Harmony Through Diversity in the Malaysian Workforce

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Malaysia is a unique nation that is multiracial, multi-religious and multicultural. This diversity translates to the Malaysian workforce, which is highly sought after for their multilingual talents and skill sets. But how do Malaysian workers achieve workplace harmony in the face of diversity and corporate culture? Corporate culture, on its own, is a highly complicated topic, especially when considering the psychological and social influences in a workplace.

Through the 2018 APAC Workforce Insights report, we tried to unravel the ethos of corporate culture in Malaysia and who can be effective in creating workplace harmony. What we discovered was that managers are powerful agents for driving strong corporate culture in Malaysia.

In fact, more than half of the Malaysian workforce choose to look to their managers as role models as opposed to their peers or even the leaders of their organisation. Our report found that 62% of workers favour their manager’s personal values over the broader values of their organisation, when choosing whether to stay or seek opportunities elsewhere.

We then asked why Malaysian workers take their manager’s values account more than the company’s values and what we discovered was that almost half of Malaysian respondents simply wanted to fit into their team culture and feel a sense of belonging. This trend was observed across the wider APAC region as well.

As a member of the Malaysian workforce myself, I can attest to the feeling of belonging that we look for in our workplace. Growing up, we learned to accept and appreciate the differences between our friends who may be of different races or religion.

In the workplace, we see racial, religious and cultural barriers collapse in favour of team culture and harmony. Now, thanks to the Workforce Insights report, we also know that managers are the front runners in strengthening workplace unity.

But it must be emphasised that, while managers play a vital role in an organisation, it is equally crucial that organisations in Malaysia align and embed their own corporate values with the values of their senior leadership. The risk is when workers align themselves to a manager who may not be aligned with the values of a company, their loyalty thus lies only with their manager.

This can result in managers taking workers with them if they decide to leave, which can be costly and damaging to the reputation of an organisation.

The responsibility therefore lies with the leaders of an organisation to ensure cultural consistency across the business. Our report points out that 30% of Malaysian workers believe that organisations need to make sure that managers are always engaged, this is an important point to consider in preventing employees from feeling disconnected from the organisation and risk losing them when the manager leaves.

Managers can offer immense value to organisations here, if properly utilised. Their role in the organisation is even more critical considering the diverse Malaysian workforce. Managers who are in sync with corporate values will strive to perform well for their organisations and in doing so, serve as positive role models for other workers.

This drive for performance will ultimately bridge the gaps caused by race, religion or culture and form a unified, happy and productive workforce.

This article is contributed by Brian Sim, Deputy Country Head, Malaysia, at Kelly Services.

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