Managing Talent in Two Leading Companies in Malaysia
Syed Jamal Syed Abd Nasir, Roshidi Hassan, Roslani Embi, and Abdul
Faculty of Business Management, Universiti Teknologi MARA, 40450 Shah Alam, Malaysia
Keywords: Talent management, Selection, Recruitment, Development, Performance Deployment
Abstract. This study qualitatively examines managing talent in two leading companies in Malaysia.
The objectives of the study are to understand the practice of talent management , to examine the
definition of talent management, to identify the approaches of talent management applied by the
companies, to determine the differences of talent management approaches, to identify the problems
in managing talent in the companies and lastly to identify the effectiveness of the talent
management practiced by these companies. In depth interview with the relevant personnels were
being conducted and transcribed verbatim.Constant comparative analysis technique of data analysis
was employed in analysing the data. The study found that all the companies have started embarking
on talent management programs due to the internal and external business pressure. However, each
company was discovered to have different philosophy and approach in managing, developing and
retaining their talent. This paper also discusses the challenges faced by companies in managing their
talent and also some suggestions for improvement.
Although a review of literatures show that talent management is a growing field, the effectiveness
of talent management and its added value have not been investigated in great depth. Moreover,
research exploring relationship between talent management strategies and companies performance
is still lacking and the question on the right strategy for the right impact on companies performance
has not yet been answered . In addition, many of the present research are confined to the United
States, raising the question concerning the extent to which talent management influences companies
performance in the other labour market structure and culture . In Malaysia, talent management
concepts and practices are still at the infancy stage and mostly companies that are well established
such as the GLCs, MNCs and big companies have embarked on such talent management programs.
For this research, researcher decided to choose the GLCs as the unit of study. It is deemed important
to investigate how selected government linked companies (GLCs) in Malaysia deals with talent
management process and issues such as approach of talent management, obstacles, differences in
practice between different size of companies and the effectiveness of the practice because no study
have attempted to explore the area in great depth.
It is deemed important to investigate how these two companies in Malaysia deals with talent
management process and issues such as approach of talent management, obstacles, differences in
practice between different size of companies and the effectiveness of the practice. Therefore, in
order to explore talent management practice in these two companies, there are several question
might help in this research: 1. How the company define talent and talent management; 2. what are
the propositions for attracting and retaining talent; 3. How do they manage and use the talent that
the organizations need, how are internal roles and resources deploy appropriately to support talent
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management, how talent management integrated across HR processes and with business planning
and the strategy execution processes and how will talent management be integrated with existing
performance management, development, succession planning, reward and recognition and other HR
To understand the practise of talent management in these two companies, researchers seek to:1. To
examine the definition of talent management among selected GLCs, 2. To identify the approaches
of talent management applied by the companies, 3. To determine the differences of talent
management approaches between different size of companies,4. To identify the problems in
managing talent in the companies, 5. To identify the effectiveness of the talent management
practiced by the companies, and 6. To identify the importance of talent management in building a
high performance and competitive workplace among selected GLCs.
2. Research Method
An exploratory study was carried out since there are a few related researches that have been
conducted in Malaysia pertaining to talent management practices in organization. Exploratory
research was employed two leading companies to gain further clarification on the subject as there is
a lack of clarity which needs further investigation. Exploratory research helps to determine the best
research design, data collection method and selection of subjects. In cases where such a research is
explored the problem is usually has not been identified and not so much information is at hand for
similar research done before hand. An in-depth interview was conducted with six HR managers of
GLCs to get an insight on how the talent management are being practiced. Research questions were
developed to guide the researchers during the in-depth interview. A cross sectional study was
conducted within the period of twelve months.
2.1 Data Collection Method
For this purpose of study the researchers used both primary and secondary sources. The primary
data was obtained from the in-depth interview. The researchers have sent letter seeking for
interview appointment with these two companies from telecommunication and plantation.
Structured interview questions were prepared. Questions were being distributed to the informant
earlier before the interview session was conducted. This is to allow the informant to be prepared
and able to provide maximum information related to the topic. Each interview took approximately
between one to two hours in length and conducted in English at the organization premises. All the
interview sessions were being audio recorded. Apart from the information obtained from the
interview, interviewers were also provided with other sources of information such as brochures and
copy of power point slides related to talent management.
