Hiring for Procurement and Supply Chain talent accelerates with resurgence of on-hold roles

With continued business and social policy support as well as an accelerated vaccine roll-out plan, Malaysia’s much beleaguered procurement and supply chain sector is on track for a recovery with a slow but steady resurgence of pent-up demand in the coming months.

“Many of these are roles that had been put on hold last year as companies grappled with the uncertainty for much of 2020. This unfortunately put the brakes on the momentum that had been built up towards the end of 2019 to early 2020, which saw international businesses like Ikea and Broadcom setting up regional hubs in Malaysia,” says Tom Osborne, Managing Director of Hays Malaysia.

This had initially led to an influx of both operational and strategic opportunities in the market for Category Managers, Strategic Sourcing Leads, and Supply Chain and Logistics Managers before the pandemic struck. With the recovery of the economy imminent, businesses are restarting the hiring process for these roles. However, shifted role requirements, as well as mobility restrictions forcing businesses to work with a limited local talent pool has resulted in these roles taking longer to fill.

“Employers are now seeking deeper expertise in candidates, especially in indirect categories like corporate services and mobility,” Tom says. “Traditionally, the Malaysian market has rarely housed these functions as they are typically hosted in European headquarters or countries like Singapore and Thailand. However, with more companies shifting their regional hubs into Malaysia, we’re seeing a greater demand for talent in this area.”

Other categories seeing an increased demand for expertise include regulatory and compliance knowledge, and proficiency in key South East Asian languages. Malaysia still has the unique advantage of both geographical location as well as multilingual local talent.

Another trend Hays has observed is the maturation of the procurement function from a transactional role into a more strategic and collaborative one. With sustainability and agility becoming key priorities for many businesses, procurement teams are expected to create value and drive competitiveness for the business. As a result, businesses are expanding the criteria these procurement candidates need to fulfil.

Tom says, “More than ever, procurement professionals are expected to be experts in their respective areas. For instance, those who specialise in tech platform categories should be knowledgeable not only about the tools currently in use in the organisation, but also other existing tools and new market entrants. They will need to take proactive steps not just to find the most cost-effective option but also be the first to know if there are potential challenges with implementation or integration with existing infrastructure.”

Hays recommends that candidates develop their technical expertise with certifications like CIPS or APICS. Being able to show specific tool implementation experience would also be advantageous. Mid-to senior level candidates on the other hand should be able to demonstrate both technical and people-leadership experience and proven achievements in different industries or organisations.

Equal in importance are relationship management skills, regardless of role or level of experience. Procurement and Supply Chain professionals are expected to manage key relationships with internal and external stakeholders at every level and position. With regional roles expanding and becoming more nuanced, businesses are expecting candidates, especially those in more senior positions, to demonstrate an understanding of the differences in standards, expectations, and process cultures, as well as to possess change leadership abilities that will aid them in pushing through organisation-wide reform.

“With growth opportunities looking positive, there is a greater focus placed on quality, rather than quantity at managerial level. However, there is still a noticeable gap between junior operational staff and those at strategic manager level and above. Under the circumstances, candidates who demonstrate deep subject matter expertise and exceptional soft skills will have the upper hand when it comes to salary negotiations. Candidates who fall short should take the opportunity to upskill. Various training programmes are now available for free or minimal cost on digital platforms such as LinkedIn,” says Tom.

As for businesses, Tom recommends taking into consideration the limitations of the available candidate pool. “Look into role requirements and evaluate if they are all truly mandatory. Consider engaging candidates who do show aptitude and potential to be coached into the role as this will also demonstrate an organisation’s internal talent development policies.”

“It is equally important to reward high-performing employees. Identify those with the capacity to learn and adapt and ensure that career development opportunities—such as exposure to larger categories or people management—are provided to them. After all, these are the people who will play a big part in growing the business in the future.”


Below is an overview of talent trends observed in Malaysia’s Procurement and Supply Chain sector:

  • Optimism for Malaysia’s recovery from the pandemic is leading to a resurgence of pent-up demand for roles such as Category Managers, Strategic Sourcing Leads, and Supply Chain and Logistics Managers.
  • However, longer lead times in hiring have been observed, primarily due to a shift in role requirements to focus on specific category knowledge, broad understanding of a changing regulatory and compliance landscape, and South East Asian language ability.
  • Candidates who demonstrate expertise in the above, alongside stellar interpersonal and leadership skills will have greater salary negotiation power. Otherwise, be more proactive in upskilling.
  • At the same time, businesses need to be more flexible either on budget, especially for top candidates, or on role requirements, as general mobility restrictions mean sourcing candidates from a limited local pool.

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About Hays Malaysia

Agensi Pekerjaan Hays (Malaysia) Sdn Bhd ("Hays Malaysia") is one of the leading specialist recruitment companies in Malaysia in recruiting qualified, professional and skilled people across a wide range of industries and professions. We provide mid to senior level recruitment services across both finance and commerce industries. We have become known as the experts in sourcing regional and global candidates, as well as returning Malaysians.

Hays has been in Malaysia since 2012 and boasts a track record of success and growth, with two operating offices located in KLCC and Sunway. At Hays in Malaysia, we operate across the private and public sector, dealing in permanent positions in the following specialisms: Accountancy & Finance, Banking & Financial Services, Construction, Digital Technology, Engineering, Finance Technology, Human Resources, Information Technology, Insurance, Legal, Life Sciences, Manufacturing & Operations, Marketing & Digital, Procurement, Supply Chain and Sales.


About Hays

Hays plc (the "Group") is a leading global professional recruiting group. The Group is the expert at recruiting qualified, professional and skilled people worldwide, being the market leader in the UK and Australia and one of the market leaders in Continental Europe, Latin America and Asia. The Group operates across the private and public sectors, dealing in permanent positions, contract roles and temporary assignments. As at 31 December 2020 the Group employed c.10,000 staff operating from 257 offices in 33 countries across 20 specialisms. For the year ended 30 June 2020:

  • the Group reported net fees of £996.2 million and operating profit (pre-exceptional items) of £135.0 million;
  • the Group placed around 66,000 candidates into permanent jobs and around 235,000 people into temporary roles;
  • 17% of Group net fees were generated in Australia & New Zealand, 26% in Germany, 23% in United Kingdom & Ireland and 34% in Rest of World (RoW);
  • the temporary placement business represented 59% of net fees and the permanent placement business represented 41% of net fees;
  • IT is the Group’s largest specialism, with 25% of net fees, while Accountancy & Finance (15%) and Construction & Property (12%), are the next largest
  • Hays operates in the following countries: Australia, Austria, Belgium, Brazil, Canada, Chile, China, Colombia, the Czech Republic, Denmark, France, Germany, Hungary, India, Ireland, Italy, Japan, Luxembourg, Malaysia, Mexico, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Russia, Singapore, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, UAE, the UK and the USA