Tuesday 26 January 2010

The right person for the position

Organisations, whether they are geared towards profit or otherwise, consist essentially of people working in groups.

Irrespective of the size, geographical location and the level of technology employed, it is the quality of the people that eventually determines the effectiveness of an organisation and the achievement of its mission.

A lot has been said about people and organisations but most will agree that ultimately, the aim of any organisation is to ensure it has the right people for each available position, right from the top to the bottom of the organisation. Is this normally the case?

“Right person”, if not anchored against certain principles, could be understood differently by many people and organisations.

It could simply mean somebody who is not a threat, in whatever ways, to the person making the decision. At the other extreme, the organisation would go to great length to determine the criteria of the person being sought, after considering the mission and strategies adopted before commissioning a search for likely candidates. This is then followed by a filtering process until the “right person” is identified.

It is obvious that the quality of the person eventually hired or selected depends on the quality of the person or group of persons making the decision. Therefore, organisations should be cautious in deciding who this responsibility should be assigned to. Perhaps in addition to where the person sits in the hierarchy of the organisation, specific knowledge and expertise may be required.

Organisations which have good public image may not find it difficult in looking for potential people who are interested to join them.

Having a big pool to choose from would be an added advantage. However, some organisations do carry reputations which may not be that attractive for people to be associated with.

Given the emphasise on governance and integrity nowadays, any organisation which is seen to be compromising on these principles may find it difficult to attract top talents.

Goods talents are attracted to organisations which could offer them career development prospects. If an organisation appears to be directionless, it may be the place for bright and talented people to build their career.

In as much as organisations have to look outwards in search of talents, there is a need for them to look at themselves and initiate any necessary changes to ensure they are in the radar screen of the “right” people they are searching for.

Unfortunately, as image and perception are based on their real conduct and behaviour, any cosmetic changes could be sensed by the market and may not carry them that far in competing for top talents. Do we have enough of the “right person” in the first place? The debate about the lack of graduates who fit the needs of employers could be a sign that the supply may not be adequate. This debate is happening not only in Malaysia but in other parts of the world as well.

However, we could not use that to justify that status quo is acceptable. We as a country need to compete and move our way up the value chain and we need more smart and talented people.

More industry-academics collaboration is needed to address this issue but more openness and flexibility on the part of the institutions of higher learning are necessary. The KPIs of our universities need reassessment as some may not point to the right direction as far as the people in the industry are concerned.

The other issue in getting the “right person” is that competition for talent has no geographical limit. A talented person with capabilities to serve global companies will be valuable in any economy.

The challenge for Malaysian organisations is that we normally limit ourselves to offering Malaysian scale of salary and benefits. What more when the person in question is a Malaysian.

This may be reasonable, in most cases, as the sources of income for the organisations are mainly from Malaysia.

Global companies may have more flexibility as they could offer global job prospects, global salary scales and focus more on merits rather than anything else.

This does not mean they are better than Malaysian companies and organisations but they simply could offer something more that what we could.

It would certainly be very unfortunate if we lose more of our smart and talented Malaysians whom we have invested in since their schooling days. However, it would be very difficult to retain them if the choices that they have are aplenty. People are more globally minded nowadays as our ways of living change.

How many kids do not have a Facebook or Friendster account? If from young, they start making friends with people from many parts of the world, it is only natural that they go out and explore the world later in their lives.

While our organisations continue to seek the “right persons”, we as a nation need to start changing our ways of nurturing and retaining talent so that we have enough brain power to remain a competitive and blessed country.

This article was also published at The Edge Malaysia website here:

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