Home Insider Wanted: Glocal Talent in Myanmar

Wanted: Glocal Talent in Myanmar

Myanmar’s age of darkness has given way to an era of light and brightness, after a long, long time. New business ventures are taking off every now and then, and grand openings with aplomb, seem to be the latest fashion. Little wonder then that we get to see nov- el ideas taking shape, with elephant dances and puppet shows. It is almost like a circus performance coming to town, with bare fields coming alive, with crowds gathering to watch brand launches. At Kyauk Se, a town near Mandalay, a 100MW power plant has been set up. InYangon, one out of three foreign telecom companies receiving the 2G/3G license, has started selling SIM cards with 15 days of free calls.

At a recent launching ceremony, an execu- tive narrated his experience with the licens- ing authorities which he compared to spin- ning plates. A World Bank report on ease of doing business in Myanmar, rates the country at 182 out of a total of 188 countries studied. It takes an average 75 days to start a business in Myanmar, according to a report released by Frost and Sullivan. Thriving in uncertainty, and operating in frontier mar- kets, go hand in hand, with the risk of not finding that elusive, qualified talent. This is true not just of Myanmar but, is quite a glob- al phenomenon, and businesses are hard pressed to search for that “glocal talent”.

Being a local has become a big asset for job hunters, with recruitment companies laying down the red carpet of employment each time they come across a profile with inter- national experience and expertise that can help their business expand. A strong grasp of local and foreign markets is being rates as the top skill, most sought after by recruiters. According to a survey conducted recently, companies in some sectors, have ramped up salaries significantly and sufficiently to attract the talented Myanmar diaspora. Job fairs being held by Myanmar recruit- ment firms in places like Singapore, are truly indicative of the signs of these times. Myanmar is expanding and businesses are working towards establishing a national presence, and the secret to their success and getting a head start is completely dependent on the work force they are able to employ.

According to U Aye Chan, partner at IMA Executive Search, Myanmar, skilled candi- dates possessing local and regional knowl- edge along with the requisite experience, who can hit the ground running and add val- ue for their employers, are the most sought after. Such candidates can expect to get a 15-20% increase when they switch jobs, he says. The focus on hiring local Myanmar tal- ent is likely to continue, for the present. In- ternational businesses are scouting around for ‘glocal’ talent in the human resource market, and Myanmar job seekers stand to gain.

“There is a strong preference for local talent, which is part driven by local companies, and by companies looking to ensure that em- ployees have the local knowledge needed to step into a new role with confidence”, says Kulapalee Tobing of Mercer.

U Aye Chan adds that an increasing number of Myanmar nationals are looking for oppor- tunities to come back home, with promising growth in potential areas such as financial services. There is a growing demand for professionals in controls, compliance, risk and governance. Businesses setting up local headquarters also shore up the demand for workers in the corporate world. The profes- sionals come from a range of backgrounds and are required to manage all departments from human resources to finance, sales and marketing and IT support.

It is not all about locals, however. Accord- ing to a recent salary survey by Mercer the specialist roles in Oil and Gas as well as Life Sciences and in Healthcare are expected to attract candidates from overseas, as these areas face a shortage of local talent that have the experience needed to work in top technical and senior managerial roles. This leads to companies being forced to look out- side the local market as they seek to sustain local operations, she adds. About 48% of the employers they surveyed indicated that they are expecting skills shortages over the next 12-24 months.


Based on employers surveys by Mercer al- most 50% of the companies believe their current hiring activity is stronger, as com- pared with the last 12 -24 months. About 19% said it was stronger and over 50% said they envisage skills shortage in the next 24 months. Of all the companies surveyed, 47% said the skills shortage will cause salaries to rise above the inflation rate. Four out of 10 believe salaries will increase. As an effect of the skills shortage on business in Myanmar, over the next 12 – 24 months, 48% compa- nies would need to develop more targeted attraction strategies, and 27% said they will source talent from abroad. As the tal- ent market becomes tight, employers are pressured to offer competitive remunera- tion packages in the hope of attracting and keeping desirable talents that propel the business. Myanmar continues to offer an at- tractive location for companies establishing officestotakeadvantageoftherecentopen- ing of the market and first mover advantage; as a consequence businesses must find new ways to attract and retain top talent.

Competitive Salary

According to Mercer Salary Survey of 2014

Myanmar companies’ competitive offer is the most important factor in determining whether an employee will choose to stay or leave a company. In it’s report it says 6 out of 10 employees surveyed in Myanmar had their salaries increased over the last 12 months. Mercer expects this will continue to rise by 5% on an average this year. Some employees however are luckier than others. “Specific roles where employees may expe- rience higher increments include risk, audit and compliance within banking and finance, finance technology roles supporting change projects, regional sales covering emerging markets, and lastly, jobs related to special- ist research, sales or development within health”, says Mr. Albert Lim, Executive Di- rector of a leading Software Solutions com- pany NITS.

Accounting and Finance professionals with niche skills in which areas such as treasury, taxation and internal audit will command premium salary increments this year. Soe Naing Lin, Executive Search Consultant says 55% of the CFO anticipates, increasing salaries for their finance and accounting professionals this year, in a bid to attract and retain quality talent. Close to one in four (37%) businesses will increase bonus- es in 2014, he adds. Among the employers we surveyed, 74% said all employees will re- ceive increased bonuses in 2014, dependent on performance. 12 % said only the best per- forming will receive increments in salary.

Employer Branding

Aside from the need to dangle carrots, com- panies are also under pressure to establish an appealing employer brand, and they have to be more competitive in offering benefits such as work-life balance, flexible working options and providing robust training and career development programs. The seven popular tools enumerated by all employers are recognition and rewards, structured career progression, training and mentor- ing partnerships, strong company culture, company branding, and international op- portunities. As the labor supply becomes thin, enterprises in the new Myanmar need to hunt for that elusive talent, which seems everywhere but is actually nowhere.

Kevin’s professional journey started in India over two decades ago, and then traversed to South East Asia, where he has lived and worked in a career spanning and servicing different industry segments. Kevin now leads I Berg Group-IMA Group endeavor in human capital development in Myan- mar through IMA IH Education Services, a JV company in training, recruitment and education. He is passionate about efforts to identify opportunities and challenges in finding and retaining talent for compa- nies in emerging markets. Until early 2012, Kevin was responsible for establishing and growing Adecco Group staffing business in the Indochina region. He has played a key role in Manpower Vietnam’s emergence as one of the fastest growing recruitment com- panies in Vietnam. Before moving to Indo- china region, Kevin was the Lead Consul- tant in the international practice with ABC Consultants, India. He can be reached at kgomes@imaexec.com.