By KENNETH HO
Milton Friedman’s bestseller The World is Flat rings true in the talent hunt. I believe that competing for skilled talent involves making radical changes to immigration policies. Such changes would facilitate smoother entry of qualified and talented expatriates into Malaysia.
The idea of expatriate facilitation is not limited to hiring skilled foreigners to meet industry gaps but also as an impetus that jumpstarts industries and innovation. But before I elaborate further, let me share a story on why expatriate facilitation is important.
Poised for success
The year was 2012 and IBM Malaysia was the front runner to host a global conference with speakers flying in from all over the world.
Preparations were underway and the mood was enthusiastic. However, we hit a roadblock when the organisers told us that the professional visit passes for participating speakers would take months to process. The result: the conference moved to Thailand.
It was a missed opportunity for Malaysia and the ripple effect was wide. Expatriate facilitation is critical for technology companies like IBM because the sector we operate is dynamically changing.
New technologies like cloud computing and analytics are increasingly driving our service delivery. Talent, especially top quality technical skills, is vital to IBM’s ability to innovate and deliver consistent service to customers in Malaysia.
Just like electrical current that flows through the path of least resistance, talent too needs an enabling environment to converge at the right place. The Government must enable an environment that draws the best and brightest from across the world to Malaysia to complement and enrich the local talent pool.
The shift in policy has started. A work permit for a skilled expatriate that previously took three months to approve can now be processed within 15 days. That led to one of our managers, Arshad Munir Sharif, relocating from the Middle East to Malaysia on a local package. Pakistan-born Arshad had studied in Europe before he joined IBM in the 1990s. He recently applied for a long-term visa, the Residence Pass–Talent (RP-T).
RP-T is an instrument introduced by the Ministry of Home Affairs and supported by TalentCorp that allows skilled technical mid-level foreign talent, spouse included, to work here for 10 years.
Bryan Balangue is an RP-T beneficiary who brought a unique skill that the Malaysian HR team did not have. IBM Malaysia was on an aggressive recruitment drive and Balangue’s rapid bulk-hiring strategy helped the company grow the workforce quickly to meet customer needs. Today he and his wife live and work in Malaysia for the long term.
Another example of talent progression happened when we were on the lookout for Japanese-speaking staff. Rika Watanabe, a Japanese married to a Malaysian, joined us as a finance analyst in 2008. She blossomed in IBM and today is the business controls manager in charge of the Asean region.
Such stories are not only heartening but also have a multiplier effect. Together, the Government and organisations like IBM can make a real impact if we take charge. We must set out to infuse the country with the right spirit and policies and ensure its implementation fulfils the nation’s transformation agenda.