Ask any leader of organisations on matters which concern them and the chances are talent would be high on their list. It is amazing that in the world where information is readily available and educational institutions are mushrooming, recruiting and retaining talent appears to be one of the key challenges faced by organisations. This is not a phenomena faced by Malaysia alone, many countries around this region are having the same challenge, notwithstanding the strength of their currencies.
Where have all the talents gone?
Maybe I can start by considering talents at the entry point, the graduates. Despite the differences in approaches taken by organisations in assessing talents, the top scorers would certainly be preferred. However, this group would be only around 20% of graduates entering the job market. Most of the time, the kind of employers who are able to recruit these top talents would be large organisations which have allocations to train and nurture the talents that they recruited.
What will happen to the rest? For those who are at the bottom 20%, regretfully, they would find it difficult to be employed. Those who are stuck at the middle, on the other hand, may ended up with less resourceful employers which may not have comprehensive programmes for talent development.
We could see from the above the kind of "mis-match" between skills and competencies and further talent development. Those who are good will be further nurtured which those who displayed moderate results may not be provided with the same opportunities. Perhaps this is none of the reason organisations which employ graduates from the middle segment would be complaining about the "quality" of graduates without admitting that they themselves may have not made adequate investment in their own people. Organisations at the end of the scale would only be able to employ the remnants of students, based on their inferior grades. I am sure you would be able to anticipate the outcome of such situation.
We may have also heard about the issue relating the quality of graduates. Depending where you are on the supply chain, this issue could be viewed in many perspectives.
Employers would always demand for the best, which to my mind is rightfully so given that through their organisations, economic activities are created, which eventually contributing to our economic growth and providing employment opportunities. On the other hand, those at the institutions of higher learning may not necessarily share the view that graduates that they produce should serve the need of industries. They would argue that our education policy is a holistic one which attempts to equip graduates with knowledge and humanistic values, not necessarily serving the need of employers.
I do not see any problem with the two views. The only question that I may want to ask is why those who are nurtured to have both education and values could not adjust quick enough when they are employed? In fact, many employers would be complaining about the graduates' thinking' and problem solving skills. I am not sure whether thinking and problem solving are not part of the holistic policy? Or, could it be that the standard set is pitched towards the standard of thinking and problem solving of their educators?
As a taxpayer, I would certainly like to see that money that I contributed towards nation building is well spent. Since many of our institutions of higher learning are funded by public funds, they should not ignore the expectations of people who are funding them, the Rakyat!
Employers should also play their role in nurturing talents and cannot expect all graduates posses knowledge, skills and values which fit exactly with their requirements. For the accountancy profession for example, many accountancy firms will require their staff to complete professional accountancy qualifications, to ensure the baseline standards for accountants are achieved. This is not cheap as it requires investments in terms of money, time and efforts in the form of guidance and mentoring. However, the outcome of such investment would certainly make them more effective and competitive.
Graduates should not expect employment as something which does not require them to further work on their competencies. At the early stages of employment, the focus would be on skills and competency development. At the later stages, their management and leadership skills will determine how far they can grow in the organisations.
I suppose the talent issue will remain with us for a long time. However, this should not deter organisations to review the processes which they deploy to develop talents. Graduates should also not expect everything would be given on silver platters, they need to work harder to fit into the organisations which employ them.