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PROSPERITY IN MALAYSIA – THE IMPACT OF NEW-AGE MANAGEMENT TOWARDS EMPLOYEE WELL-BEING AND CULTURAL TRANSFORMATION

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PROSPERITY IN MALAYSIA – THE IMPACT OF NEW-AGE MANAGEMENT
TOWARDS EMPLOYEE WELL-BEING AND CULTURAL TRANSFORMATION
‘Organizations and corporations are run via multiple management channels which are
expected to facilitate smooth working processes. Through the delegation of work according
to specified areas, employees are able to focus on particular subjects and prioritize
assignments accordingly’
The phrase displayed above was not articulated by any management personnel, yet it is the
general representation of what ‘management’ is all about. Regardless of sectors or industries,
superior management is a necessity to ensure the progression of corporation to reach the
pinnacle of success. More often than not, the responsibility of management is put forth on the
shoulders of an organization’s top people and human resource department (modified to
‘human potential’ as of late). Of course, ‘management’ in this context is referred to the
holistic individual-based administration, pertaining to the measures taken to enhance the
components contained within employee’s boundaries.
True enough, satisfied employees lead to a prospering organization, optimum individual
productivity and greater collective returns. Those are the agreed global impacts of highquality management practices and people-oriented benefits. However, the rapid development
across emerging and modern economies has given birth to the dynamic, flexible and
borderless working environment – with technological tools and systems headlining the
sophisticated approach.
Malaysia is an emerging economy, with growth rates of 2% to 5% per annum being reported
since the 1980s. The well-documented rise of Malaysia, which started off as an economic
minnow after its independence in 1957, into an investment haven and major agrarian
centerpiece occurred over a 20-year period. Lead by the fourth Prime Minister, Tun Dr.
Mahathir Mohamed, the transformation was observed to improve the public quality of life
and urbanization rate. The desire to be recognized as a modern nation by the year 2020 was
the catalyst, and there was a realization that the capacity of the local economy could be
broaden to accommodate an influx of foreign investments especially in the areas of
manufacturing and services.
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In line with the change of economic orientation of Malaysia, the existing management
practices required key alterations. This was soon followed by the multi-dimensional effects
towards the organizational employees and the entire culture as a whole. The later parts of this
essay describe the managerial situation within Malaysian environment and its consequences
to the national make-up, which is rapid and surprising indeed.
MUTATION
OF
MALAYSIAN
MANAGEMENT
PRACTICES
–
WESTERN
COMPETENCE, MALAYSIAN UNIQUENESS
Prior to the establishment of Malaysian bases of foreign companies, the operations of local
companies were less layered and structured. Hence, the professional employment of
Malaysians had room for improvement. The increase in number of foreign corporations in
Malaysia, particularly in the manufacturing, agricultural and services, improved the local
employment rate, with a large contingent being hired to showcase their talents.
The advanced structure of foreign corporations served as a wake-up call for Malaysians.
Exposure to human resource elements of distributed responsibilities, employee benefits and
rights helped the employees to evolve in terms of their work approach. Fast forward to the
present era, the priority of corporations is to ensure the organizational targets and individual
or group key performance indicators (KPI) are achieved. Emphasis is given on strategic
management and formulation of project teams to facilitate specific tasks, according to the
demands of superiors. Similar situations take place at either public or private organizations.
This is where it gets interesting. Despite the seemingly group-oriented projects or work being
performed at the workplace, organizational politics reign supreme within the Malaysian
environment. With regards to the aspect of human potential, the capability of an employee is
restricted within the bounds of the particular scope. The specialized nature of work may
induce creativity, but the everlasting pressure from the top and environmental conditions
causes mundaneness in the long run. The constant supervision present is another barrier, as
the younger employees are unable to display their passion or implement their skills due to the
long probation periods and slight distrust shown by seniors.
