Secondary Employment: What Drives Workers Besides Salary?

In Malaysia, about 60% of employees say they have little control over their work assignments. The management style of managers may result in a lack of employee control over their work assignments.

Secondary Employment: What Drives Workers Besides Salary?
Melissa Norman, Founder and Managing Director, Aisling Group 

Melissa Norman, Founder and Managing Director, Aisling Group


It was reported earlier this month that 66 percent of Malaysian knowledge workers have a secondary source of income. In addition, Malaysian knowledge workers have a clear preference for working remotely, specifically in a hybrid model; enjoying the benefits of both worlds. We should also examine the other factors that contribute to these phenomena, apart from easing their financial pressure:

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Employees lack the necessary tools and learning opportunities to develop and upskill

Many knowledge workers are frustrated by the lack of advancement opportunities in Malaysian companies. There may be a lack of investment by employers in their employees' futures. Training and development programmes are lacking in approximately 60% of Malaysian companies. Fewer than half of employers worldwide offer employees learning opportunities to advance in the workplace, according to a global survey. Surprisingly, employers don't invest in their employee’s growth and development. The retention rate of employees in companies that provide training and development opportunities is higher. Having a structured learning and development programme is a great opportunity for Malaysian employers to retain and keep their best employees.

Workers believe it is difficult to find a well-paying and advancement-oriented job

The career opportunities for employees who have been employed by the same company for several years may be limited. This is common in Malaysian companies, especially among middle-management employees. Several factors may contribute to the lack of growth and advancement opportunities. Some of these are:

  1. A lack of leadership and vision from the management;
  2. Employees are unable to develop the necessary soft skills and technical skills to move up in the organisation;
  3. A lack of demonstrated competence among employees, especially when many qualified candidates are vying for the same position; and
  4. An inability for employees to build good relationships with people who can promote them within the company.

Workers feel little sense of accomplishment at their current jobs because they have little control over what they do

It has been found that higher job satisfaction is associated with greater control over one's work. In Malaysia, about 60% of employees say they have little control over their work assignments. The management style of managers may result in a lack of employee control over their work assignments. As a result, employees have little opportunity to demonstrate their knowledge and skills; resulting in them feeling that work is unimportant.

The majority of Malaysian may have degrees or certifications that cannot easily be transferred to other sectors or jobs

According to UNESCO, Malaysia has one of the highest adult literacy rates in the world. Malaysia's economy benefits from this, as it means employers can draw from a large pool of potential employees. However, while Malaysian workers may have high levels of education, their skills may not be easily transferrable. Employees with degrees in education or biology, for example, could have difficulty transferring their skills to tech or engineering jobs.

Side gigs provide workers with new skills, enhance their resumes, and make them more confident about finding better-paying jobs in the future

Many Malaysian workers take up side gigs to gain new skills and build up their resumes. This is especially the case with younger workers who are currently employed full-time in their main jobs. Most side gigs allow workers to use the skills they already have but in different or novel ways. This can help them to broaden their skill set and feel more confident in searching for better-paying jobs down the road.

In conclusion: Malaysian employers must learn to value and invest in their employees.

If Malaysian employers want to retain their employees, they must value and invest in them. Providing employees with the tools and resources they need to succeed in their jobs means providing them with opportunities for growth and advancement. Employers can accomplish this by implementing the following strategies:

  1. Hiring the right people. Understanding the skills and expertise you need for your company will help you attract the right candidates;
  2. Establishing a culture of continuous learning and development. Providing your employees with opportunities to learn and develop will help them advance professionally and provide them with a sense of purpose;
  3. Maintaining a healthy work-life balance. You can reduce stress and burnout for your employees by proactively managing their work-life balance.
  4. Transparency and effectiveness in management style. Managers need to be transparent in their decision-making, so their employees know how they are evaluated and how to advance within the company.