Keeping talent at home

Shalini Shukla 19 Dec 2012

Business leaders around the world continue to be challenged by trade-off decisions between investing in the business and investing in the organisation. As business volatility and uncertainty trickles into Southeast Asian markets like Malaysia – the bias is trending towards the former.

“Businesses need to deliver quick results – so the focus is on hiring people for the immediate need (rather than) promoting from within and working with the talent to close the learning gap,” says Kala Kularajah Sundram, Head of Talent and Organisation Development – Talent Office, Maxis Berhad.

“Industries like ours are experiencing tremendous change – the need for specialised skills forces us to hire external resources as much as we would like to build from within,” says Kala. “Interestingly we are seeing an emergence of a pool of senior resources with these specialised skills who prefer short-term contract roles versus any form of a career.”

“They are also less concerned with reporting lines and titles. This allows for less displacement of the local and home-grown talent,” she adds.

Corporate and employee culture

High performance and a service focus form part of the corporate culture at Maxis. Employee engagement is emphasised to ensure high commitment to the success of the organisation and a positive work environment.

The telecommunications giant takes corporate culture seriously, having recently set up a dedicated department for its development. “We appointed Halimah Abdullah as our new head of corporate culture in January this year,” says Kala.

“She is tasked with working together with executives and the senior leadership team to reinforce a consistent corporate culture throughout the organisation, aligned with the company’s vision, brand and values,” she adds.

A variety of programmes have been put in place to support these objectives and make them sustainable.

Cross-functional initiatives and ‘going-beyond-the-scope-of-work’ are encouraged for better collaboration across Maxis’ businesses. As part of this philosophy, the Corporate Culture department recently organised an employee flash mob in various parts of Kuala Lumpur, helping to promote the new Hotlink SIM Pack. Over 100 staff participated in the lunchtime event.

“This activity was a way to create public awareness about the new product and for employees to be involved in business plans, ultimately supporting and contributing to business success,” says Kala. “It was aired on national TV and was very well received by the employees.”

Other ways to support the business include engaging employees in customer-related programs such as product testing and mystery shopping.

Further initiatives this year have included Town Hall sessions, the Maxis “Make a Difference” recognition programme, coffee sessions with senior leadership team members, a Family Day event, and employee recreation physical space revamps, says Kala.

Overcoming talent issues

Corporations in Malaysia constantly need quality talent to drive the country’s national economic transformation programme (ETP). “We have to compete with national projects for specialised skills, especially in the field of engineering and project management,” says Kala.

In this respect, the formation of TalentCorp Malaysia is testament to the close partnership between industry and government. The body’s mandate includes providing incentives to bring skilled Malaysians back from overseas and also building other channels to create a smooth supply of deployable talent in specific vocational areas.

One of the programmes Maxis participates in is the Scholarship Talent and Retention scheme (STAR). This programme enables Public Service Department scholars to serve their scholarship bond in the private sector. Maxis was selected as one of the STAR employers, as the organisation and the telecommunications industry at large contribute directly to the Malaysia ETP.

TalentCorp also makes it easier to procure employment and resident passes for expatriate talent. The Residence Pass – Talent (RP-T) was introduced in April 2011. With Malaysia aiming to be a high income economy by 2020, it envisages the creation of three million jobs across the 12 national key economic areas (including the oil and gas, financial services, education, communications, and tourism sectors. This initiative thus selectively targets qualified foreign talents to repatriate to Malaysia.

“Through close collaboration with Talent Corp and Malaysian Immigration, we have endeavoured on a speedy process of Permanent Resident and Resident Pass applications for foreign talents in the Maxis Group,” says Kala.

The Career Fair Incentive (CFI) is yet another TalentCorp initiative that has helped to bridge the gap between local employers and talents abroad. With many attractive career opportunities to offer talents, Maxis is able to participate in overseas and local career fairs at a minimum cost. The organisation is entitled to double tax deductions on expenses incurred (including travel-related, and printing costs) when participating in TalentCorp-endorsed career fairs.

Maxis is also able to tap on graduate talent through TalentCorp’s Structured Internship Programme (SIP). The SIP is a collaborative effort that encourages companies to provide a high-quality, practical learning experience through internships to students from local public and private institutions of higher education. It aims to prepare local graduates for relevant work in specific industries, making them job-ready on graduation.

 “We received TalentCorp’s endorsement of the Maxis Internship Programme, which renders Maxis eligible for double tax deduction on monthly allowances paid to our Malaysian interns from local universities,” says Kala.

Since its official start in 2006, Maxis has nurtured more than 400 interns.

“Companies such as ours and others have indeed greatly benefited from working with TalentCorp,” says Kala.


Maxis has heart

Founded on a principle of service to the Malaysian community, telecommunications provider Maxis has been active in helping the country bridge the digital divide between the haves and have-nots. Cyberkids, its flagship community programme providing ICT training to more than 8,500 students and teachers in over 1,500 schools, is now entering its 10th year.

Given its effectiveness, the Maxis Cyberkids Camp has been showcased at the Southeast Asia level. In conjunction with the 10th Anniversary of the programme this year, Maxis will be extending its reach to a special needs school for hearing-challenged children, SPKK Selangor.

Maxis has also been expanding network coverage and access to underserved communities in geographically remote areas and through the community broadband centres that have been set up.

Underscoring all these initiatives is a structured employee volunteerism programme which allows employees to participate in related activities, to make a meaningful contribution to the communities around them.

“Employee volunteerism is very much part of the talent development programme at Maxis. (It aims) to instil a caring spirit within our employees and to encourage a sense of responsibility and teamwork,” says Kala Kularajah Sundram, Head of Talent and Organisation Development – Talent Office, Maxis Berhad.


At a glance


•        Total number of staff: 3,500 (approx.)

•        Size of HR & talent team: 29 HR + 26 Talent = 55

•        Key HR focus areas: Dual priorities – institutional building and being opportunistic


Who’s who in HR

Kala Kularajah Sundram

Head of Talent and Organisation, Maxis





Susan Gleave

Head of Maxis Academy & Talent Management





Halimah Bt Abdullah

Head of Corporate Culture






Counselling careers

Career maps have been built for most of the functions within Malaysian telecommunications provider Maxis. However, the company felt the deeper need to provide for specific career counselling and conversations with staff.

“With this in mind, we started the year with the first cohort of career guides, nominated and trained through a 10-day intensive skills training course in career counselling skills,” says Kala Kularajah Sundram, Head of Talent & Organisation Development – Talent Office, Maxis Berhad.

“We have had an overwhelming number of people signing up for the sessions,” she adds.

The pioneer batch of career counsellors have since completed their clinics with a pilot group and will now formally provide their services, managed through a web portal.


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