Desire to improve digital skills are high, but job security fears remain

MALAYSIANS are better at adapting with technology since the pandemic struck the global workspace, as 77% of them sees technology as an opportunity more than risks, despite still being a bit anxious about its impact on job availability.

This was found in PwC’s ‘Hopes and Fears Survey 2021’, where it also revealed that 71% of Malaysians are still reluctant on accepting automation as it might risk them their jobs, and that percentage is 34% compared to the previous year.

While only 19% of Malaysian respondents say they had adequate digital skills to perform their jobs, 57% say they have improved their digital skills since the pandemic began (vs 40% globally).

Among the 57% respondents, 46% had some digital skills and developed them further, while 11% who didn’t have adequate digital skills were able to acquire them on the job.

According to PwC Malaysia markets leader Nurul A’in Abdul Latif, 78% of Malaysians say that a lack of access to technology has limited their ability to develop skills, which reflects a shortage of the right technology, or that Malaysian companies need to urgently plug the skills gap through a proper upskilling strategy.

Nurul A’in Abdul Latif

“As much as technology is a lifeline in keeping people at work and an enabler for business continuity, certain barriers still persist,” she said.

However, sentiments indicate that there is a silver lining amidst these uncertainties, since 92% of the respondents say that they have been given a chance by their current employers to improve their digital skills outside their normal duties.

The demand to learn new digital skills is definitely there, with 87% agreeing that it is their responsibility to update their skills rather than relying on employers to do so.

Meanwhile, 88% say they are ready to learn new skills or completely retrain so that they can continue to be employable in the future.

While employers have an added responsibility to tailor their programmes to the needs of their business and employees, a skills assessment may help to identify the crucial skill sets that are lacking.

“It is not enough for organisations to be working out their upskilling strategies alone. This is an agenda in need of a larger mandate through closer collaboration between the government and the private sector,” noted PwC Malaysia chief digital officer Michael Graham.

Additionally, the pandemic has also given rise to a new breed of employees who are not afraid to pursue new challenges, as part of both their professional and personal development. One of the clearest examples is societal impact, where 85% of the respondents say they want to work for an organisation that will make a positive contribution to society vs 75% globally.

There are also employees (69%) who would like to be an entrepreneur and set up their own business vs 49% globally. Evidently, Malaysian employees are not content with pursuing a linear or traditional career path in the current landscape.

In Nurul’s view, employers couuld benefit from a more engaged workforce, by incorporating environmental, social and governance (ESG) considerations as part of their business strategy, as it is a way to create long term value and build trust among their employees.

“Citizen-led initiatives empower employees to contribute ideas or solutions to improve business processes. There are also opportunities for employees to volunteer for causes they are passionate about, from mentoring underserved students to imparting digital skills to those retrenched.

“Regardless of where organisations start, this is a critical time to rethink what their workforce strategy should look like in the new normal, and how they can enhance value to society through upskilling investments,” she concluded. – April 30, 2021

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