How SMEs in Malaysia Can Attract and Retain the Best Talents

17 Jun 2019

The defining factors for SMEs in Malaysia are their sales turnover and the number of employees that they have. By classification, SMEs have 200 or fewer employees. However, the challenge for many SMEs in Malaysia is attracting any number of quality talent and getting them to stay.


Larger organisations woo employees with incentives and benefits like free meals and gym memberships, brand-name recognition and sometimes even a food court in the lobby. Many SMEs cannot afford to compete with that. So how do you attract and retain quality talent?

1. Create a brand

Your brand is the first impression your customers and potential talent have of your business, product or service. Creating a brand does not require you to get to AirAsia or Google level overnight.

Your branding — a combination of how potential talents and customers see, recognise and trust your business, products and services — makes it stand out among even larger competitors. Check out our previous posts on branding strategies, branding mistakes you may be making and low-cost branding ideas you can use.

2. Trumpet your advantages

You can’t afford all the jaw-dropping incentives and provide above-market salaries for quality talent, but SMEs have some advantages over larger organisations that make them just as attractive to talents looking for those kinds of opportunities.

For instance, SMEs typically have closer relationships between founders and staff, with employees more likely to be treated as an extension of the founder’s family. SMEs can also be less bureaucratic, and employees have a wider scope of work to do in smaller companies.

3. Get the right message out

Knowing the highlighted possible advantages that quality talent may appreciate in working with you, the next step is to convey this message to them in the right way.

Make a compelling case for why quality talent should work with you and how their skills contribute to your business growth. In addition, highlight career growth opportunities for entry-level talent, and company growth potential for top executives and managers.

4. Offer training and development

Your employees expect you to help them develop. LinkedIn’s 2018 Workforce Learning Report showed that 93% of employees would stay at a company longer if it invested in their careers. This simple gesture lets your employees know that you are actively engaged and interested in their success.

The good news is that as an SME in Malaysia, providing this training is made cheaper by the Human Resources Development Fund (HRDF), the government agency created to help develop quality human capital. HRDF provides employee training grants to all employers registered with the agency.

5. Build a company culture

While your brand is more of an outward-facing attraction, your company culture is an internal experience that makes your employees remain with you. Importantly, company culture is not all about free lunches and dinner but rather includes factors like your company mission and goals, its value, ethics and expectations.

It is the general environment that you create for your talent to work in. Many companies in the last few years have included a healthy amount of fun in their work cultures, while start-ups are primarily known for their informal and independence-driving cultures.

6. Give employees the mic

In today’s social world, if you really enjoy something, you are very likely going to share it online for others to see. This creates one of the biggest and most effective marketing techniques: word of mouth. If you have a thriving internal culture, give your employees permission to talk and share their experiences on social media and platforms like Glassdoor.

Even if you are just starting out and you are the only employee, share what your days are like, your mission and goals to attract like-minded talent. Check out our post about how to and the importance of personal branding.

This month, we’ll be exploring SMEs and talent in Malaysia with topics like managing younger generations, using digital strategies to attract talent and what employees want from their employers. Join SME Community now to get the latest updates.

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