3. Data Analysis and Findings
Interviews responses were transcribed verbatim and resent back to informant for the purpose of
verification. This is to enhance the validity of information given. After receiving copy of verified
data, researcher began to analyses the data by using constant comparative analysis . This method
requires the researcher to take one piece of data (E.g. one interview, one statement or one theme)
and compare it to all other pieces of data that are either similar or different. During this process, the
researcher begins to look at what makes this piece of data different and/or similar to other pieces of
data. To conceal the identity of the identified companies, researcher decided to use alphabets to
represent the respective companies. This is to uphold confidentiality of companies.
3.1 Talent Management Practice in Company A
Company A is a leading telecommunication company in Malaysia offering wide range of
telecommunication services and solutions. It has approximately 26,000 employees group wide both
locally and abroad. The talent management initiative started in 1998 and becoming more important
to the company ever since. The company intends to be the leader in telecommunication industry in
the region and sees that there is a need to develop and managed their internal talent. Company A
defined talent management as a process of developing, grooming, and maintaining internal
employees to become future leaders of the company.
The idea of implementing talent management in this company is initiated by the top management.
They feel the needs for company to implement such program in order to cope with the business
challenges and competition among global companies which requires more sophisticated talent, new
skills and expertise at all level in the organization. Secondly, is to identify and develop future
leaders for the company internally. Thirdly’, is to help the company gain competitive advantage and
finally to induce better performance achievement and business results. Mr. Aziz (not actual name)
says “The purpose of talent is to cope with the business challenge and competition among global
companies which requires more sophisticated talent, new skills, and expertise at all level in the
organization, to identify and develop future leaders for the company, to help company gain
competitive advantage, to induce better performance achievement and business results.”
Talents were identified after they have been with the company for at least three years. During
this time, employees are being assessed in terms of their performance and potentials. The period of
three years is given which the company consider ample for them to make good assessment and
judgment about employee’s performance and potentials and for selecting the suitable candidate for
talent development program. Mr. Aziz emphasize that “ Because I think we look at the 3 years is
enough for them to actually get the level program purpose, to have the ample time to actually what
to show they can do.”
The nomination of the so called ‘talent’ is based on the employee’s performance appraisal report
made by the supervisor or through recommendations by heads of department. Usually, those
employees that manage to scored more than level 4 (from the scale of 1 to 4) are recommended for
the talent development program. The management feels that these employees have high leadership
potentials that can be groomed to be successful leaders of the company. Those employees selected
to be in the talent development program are given a more structured training and development
program to prepare them with necessary skills and knowledge for leadership position in the
company. These employees must also free from any disciplinary problems. Unlike for those
employees who scored less than level four they are given a normal training program to enhance
their current job performance.
Once they are in the talent pool they will be further observed and assessed with regard to their
performance during the period. They are not guaranteed to stay on in the program if their
performance fails to achieve the expected level of performance set by talent management team,
under Transformation and Development Division. For those who are successful they will be given
further exposure leadership development programs.
Talent Development Programs/ Interventions. Company A has made various improvements in
ensuring the effectiveness of its talent management program. Employees in the program are given
the opportunity to pursue Post Graduate study, especially Master Business Administration (MBA) to
expose them with appropriate business and management knowledge. Under redeployment and job
rotation program, the company relocates identified talent to hold new strategic position for a
maximum period of three years. According to Mr Aziz”… we look at three years is enough for them
actually get the level program purpose. Three years is sufficient to actually give chance to actually
show what they can do. “ . The talent management team provides exposure for employees to
participate in local and international leadership talk, forum, and seminars organized by leading
management business schools such as Harvard Business School. In addition, 50% of the nominated
names are of those involved in the talent pool program. This special privilege is considered as one
of the company major initiative to retain valuable talent to elevate the company to greater heights in
the telecommunication industries.
3.2 Talent Management in Company B
Company B is a Malaysian leading multinational conglomerate involve in five core sectors which
include plantation, property, heavy equipment, motor vehicle, energy and utilities. It has workforce
of more than 100,000 employees. From a single company offering a single product and services in
one country, it is now becoming one of South East Asian largest conglomerates with some 25,000
employees in a wide range of business activities in approximately twenty countries. The company
has in place a wide spectrum of talent management programs and systems ranging from traditional
learning and development programs provided by the HRD Centre to innovative practices like
individual and team based action learning programs, on the job learning, coaching/mentoring, and
international rotational job assignments.
