Training will play a critical role in further transformation of the Malaysian economy.
By Lynn Witham
Since Malaysia’s independence from Britain in 1957, the Malaysian economy has undergone a rapid transformation, shifting from agriculture based to diversified, with a well-developed manufacturing sector and significant foreign investment. Government plans call for further restructuring to create a knowledge-based economy while maintaining high-value manufacturing capabilities and to continue to attract international investment, particularly in the value-added areas of services, biotechnology, high technology, and Islamic finance.
While Malaysia currently is categorized as a middle-income country, it aims to reach high-income, fully developed nation status by 2020. Skills training will play a significant role in moving the country toward this target.
The government has given priority to making quality education and training more accessible and is encouraging employers in the private sector to provide training and development to their workers. In the next decade, there will be a demand for training in a wide variety of skill areas.
There are several cultural matters to consider when training Malaysians:
Show respect for Malaysia’s cultural diversity. The country’s population of nearly 29 million is composed of three main ethnic groups—Malays and indigenous peoples, Chinese, and Indians—that represent diverse languages, cultural traditions, and religions. It is essential that trainers make an effort to learn about and demonstrate respect for the values and customs of each group.
Create a context for the training. While Malaysians enjoy having some casual, humorous moments during training, a certain level of formality is expected. Give “face” to the training and to the participants in it by having a senior person introduce the training and congratulate participants at its completion. Provide professional-looking written materials and an official certificate of completion. For a multi-day program, host a group meal to launch the training and another to celebrate the completion of the training; for a one-day program, at a minimum, provide quality food for breaks and a hot meal for lunch. Do not underestimate the importance of good food as a factor in participants’ evaluation of the training.
Emphasize group-oriented learning. Malaysians often prefer to work in pairs or small groups for applications, practice, and questioning, especially in the initial stages of the training. Let each group choose its own spokesperson at first, and later ask each person to take a turn being the spokesperson. Encourage individuals to collaborate and groups to compete. Praise winning teams in public; praise individuals in private.
Set individuals up for success. To fail at something, especially in a public setting, can cause loss of face for individual learners and make them hesitant to participate. Set individuals up for success by establishing clear protocols and expectations for performance; by giving clear, concrete directions; and by modeling actions before requiring participants to do them. Create a comfortable, open environment for learning and be available during breaks to take questions from participants who don’t feel comfortable asking their questions in a group setting.
Highlight the benefits. Participants value training that will give them the knowledge and skills to facilitate their career advancement and to increase their income. In addition to explaining the impact the results of the training will have on the business, identify and discuss how the training can benefit participants as individuals.
Provide structure and expertise. Malaysians have high expectations for professional trainers. They expect trainers to be well organized, well dressed, and able to provide practical content that can be used on the job.
Lynn Witham specializes in consulting and training to facilitate global teamwork, talent development, international plant start-ups, and international joint ventures. She has an independent consultancy and is the Southeast Asia specialist for Global Dynamics Inc. (GDI), http://www.global-dynamics.com. She can be reached at mailto:email@example.com or 305.682.7883.