Hybrid working continues providing opportunity and challenges

Photo by EKATERINA BOLOVTSOVA

A report by the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD), finds that the impact of hybrid working varies across the Asia-Pacific (APAC) region and that workforce engagement is a critical priority across all APAC markets surveyed.

While some APAC countries are positive about the impact of hybrid working, Malaysian people professionals indicate that there are still challenges to HR delivery, particularly when it comes to supporting line managers to manage their teams effectively and building organisational cultures and values. 

The “People Profession 2023: Asia-Pacific Survey”, which surveyed over 800 people professionals across Australia, Hong Kong S.A.R., Malaysia, and Singapore, provides insights into the talent management landscape, workforce priorities, and the nuances of hybrid working.

May Leng Kwok, Head of Market Development – Global, for CIPD, said: “With its rich diversity, Malaysia presents unique challenges and opportunities within talent management. Recognising the distinctive nature of the Malaysian market, it’s evident that a universal approach won’t suffice.

“Navigating these complexities, the survey acts as a compass, guiding us and people professionals to comprehend and address the intricacies shaping the future of work in the country and the rest of the region.”

Key findings from the report include

  • Key drivers of change for organisations in Malaysia
    • Economic change and rising costs were ranked as the top driver of change for local people professionals. This was followed by (#2) digital transformation and advancing technology, (#3) digital technology platforms, and (#4) industrial change and organisational agility.
    • Social media and content consumption was also ranked amongst the top 5 drivers, the only market in the region to say this.
    • Engaging with the workforce is another people priority area, especially as hybrid working models are here to stay. This suggests a cultural reset is needed to focus on employee experience, engagement, and culture in a post-pandemic workplace.
  • Impact of hybrid working on people practice
    • Only around a third of Malaysian respondents feel that hybrid working has made people objectives easier to deliver. Whilst nearly a quarter believe supporting employees’ mental health and wellbeing, managing performance and supporting line managers to manage their teams effectively have become more challenging in a hybrid context.
    • However, early-career people professionals across APAC, with up to five years of experience, expressed a greater belief that hybrid working facilitates people management.
      This divergence in views raises questions about whether working preferences, adaptability, and openness to change influence perceptions of hybrid working, potentially differing from those with more experience who may be more attuned to strategic challenges.
  • Barriers to progression amongst people professionals
    • The APAC region exhibits notable diversity in barriers to career advancement with Malaysian people professionals highlighting organisational politics (18%) as a significant obstacle.
      Notably, about half of Malaysian respondents indicate a strong likelihood of departing from their current organisation within the next 12 months, and 70% are actively exploring new opportunities.
    • To tackle this issue, leaders should encourage ongoing performance and development discussions among staff, integrating performance metrics into objectives for those with line management roles, and foster confidence in line managers to engage in these conversations, providing training and clear information to support effective development dialogues.

  • Top workforce priorities
    • Amid persistent recruitment challenges, employers in Malaysia are prioritising developing current workforce skills to bridge gaps and fuel business growth.
      Additional research supports this, with 56% of senior HR leaders highlighting employee training and development as a key focus in 2023.
    • Workforce planning takes centre stage in Malaysia as a crucial strategy to manage talent, address skills gaps, and mitigate associated business risks. Notably, APAC respondents place less emphasis on recruitment compared to other international markets.
    • Malaysian respondents show a greater inclination to outsource administrative HR tasks, indicating a broader trend in Asia where HR teams are evolving from a supportive role to strategic partners influencing business decisions. Outsourcing aids this transition by providing additional resources to manage transactional HR responsibilities, including administrative duties.
  • Sentiments around their career prospects and wellbeing
    • When it comes to career progression, skills development remains firmly at the top and is reported as a key enabler by three-quarters (75%) of respondents in Malaysia.
    • Other CIPD research has highlighted the prevalent issue of burnout among people teams, attributed by heightened expectations and pressures from supporting the workforce during the ongoing disruptions caused by the pandemic.
      However, encouragingly this research found that over half of Malaysian people professionals felt that work positively affects their mental (52%) and physical health (53%). Given health and wellbeing affects many work-related outcomes, leaders should consider a holistic approach of flexible working options, progression opportunities and setting clear boundaries between business and personal needs.

May Leng Kwok concluded: “Hybrid and flexible work models are reshaping the way we work, and it’s crucial for people teams and managers to recognise the profound implications for both individuals and business strategies. As Malaysia embraces this transformative era, organisations need to adopt a data-driven mindset, and thoroughly analyse how hybrid working uniquely impacts the local landscape, employee segments, and internal and external stakeholders.

“To adapt and thrive in this evolving landscape, organisations need to explore creative solutions to enhance the employee experience, whether through dynamic career and skills development via job rotations, secondments, or robust support for professional qualifications and certifications.”