Why retaining valuable talent is difficult for Myanmar companies

Businesses in Myanmar face a myriad of challenges, one of which is the lack of skilled employees. That, in turn, is due to limited training and human resource (HR) functions in most firms. But while employers lament the shortage of talent, many are also reluctant to invest in staff development, saying too many employees end up taking what they’ve learned elsewhere.

It’s a problem many Myanmar employers face. “Having employees with the right skills is important to ensure things are functioning at every level of the business. Many Myanmar employees lack skills and experience. We must set a benchmark against which improvements can be made for each industry,” said Daw Thuzar Win, director of Alpha Power Engineering Company.

In Myanmar, those with skills or experience in sales and marketing, accounting and finance, information technology, HR management and engineering are hot in demand. “As the economy is still expanding, many firms need salespeople to grow their businesses. Also, trading is a big part of the Myanmar economy,” said Matt De Luca, managing director of JobNet.com.mm.

Wrong mindset

Yet, employees who possess those skills are in short supply. One reason is employers’ reluctance to invest in the learning and development (L&D) of their workforce. This mindset is pervasive particularly in local firms.

“Companies need to invest a portion of their earnings in employee learning and development as this is directly related to the growth of the business and helps to build loyalty and trust between employer and employee. In Myanmar however, most local firms, especially the smaller and family-owned businesses, do not have the financial capacity to do so,” said Daw Thuzar Win. “Many are also of the mindset that L&D involves a lot more extra work, so they avoid doing it.”

It is also common for employees to take the skills they’ve learnt from one firm to another. “Some employers do provide training for their employees. But the employees end up moving to other companies for higher salaries, making it a waste of time and money to train them,” Daw Thuzar Win said.

So what should employers do to retain valuable talent?

Employee benefits

One of the best ways to keep good employees is simply by rewarding them with decent salaries and benefits. While there is no benchmark salary range in Myanmar, Aung Myint Maw, director of Quantum Talent Myanmar, said remuneration packages depend on skills and experience.

‘‘There are some surveys on salary range done by research companies but those vary with the actual numbers. One thing for sure is that the pay scale for highly skilled functions has increased over the last 5 years due to the steep increase in demand for those roles,” he said.

In Myanmar, the top jobs with the highest salaries include financial controller, IT project manager, head of HR, head of sales and investment manager, according to data provided by Quantum.

Good employee benefits are also important in retaining talent. For this, local companies must develop strong HR functions. In Myanmar, HR personnel are usually employed to carry out administrative tasks involving payroll and attendance. Many local employers have yet to realise the importance of HR in developing comprehensive benefits to reward and retain deserving employees.

‘‘Most local small and medium enterprises are family-run businesses and not yet ready to provide the employee benefits that the foreign companies are offering,” said Aung Myint Maw.

Mr De Luca added that “once local firms start building up their HR capabilities, more job seekers will be interested to work for them.”

Employer branding

Local firms should also take efforts to brand themselves better. Currently, the majority of job seekers are looking for roles in foreign firms. “They think there are more opportunities for career progression if they work for foreign employers,” said Aung Myint Maw. Job seekers are also attracted to foreign companies because they appear more professional and pay more.

‘‘Sometimes this is true, but sometimes it is not. Actually, many local companies also provide great working environments. But they forget that in the recruitment process, the company is a product they are trying to sell to potential employees. Employer branding is really important in recruiting talent,” Mr De Luca said.

“International companies attract more talent because they are very good at employer branding. They have a professional website and clearly communicated vision and value proposition. When you go to a job fair, these are the companies with the most impressive booths. It’s all about the perception,” he added.

The good news is local employers have started improving in recent years. These days, job seekers are more willing to accept roles in Myanmar companies. Still, it will take time for the majority to embrace the culture of offering more L&D opportunities and other employee benefits to recruit and retain top talent.

Source: Myanmar Times

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