Organizational principles are straight-forward, and deadlines as well as the quality of work
are adhered to by all employees. The concept of management-by objective (MBO), as
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introduced by the late Peter Drucker, is well-implemented and executed across Malaysian
organizations. Aforementioned ideas of targets and KPIs are notably planned according to the
outline proposed by Drucker. The amount of ‘knowledge workers’ are increasing, although
the country is experiencing market oversupply of capable candidates. As such, there is an
urging need for the Malaysian government to undergo reform programs to benefit the present
people within the strata. For those within the workforce (especially technical-based and
social-oriented scientists), their competence is appreciated and Malaysia’s growth is partly
attributed to the contribution of this group of people.
In a nutshell, the ability to capitalize on human potential in Malaysia is massive yet
underutilized, due to the stringent workforce environment that relies on human capital for
particular assignments. Decentralization occurs according to any arising requirements,
pertinent on the basis of cost-saving measures. For example, ground operations for a budget
airline may be outsourced if it is found to save a tremendous amount of money. Yet, minimal
difference is tolerable – as Malaysians in general, prefer human attachment due to cultural
orientation.
WORK RULES, RELATIONSHIP DOMINATES
Eastern heritage values social interaction, and it is regarded as a necessity within the context
of a community. The notion is embraced at workplace too, with management and regular
employees having no difficulty in opening up and communicating openly. Despite hierarchy
being a major issue especially across a wide vacuum, such instance is not evident across few
layers. This picturesque image has its restrictions though, as professional matters are dealt
with in a sharp and concise manner. As a result, love-hate relationships are common in
Malaysian organizations. Work-based matters are managed and discussed in tandem with
Western orientation, yet there are still room for casual conversations on family and day-today issues, as well as group chit-chat sessions and occasional celebrations.
The utilization of technology has helped to coin a new term – ‘work-life integration’.
Through widely-used mediums, including smartphones and instant messaging applications,
management personnel are able to have access to lower-ranked employees at all times. Office
hours are specified to be common meeting times, while the period outside of work (weekends
and public holidays not exempted) are considered ‘on-call periods’. Privacy is no longer a
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right, but a privilege among Malaysian professionals. The available mediums are deployed to
continue chewing over office work, in addition to irregular, off-putting yet easy-going
conversations – highlighting the dual lives being lead by Malaysian management
professionals and employees.
The key difference between Malaysian and Western methods of management are most
probably, prompted by cultural values. While openness to share ideas and critiques are
welcomed and accepted in Western-oriented organizations, the local scene is dominated by
strict, wise and experienced managers who may find it hard to ‘bow down’ before younger
juniors and employees. This issue could be resolved by being careful and meticulous about
ideas and organizational well-being, rather than focusing on status and age as the major
indicators. From a personal standpoint, direct conversation and heart-to-heart sessions were
helpful to engage with senior superiors, motivated by sincere intention to improve existing
teamwork and communication. Harmonious informal relationship should be extended to
internal components of work too, to solidify organizational returns and reputation.
ONE HOPE, ONE MALAYSIA
Malaysia is built on the basis of freedom, unity and wise decision-making made by the
legendary leaders of the past. The current level of comfort enjoyed by most Malaysians
achieved via clarity of vision, effective management and long-term planning. Hence, there is
a need to continue embarking on the journey towards modernity as a nation, joined by people
from all walks of life. To realize this noble intention, security of employment is a prerequisite. At present, the unemployment rate is reported to be 3.5%, yet alarmingly the
graduate employment rate is at a worrying 10.7% (Source: Central Bank of Malaysia).
One of the factors mentioned as the biggest cause for this significant problem is the drive
towards digital technology, such as automation – reducing the need for manpower in multiple
fields including manufacturing and production areas. Indeed, the positives of this measure are
readily visible, with the greater revenue garnered by organizations as a product of reduced
costs. However, the long-term impact of automation must be thoroughly studied. The joyous
news of increased profits and national growth is meaningless if the public are unable to
secure jobs that fit their respective skill sets.
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Of course, automation is the final target of nations and organizations to boost economic
returns and reputation, and its presence is inevitable (as mentioned by Peter Drucker). For
Malaysia, however, it is welcomed only if the people’s welfare is taken care of, first and
foremost. In between the current period and future of fully-automated systems, the
management of organizations and national planning unit must sit down to ensure there would
be no ‘casualties’ as a result of the rapid transformation. The available and upcoming talents
interested to pursue careers in soon-to-be-digitalized sectors or areas must be diverted to
another sector in need of people, at the soonest instant to prevent wastage of resources and
learnt knowledge.
