I am writing in response to the titah delivered by His Majesty Sultan Haji Hassanal Bolkiah Mu’izzaddin Waddaulah ibni Al-Marhum Sultan Haji Omar ‘Ali Saifuddien Sa’adul Khairi Waddien, Sultan and Yang Di-Pertuan of Brunei Darussalam during his surprise visit to Unified National Networks Sdn Bhd (UNN) on Thursday.
I found myself nodding to a lot of points that His Majesty touched on, especially the part about employing foreign talents to help raise the skills of the local workforce. I find optimism in knowing a few companies that are doing exactly that – focussing efforts on ensuring that their employees are receiving the necessary training from the expats.
Let’s start with the premise that all foreign professionals accept their offers to work here in the hope of honing the skills of the Bruneian workforce. Companies understand that having expats in the office is just one part of the equation; and the other – more crucial – part is having the right team of locals to train up. So they adopt a sound recruitment process of communicating with respective department heads regarding the traits and skills necessary to fill those roles, and off they go in screening all candidates for those pre-requisites. Once hired, the grooming begins. The expats are there to transfer all their knowledge and skills to these local employees, in the hope that someday, these Bruneians will fill the roles of the expats and train up the next generation of locals.
However, not all companies practise such a recruitment process. Some rely heavily on the human resource department to do the hiring, leading to employee-job mismatches. For example, a sales job naturally requires someone who is good at interacting with people.
What if a highly-reclusive person was given the offer? Even the best salesman would have trouble training the new hire without first attempting to change the person to fit the role. It would be a miserable situation for both parties, and even more costly for the company due to the lack of productivity.
A foreign friend was in the exact position when he was working here. As an experienced engineer, he was tasked to ensure locals would succeed him. However, since he wasn’t privy to the hiring process, he had to make do with the team given. Some would quit after a few months, others would continue to show little progress. It was a vicious cycle that he had no power to stop. After 28 years of frustration, he called it quit.
I’m not saying that all expats are cut from the same cloth; some are indeed here solely for the money. But ultimately, it is up to the companies to decide whether to keep them on payroll, based on what they want to achieve in the future. If the main objective is to ensure full localisation, then the management and department heads will have to be more involved in the hiring process now to make sure the right people are brought in and supported throughout their tenures.