Malaysia’s next-gen will be self-starting, but can companies cope with them?
42% want to do something completely new, 31% want to be entrepreneurs: Study
THE next generation of Malaysians to enter the workforce will be entrepreneurial, hyper-connected, and impatient for success, representing a challenge for companies looking to hire in the next decade.
“As a nation, we should be pleased that Gen Z is a generation that wants to be its own GPS (global positioning system),” said INTI International Universities and Colleges chief executive officer Rohit Sharma.
“They are self-starters, wanting to be entrepreneurs to carve out their own unique career path. How do we create an environment that gets the best out of them?” he posed at a panel discussing the results of the first-ever published study of Generation Z (Gen Z) in Malaysia.
The study on Gen Z, defined as those born between 1995 and 2009, was commissioned by INTI.
Rohit said the results are ‘statistically significant,” borne from a study conducted via focus group discussions and in-home interviews with more than 500 Gen Z respondents from key market centres throughout Malaysia.
Although the study focused only on those in urban areas and is not representative of Malaysia as a whole, it is they would be of keen interest to Malaysian companies as they begin to hire the first crop of a new generation.
These young Malaysians are not likely to be satisfied with the status quo, with 42% saying they “want to do something completely new” when making career choices.
Panellist Sajith Sivanandan, managing director of Google Malaysia, alluded to this when he said that companies needed to come up with something “audacious” to inspire excitement in their employees.
Meanwhile, 31% claim they want to be entrepreneurs, something that gives Patrick Ng, a partner at PwC Malaysia, optimism for the future.
“A lot of people that we [have seen] in the past five to 10 years, they’re very strong fundamentally ... unfortunately, they’re not very good on the entrepreneurial side,” Ng said.
“Hopefully in the new generation ... they embark on a journey not just on built-up strong fundamentals but also have the (entrepreneurial) ability,” he added.
Leaderonomics managing director Roshan Thiran said that would-be entrepreneurs have an advantage when starting a business now because it is not expensive to fail, and there is a lot of experience to be gained in the process.
He said it would be interesting to see how Gen Z will react to failure. “Will they be the kind of people who want to learn?” he said.
There’s the supply, here are their demands
However, coupled with these ambitions are high demands. Gen Z regards a successful person as someone who earns a high salary (75%), is happy with themselves (69%), is healthy (69%), and able to enjoy his or her career (60%).
The risk is that if they don't get what they want in their current job, they may look elsewhere to fulfill their needs.
Ng is realistic, saying that many may leave companies prematurely, admitting that PWC currently has an attrition rate of 20-30% already.
However, he also believes there is no issue in losing talent as long as contact is maintained with them. As he puts it, “Great exit interviews; continue to network afterwards.”
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Those in the next generation are aware of their role, as highlighted by a second panel composed of Gen Z teenagers. “Are we blessed with opportunity? Yes,” said Moh Shu Jenn, 17.
The attendees confirmed the findings that they were highly connected to the Internet, spending an average of eight hours a day online (including time on their mobile phones, PCs and television).
However, they also say that ‘hyper-connectivity’ wrongly has a bad reputation.
“It’s not necessarily bad,” said Moh. “We can be connected to other people, and we have information at the tip of our fingers, and access to everything in the world.”
They do admit that there is difficulty in conveying feelings online and it is easier done face-to-face.
“There’s no emotion anymore, even though there’s emoticons,” said Jacinta Jea Ling, 17. “Sometimes, it does feel that people don’t get you and it feels lonely.”
The youngsters also emphasised that Malaysian teenagers are now keen entrepreneurs and can’t wait to dive in.
“I have a lot of friends who are starting their own companies,” said Ahmad Mustaqim Nordin, 19. “There’s car washes, there’s t-shirts, there’s cupcakes, there’s tudung (Muslim veil or headscarf)!”
Ultimately, this drive to step forwards is a result of realising how competitive the world is.
“We have to be self-driven, so that we can push ourselves beyond boundaries, so that people can see us,” said Ruby Wong Chui Yee, 19.
“I’m not only competing within Malaysia,” agreed Mustaqim. “I’m competing with the whole world.”
The panel of youth ultimately summarised the urgency they see in making for themselves a role for the future.
“Either you take one step now, or you just become late,” said Mustaqim. “So for me, yes, we are self-starters, we are motivated, and we do take this effort ... we are the game changers.”
Dzof Azmi has been writing for print and television for a decade and is grateful to have covered a diverse range of topics such as IT, crime, Malaysian society and the travails of his favourite football club.
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