less precarious position,” Yoong says.
“Booming sectors such as glove-making, and producers of fast-moving consumer goods or the healthcare sector are not putting hiring on pause.”
Huang said during the initial phases of the lockdown, companies were uncertain about how the pandemic would play out.
“Now, companies are resuming their yearly drives to hire graduates for management programmes, and application numbers have shot up by at least 50%.”
But that does not mean that hiring expectations are back to the way they were before the pandemic. Both employers and jobseekers need to be willing to learn new ways of doing old things and some completely new things.
“The willingness to learn must be backed up by the ability and skill sets necessary to make that change,” says Huang. “What’s crucial is that mindsets and expectations need to change.”
He cites the example of Zoom, a video conferencing tool that has been around for seven years, but which only took off during the pandemic as organisations and workforces scrambled to maintain business continuity.
“That was a wake-up call,” Huang says. “Organisations need to change but people need to change, too.”
How organisations look at jobseekers and what they expect from them is shifting. “Before Covid-19, your degree might well have been useful to you for 10 years, but because the pandemic is accelerating organisational change, which means everyone has to learn new things quickly, it might now only carry you two years into your career,” warns Huang.
“Also, jobseekers need to make painful adjustments, such as their salary expectations. Short-term pain is necessary to build a long-term future.”
“Organisations need to change but people need to change, too.”
Discussions with their corporate clients about talent development are designed to give Yoong and Huang the ability to discover underlying issues beneath the numbers.
One such issue, Huang says, is the often-held belief that employees and jobseekers of a certain age lack the ability to change. It is not true, he insists, that older people find it harder to adapt to digital working.
“Willingness and ability are the only two things necessary for workers to successfully change and adapt,” he says. “Age affects these, but it is just one factor.”
Blanket judgments such as assuming that only the young are risk-takers are counter-productive to developing a dynamic labour force, say the pair.
Neither is it true that technology will replace all jobs.
“To a certain extent technology can replace certain jobs but when you look at companies that have jumped ahead of the curve – such as digital media over the last 15 years – jobs have not been disrupted,” says Yoong.
“In fact, jobs have been created in which roles have been expanded to include data analytics and social media specialists.
“The reality is that the people who were slow to adapt were the ones who were disrupted and lost their jobs.”
As Malaysians move past the pandemic, adaptability will be a key driver of economic recovery and progress because Covid-19 has fast-forwarded the need to adopt technology.
This trend also impacts the hiring process, says Yoong, citing practices such as video-hiring. Candidates must adapt to these methods or lose out.
He cautions jobseekers who think that once things “go back to normal” digital hiring will disappear. “No,” he says. “All these processes are here to stay.”