Five years ago, Jacky, in her mid-40s, would have felt less secure about going freelance as a journalist. But the mother-of-three is now part of a burgeoning segment of an independent workforce called the gig economy.
“Freelancing allows me to juggle home and work with minimal interference from bosses,” says Jacky who feels that media companies are also finding it more feasible financially to pay by piecemeal than hire someone full time.
“There are more work opportunities out there for freelancing than before,” she adds.
Independent work, short-term workers, freelancers - all part of the gig economy, has grown substantially in Malaysia over the past year.
We are seeing almost 33 percent uptake in terms of people looking for independent work
The gig economy in Malaysia recorded a 31 percent growth in 2017, according to the Employees Provident Fund - surpassing the growth of traditional jobs; making it easier for someone like Jacky to pursue flexible schedules, work locations and the freedom to select projects that appeal to them - things that most traditional workplaces have yet been able to offer.
The same trend is reflected on professional networking site LinkedIn.
“We are seeing almost 33 percent uptake in terms of people looking for independent work,” says Feon Ang, Vice-president, LinkedIn Talent and Learning Solutions for Asia Pacific.
The response for these jobs? Almost quite immediate.
“About 40 percent of these candidates respond within a day whenever these jobs come about. So there’s a huge desire for the younger group looking for independent work,” she adds. In fact, as of August 2018, there are more than 33 thousand Malaysia-based members on LinkedIn who indicated specifically on their profile that they were open to part-time, freelance or contract work.
More Than 26 Million Companies Represented on LinkedIn
Gig workers are steadily becoming an indispensable part of the 21st century workforce, helped by a burgeoning start-up and entrepreneur ecosystem. Advanced technological infrastructure and cloud computing have also made working remotely easier than ever.
But are companies strategising their talent acquisitions, and retentions, with the emergence of the gig economy?
Millennials are looking more at pursuing their passion and purpose of life
“I believe that companies will begin to start looking at that because of the changing workforce. Millennials are looking more at pursuing their passion and purpose of life,” says Feon.
“If we look at the skills gap and evolving workforce, organisations will have to adapt themselves to capture the growing needs of the workforce and at the same time, ensuring they get the skills they are looking for,” she adds.
Getting the needed skill sets is a major challenge that most fast-growing companies can relate to. The demand for digitally skilled professionals continues to grow but the gap persistently widens too.
The top three digital skills across the Asia Pacific region, according to Feon, are what she terms as the ‘ABC’ - automation and artificial intelligence (AI), big data and cloud computing.
The War for ABC Skills
What’s worrying, she says, is that while demand for these talent are tightening, there is a net loss of people with ABC skills, as more people are moving out of the region, lured by prospects elsewhere.
“Malaysia continues to lose talents in these areas. But it’s not just Malaysia, in fact, it is across Asia Pacific. We are losing talents to markets like the US and yet we are in need of these talents. So there continues to be a mismatch,” says Feon.
To stay relevant in this new digital era, we encourage our workforce to have a learning and growth mindset – no matter where you are. It means to be open to reskilling and upskilling ourselves as we own our careers
“So, the challenge for organisations is that - ‘How do I keep my top talent? Is there a possibility for me to reskill, upskill so that I am able to retain my top talent? So that I can better prepare them for the needs of the business?”
Based on her observation, most organisations are in the stage where they are trying to understand how best to access the current available skill sets that they can easily ‘re-train’.
“Take data scientist, for example. What are essentials skills needed? Maybe you have someone who is strong mathematically, very good with numbers. But apart from that, you can train them in Structured Query Language (SQL) so that they can be strong in programming and continue to upgrade themselves to be data scientists," says Feon.
Based on LinkedIn’s survey, data scientist is the top five emerging jobs in Malaysia, others being full stack engineer, drive test engineer, user experience engineer and content writer.
"To stay relevant in this new digital era, we encourage our workforce to have a learning and growth mindset – no matter where you are. It means to be open to reskilling and upskilling ourselves as we own our careers. For example, If you are a marketing professional, you might need to learn more about SEO and SEM,"says Feon.
Using AI, Algorithm to Recruit Better
What we in LinkedIn learning hope to do is to understand what are the jobs that are in huge demand and the skills that are required in those jobs
For a company like LinkedIn, where its Talent Solutions segment, consisting Hiring and Talent and Development, seems to be the firm’s largest driver of revenue (prior to being acquired by Microsoft late 2016, about two-thirds of its revenue came from Talent Solutions) focus is poured into what it can do to not only help companies hire better but also making sure the site has the right learning modules to help employees re-skill and upskill their talents.
To meet those purposes, LinkedIn acquired online learning content producer Lynda.com in 2015, to help increase talents’ potential for higher productivity and career advancement.
“What we in LinkedIn learning hope to do is to understand what are the jobs that are in huge demand and the skills that are required in those jobs.”
“And can we have the learning modules, bring it to the employees so that they are prepared for the next wave of growth and be ready whenever new jobs come about."
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