One June 1 last year, 20,000 Malaysian Airlines System Bhd(MAS) employees received their termination letters, notifying them that their employer would be closing down on August 31, 2015. When the new company, Malaysian Airlines Bhd (MAB), commenced operations on September 1, 2015, its manpower requirements would be up to a third less than before, signalling Malaysia's single largest corporate downsizing. In addition, the firm being restructured was a government-linked company, a commercial entity not usually known for large workforce reductions", as its then CEO Christoph Mueller said, and two planes lost, there was really no choice if Malaysia was to still be able to boast a national carrier.
The 12-point MAS Restructuring Plan detailed a range of imminent actions, one of which being the creation of an entity that would manage the transition of the MAS staff not offered a permanent role in MAB. CDC Malaysia, a wholly-owned subsidiary of Khazanah Nasional Bhd, was thus born and the responsibility for thousand of unemployed people thrust instantly upon it.
"It was definitely a toe-curling moment, "said Shahryn Azmi, CEO of CDC. "But the number of people who rallied around to offer assistance to the transition effort was inspiring."
He recalled receiving applications from people wanting to work for CDC. "They said they just wanted to help."
Small and medium-sized companies nationwide contacted him, offering jobs. "I remember one company called up and said, sorry, but we can only offer one job. Is that okay? "he said.
Many others also wanted to help, he added. "That was pretty special. No one did it for fame or recognition. They did it out of a sense of national duty, because they saw the big picture."
SUPPORTING ORGANISATIONAL AND PEOPLE CHANGE
A year after the closure of MAS, Shahryn recounted that four out of five people who were not given jobs by MAB have sought transition assistance from CDC. Of these, 80% have successfully moved on to a new phase of life, with the majority seeking re-employment, as opposed to becoming self-employed or opting for transition work at CDC and, therefore, will be upskilled before moving on.
Because the aviation industry in Malaysia is limited in size, former MAS staff adamant about staying in the industry but unable to secure positions with other airlines withy a local presence have moved on to work as expatriates with Middle Eastern carriers. The majority of those taking positions there have been the beneficiaries of significant increases in salaries, the only drawback being, of course, that they have to be based away from home.
"These individuals are extremely passionate about aviation but unfortunately, there weren't enough positions available at MAB. They wanted to stay in the airline business, so it only made sense that they followed where the opportunities took them, " Shahryn said. "CDC was able to organise interviews in Kuala Lumpur with Middle Eastern carriers. Their recruiting personnel came here and always left feeling very satisfied that they were able to add people who are highly skilled and experienced to their growing airlines.
"We've also helped many former staff take up jobs in other industries such as hospitality, food and beverage and retail. In fact, we've had great stories on how much these individuals are enjoying their roles and we have received glowing reviews from quite a number of their new employers as well."
The MAS engagement, therefore, was an extremely successful endeavour for CDC so much si that many other organisations have since engaged CDC for special assistance with their restructuring. "We've also worked withy companies in the logistics, oil and gas and marine engineering sectors. CDC had also generated interest in other countries that want to learn how CDC handles large-scale workforce transition," says Shahryn, who believes that all these are proof that CDC has a positive ang growing reputation locally and overseas as an organisation almost uniquely capable of handling large-scale workforce reductions. But is that really the primary role of CDC?
AGILE WORKFORCE AS THE FOUNDATION OF A PRODUCTIVE ORGANISATION
An agile workforce taught or trained in different skill gives an organisation the ability to move people within the organisation to take on different roles and responsibilities. That can only be good news for the organisation as it potentially retains and motivates staff. There will then be staff members who are efficient, productive and happy in their jobs. And that ia a sound foundation for the organisation to be competitive, grow in its industry and contribute to the broader economy. CDC will be in the midst of all this, preparing Malaysians at all working levels nationwide to embrace change.
CDC's national and strategic mission is to be the primary enabling platform for workforce mobility.
Said Shahryn, "What the means is that CDC exists to help Malaysians in the workforce, whatever their rank or qualification. CDC will work with them individually to chart their professional future, plan their career relaunches and ensure those moves are best-fit solutions for the individual as well as being relevant to current market and economic conditions that their employers are facing."
The recent World Economic Forum report suggests that technology is going to have a major impact on millions of jobs redundancies, among other things. And that is just one of many factors that are changing how employers and employees will have to think about job skills and make changes to adapt in order to survive in changing economic conditions.
THE PHENOMENON OG JOB CHANGE TODAY HAS ASPECTS THAT MOST OF US MIGHT NOT BE AWARE OF
"We know that statistically, Malaysians are changing careers an average of three times during their working lives. This isn't change of employer, but a full, 90 degree type change in professional direction," said Shahryn. He felt that the Asian culture places more emphasis in people being doctors, lawyers, engineers and accountants, but the reality is that only less 5% of the population of Malaysia are professionals so qualified.
"It's very obvious when you take note of it, but the point of that statistic in that the Malaysian economy essentially functions well with the vast majority of the workforce coming from different backgrounds. These worker, nonetheless, is an essential part of the entire workforce machinery. That mobility enables them take on more than one task or different job, and play their small but crucial role within the organisation, contributing to that industry and the broader economy," he added.
CHANGE FOR A GOOD FIT
CDC's function, Shahryn says, is to work with organisations as their business partners to facilitate worker mobility using a much more structured and deliberately thought-out approach. "We are there to objectively assess how suitable an employee is for a particular role. By doing so, we help companies and employees make the right decisions in a way that works best for all, "he said.
Nowadays, not everybody necessarily wants a traditional 9 to 5 job. This is the impact technology has had on the way people seek employment. On demand smartphone apps such as Uber and Airbnb make it easier for a person to make a decent living by monetising their time or assets, which means they can do away with conventional employment. Workers are becoming more mobile and the nature of their jobs is likewise more fluid as they are directly linked to how much time they want to spend turning their time into income. "This is where CDC comes in – to advise companies about the changing nature of employment and how best to manage their manpower needs to be more agile. We then help people to identify what sort of living they wish to start, and plan with them on a one-to-one level about the next steps going forward," said Shahryn.
'Whether someone is a fresh graduate or a mid-career professional, we want to be able to help that person make an educated decision about their next career. Too many people either just decide on a whim, agree to the new job out of desperation or because they need the money. Others often take the biased advice of friends and relatives who mean well but have no idea whether what they are saying is actually going to be the best course of action for that person in the long term, or good for their families and their employer."
When the happens, Shahryn said, that person is not going to be optimally productive. If someone does not perform well for their employer, the organisation will not operate as effectively and the efficiency loss is considerable, especially if this situation replicated across hundreds of thousand of companies and millions of employees nationwide.
"CDC is an organisation that truly believes that there is no such thing as bad workers," said Shahryn. "They're just people who are in the wrong jobs. What we do is to assist people in their professional journey and try to eliminate the guesswork and gut-feel in their decision-making process. Employers may indeed be enthusiatic about a candidate they interview for a job, but is that job really appropriate for the person? CDC, as such, works for the candidate to help him or her come to a decision that has the greatest change of satisfying all involved."