The Association for Community and Dialogue welcomes the news that was widely reported in the media that as Malaysians usher in the new job year, job prospects are looking better for fresh graduates with ample openings in small and medium-sized industries.
SME Association president Micheal Khang said that fresh graduates should seek employment with small and medium-sized enterprises instead of big corporations to gain experience first.
This corroborates another media report that millennials now make up most of the workforce in small and medium-sized enterprises or businesses in Malaysia, according to LinkedIn. To be exact, 76% of small and medium-sized business employees are those aged between 23 and 38, according to the professional networking platform.
Such millennials, also known as Gen Y-ers, outnumber the other generations. Gen X workers, aged between 39 and 54, make up 15% of staff in such companies, while 7% are from Gen Z, those aged below 23 and have just graduated from college. The remaining 2% are baby boomers, aged 55 and above.
According to observers, the large percentage of such young talents in small and medium-sized businesses may require companies to adapt to different work cultures. This includes “gig” work, which is doing tasks or working for several organisations instead of being fully employed by one company.
These statistics show that industrial and employee relations are moving in a new landscape and trajectory, which requires a new mindset among employers and those who represent them such as the Malaysian Employers Federation. To attract millennials, there is a critical need to develop cultures in organisations that are purposeful, horizontal and egalitarian and where solidarity, teamwork and empowerment become a new culture instead of centralised control that depicts a master-servant relationship.
The unions represented by the Malaysian Trades Union Congress should adapt to this new trend and understand the dynamics of success in the digital world that is not merely based on workers’ rights or the goodwill of employers, but also recognises the importance of responsibility for gaining knowledge and skills in the new economy so that the bargaining process would be equal and balanced, leading to win-win solutions between employers and unions.
There is also a need for workers to be prepared for futuristic structural changes where data-rich markets would ultimately replace firms. In this context, workers could enrich themselves by making informed decisions based on comprehensive data.
Therefore, unless employers and unions embrace cultural and structural reforms in line with the aspirations of millennials in the digital age, we could experience another wave of brain drain that will delay the prospects of Malaysia becoming a developed nation.