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

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EVOLUTION OF 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 high-quality 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 20year 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.
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.
1
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 introduced by 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.
2
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-to-day 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 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 critique 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 pre-requisite. 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.
3
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 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.
For Malaysia, it has
PROSPECTIVE OUTLOOK ON MALAYSIAN PROSPERITY
the material and economic aspects as well the social, emotional, intellectual and spiritual side.
The biggest natural resource on the planet is human potential — human energy, engagement and creativity. Only
a fraction of this potential is brought to bear today. However, if better leveraged, this latent potential would be the
key driver for economic and human growth.
Questions
What holds people back in today's organizations and institutions to realize their potential? What are the obstacles
that you see in your environment?
What is the role of management to free up human potential? Give examples of management actions that have
made a difference in your life.
Can digital technology (in particular automation and Al) spawn prosperity as opposed to eliminate jobs? Give
concrete examples
4
What is your perspective on how technology can enable people to co-create solutions that are good for their
communities, the economy and the world?
5
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