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Generative AI on the Rise in Malaysia

Research from EY finds that 70% of workers are currently using or planning to use the technology in 2024.

By Maggie Mancini

More than half (63%) of employees in Malaysia anticipate that generative AI will improve their way of working flexibly, while 70% note that they are either currently using or planning to use generative AI in the next year, according to the EY 2023 Work Reimagined Survey 

While the potential of generative AI is still being realised, there is growing momentum and a generally positive outlook on how the technology will impact new ways of working. Malaysian employers, too, mirror these sentiments, with 84% expecting generative AI to enhance working flexibility, with 96% either currently using or planning to use the technology within the next year.  

However, despite both employees and employers ranking learning and skills as the number one factor to ensure employees thrive in new ways of working, only 22% of Malaysian employers plan to provide training on generative AI-related skills. 

This is according to the EY 2023 Work Reimagined Survey, which canvassed the views of 17,050 employees and 1,575 employers across 22 countries and 25 industry sectors globally. These include 250 employees and 50 employers from Malaysia. 

Over a third (39%) of employees in Malaysia are likely to quit their jobs in the next 12 months, with better overall well-being programmes, greater flexibility for remote work, and more competitive salary packages elsewhere as top reasons for leaving. Pay remains the main concern of Malaysian employees (40%), followed by an employer’s ability to attract new talent (28%), and workplace flexibility (28%). 

Employers in Malaysia also prioritise pay (34%), talent retention (34%), and workplace flexibility (32%) as key talent concerns. This highlights that employees and employers in Malaysia are aligned on what matters most to them. 

The survey also finds a disconnect between employee and employer expectations in Malaysia. Almost two-thirds of employers (64%) believe that the slower national economic growth reduces the likelihood of employees quitting. However, only 57% of Malaysian employees agree, leaving employers at risk of underestimating the continued fluidity of the labour market. 

While new patterns of work have emerged because of the COVID-19 pandemic, when it comes to balance of power in the workplace, respondents in Malaysia view employers as still having more influence and control than employees over issues like rewards, retention, and ways of working. Prior to the pandemic, 53% Malaysian respondents agreed that balance of power in the workplace was in the employers’ favor. This dipped to 43% in 2022, and rose again to 53%, revealing that respondents in Malaysia believe employers have about the same level of influence in the workplace today as before the pandemic. 

Regarding work flexibility, the survey found that about half (52%) of Malaysian employers are supportive of their employees adopting a two-to-three-day remote work arrangement, providing them the flexibility to work from home on some days and in the office on other days. 

This is good news for knowledge workers, whose work is based primarily on analysis. Flexibility is now a baseline expectation, with only 5% of Malaysian knowledge workers willing to work solely in the office. These knowledge workers are pulled toward in-office engagements that are centered around collaborating with colleagues (40%), building and maintaining relationships (36%), and staying socially connected (34%). 

Workplace amenities and space design do not move the needle when it comes to the employees’ desire to go to the office. However, the survey finds that investment in high-quality real estate is positively correlated with a range of other workforce outcomes including better operational support for flexible work arrangements, productivity and retention. 

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