Definition of Talent Management. Company B defines talent management as attracting,
developing, motivating and engaging talent towards becoming outstanding professionals and well-
rounded international executives. It’s about managing the human capital. All employees are being
considered as talent. The purpose of adapting talent management is to assist the company growth
and to achieve its strategic goals and objectives. The company also stated that is for company future
survival. With talent management Company B expect that it could help company to face future
global challenges. The purpose extends to the ability of developing the right people and to drive the
business in a longer term. It is to ensure leadership and business continuity. Mr. Budin says “we
need a steady line of people that they were to succeed in order to position in a role, if there someone
leaves then there will be business continuity and sustainability”
Key Success Factors. Management support is a key success factor in managing talent in
Company B. They take the division’s opinion into account in designing talent management
programs. The divisions are encouraged to be involved in designing, developing and providing
input to ensure the program success. Company B believed that the talent management process needs
to be structured and organized. They are trying to put in the proper process, governance, structure
and technology so that it is institutionalized in the company. Therefore, the process of talent
management can continue regardless of who runs the company.
Company B performs regular assessment to identify who among their talent are the top talent.
There are three steps to identify the top talent. The top talent is the top five per cent of the overall
company talent pool. The top talents are those with high capabilities, high potentials, and high
performance. The initial 20 % will go through the potential and performance assessment before
their numbers is trimmed down to 5% for the entire levels. For critical position in the company, they
established a success profile, which are the competencies, experience, skill, knowledge that make
the person competent in the job. Those among the top 5% who matches this profile will be
recommended for the top talent pool or succession planning pool. For those identified as top talents,
their development is track closely. They will be given various tasks during the three years
observation period to perform and which their performance will be further assessed.
Talent Management Training and Development Programs. Company B talent management
training and development program includes Job Rotation, coaching and role enhancement. Talents
were rotated in term of their functions in exposing to new tasks in acquiring new skills. They were
also trained by coach who responsible to develop them and their role also has been enhanced in
training them to acquire new knowledge and skills.
4. Conclusions and Recommendations
Both companies perceived talent management as an important driver for company growth and
source of competitive advantage. However talent management practice is still at early stage of
development which requires further understanding on the concept. The documentation of talent
management practice is still not well established, and both of the organizations indicate on
improving the talent management system. Both companies give emphasis on getting the right talent
at early stage. Based on the findings it is recommended that they have to provide training and
exposure to the talent. Base on similar model there are different approach based on the needs of
Basically the talent management program and practice in these companies is being guided by
Malaysian government investment holding arm which is Khazanah Nasional orange book.
Challenge: take the challenge part and effectiveness. The overall talent management programs
implemented in GLCs are successful in producing high performance achievement. It can be seen in
the positive turnover in revenue and marketability of employee. This paper should aid managers in
engaging with some issues they face with regards to talent management.
Both companies perceived talent management as an important driver for company growth and
source of competitive advantage. Talent management practice is still at an early stage of
development which requires further understanding on the concept. The practice of talent
management practice is still not well documented in most interviewed organizations, and most of
the organizations have a mixed understanding between succession planning and talent management.
Both companies give emphasis on getting the right talent at the early stage i.e. recruitment stage.
The companies still have unclear understanding about talent and talented employees as some
considered all employees as talent whereas the others considered only high performance employees
as talent. As a result they tend to adopt different approaches in managing talents even though they
are all guided by the “Orange Book” provided by Khazanah Nasional. Lack of internal expertise in
talent management has made some companies being too dependent on external consultant which
resulted in the increase in cost. External consultant was engaged to develop the modules and talent
management framework for the company besides monitoring the evaluation and implementation of
Even though the companies are able to control the turnover rate under industry average but they
are still having problems in retaining the talent in the long run as the mechanism to maintain and
retain the talent has not been very competitive especially competing with the global players. The
overall talent management programs implemented in GLCs are successful in developing high
performance employees. It can be justified by the positive turnover in revenues and marketability of
the well-developed talent.
Based on the study result, it is recommended for other both companies or other companies in
Malaysia to adopt an effective talent management practices, as it has proven to bring positive results
both to the employees and organization. Set up talent management unit or department to look into.
They have to identify ways to overcome turnover among top talent, probably this both companies
can benchmark successful companies that is very successful in retaining their talent. Train more
experts to provide talent program, develop internal trainers, training the trainers. Provide equitable
and attractive compensation and incentive for those who have been in talent management program
to prevent them from leaving the company for better remuneration package and provide clear career
path to successful talents.
4.2 Future Research
To include more companies, instead of two companies but include all different culture. In term of
identifying the different approach in managing talent. Look in depth into one single dimension of
talent management, eg. recruitment, retention, performance metric of the effectiveness eg: ROI,
Acknowledgments. We would like to thanks to Faculty of Business Management UiTM, Research
Management Institute UiTM and Ministry of Higher Education Malaysia.
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