The quest towards modernity is a collective agenda, and the results (such as increased salaries
and standard of living) shall be enjoyed by all Malaysians. Similar approach should be
implemented by other nations, particularly emerging countries across the globe. The digital
craze must be planned and executed with regards to the suitability and capability of a country.
Enforcing digitally-based policies in ill-prepared environments may lead to public backlash
and outpour of suffering, as a repercussion of poor public involvement at the earlier parts of
policy-making.
PETER DRUCKER’S IDEALS – ARE THEY RELEVANT IN PRESENT MALAYSIA?
Truth be told, Peter Drucker’s ideas and thoughts are on point and rightfully claimed, from a
global perspective. The importance of MBO, decentralization / outsourcing and digitalization,
among others, could not be stressed enough. It is crucial, however, to consider the situation at
specific regions or countries before what was mentioned can be implemented. The ratio of
developing and third-world countries to modern nations is staggering, yet most of the global
trends emerge from the developed countries.
In retrospect, most of Drucker’s insights have been implemented in Malaysia. The idea of
emphasizing the role of non-government organizations (NGOs) towards community building,
significant role of knowledge workers in helping the process of nation-building, and the need
to engage with employees are positively received by Malaysian management personnel and
organizations.
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For Malaysia, however, it has to be noted that the country is in need of more time before
some of the ideas can be fully propagated and executed across all organizations. Issues of
decentralization and digitalization require further feasibility analysis due to its foreseen
economic and social impacts – evidently in terms of local skilled and unskilled employment
rates, devaluation of salaries and currencies, influence on extreme public reaction as well as
possibility of higher crime rates because of lowering employability. At the same time,
Drucker’s thoughts still have to be accentuated regularly, as it serves as a good guideline and
stepping stone for Malaysia to prosper within the next decade or so.
PROSPECTIVE OUTLOOK ON MALAYSIAN PROSPERITY
Prosperity is a subjective term, and there is an exorbitant number of ways to measure the
construct. Being an Eastern-oriented nation with Western methods of management and
development, prosperity, in the context of Malaysia can be looked at in two distinct manners:
external material glory, and internal collective bliss. True, status and happiness are regularly
deliberated via monetary achievement and gathered assets. But the pleasure enjoyed by the
people is a priority too – principally in terms of social interaction, emotional glee and
spiritual eternity.
Internal bliss is present in Malaysia, but its causality effect on desire to possess material
blessings require thorough cooperation between the Malaysian government, management of
organizations and the people itself (employees and non-employees). The debacle on certain
cases including digitalization and unwarranted decentralization requires immediate sit-down
and long-term plan to facilitate the local economic growth that can be enjoyed by all.
Drucker’s ideals are relevant and truly acknowledged as a valuable asset to spur the
development of global nations (inclusive of Malaysia), and should be one of the major
guiding lights in stimulating creative efforts for the betterment of the nation.
(2055 words)
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REFERENCES
(1) Buchanan, L. (2009). The Wisdom of Peter Drucker from A to Z. Retrieved July 15th,
2017 from https://www.inc.com/articles/2009/11/drucker.html
(2) Denning, S. (2013). The Father of 21st Century Management: Peter Drucker. Retrieved
July 15th, 2017 from https://www.forbes.com/sites/stevedenning/2013/03/01/the-founderof-21st-century-management-peter-drucker/#1a7bfc5d4988
(3) Kantrow, A. (2009). Why Read Peter Drucker? Retrieved July 15th, 2017 from
https://hbr.org/2009/11/why-read-peter-drucker
(4) Kramer, M. (2017). Management Theory of Peter Drucker: Key Terms. Retrieved July
15th, 2017 from https://www.business.com/articles/management-theory-of-peter-druckerkey-terms/
(5) Youth Unemployment in Malaysia: Developments and Policy Considerations (2016).
Bank Negara Malaysia 2016 Annual Report. Retrieved July 15th, 2017 from
http://www.bnm.gov.my/files/publication/ar/en/2016/cp04_003_box.pdf
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