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Employers Mini Guidebook to Myanmar - Part 2

Posted on 30/10/2015 by Simon Bruce

Part 2: Further advice for HR – find staff and be the envy of your competitors – HR policies to keep staff.

Let us be open on this matter: it may not be possible to keep all employees but by creating the right working environment you have a better chance to stop staff accepting offers from other companies.

Unfortunately nothing is going to stop the competitive demands for higher and higher salaries and also the need to give selected staff training in management skills. So what can you do?

The recruitment process in Myanmar is very different to many other countries. The traps that many multinational companies fall into are regrettably numerous and occur again and again. This is a mini guide from our advice files to help you avoid these pitfalls:

Do not especially look for professional qualifications such as related degrees from the candidates. Many Myanmar nationals will study by distance learning. Others gain a university degree with minimal effort. Do not put too much weighting on degree qualifications unless it is from an overseas university or a specific technical degree.

Do not try to interview 4 to 5 suitable candidates for a particular role. Comparing candidates is always the preferred method when recruiting. However, with the talent shortage in Myanmar you may find you only have 1 or 2 candidates for a given role, especially for a vacancy that is very technical.

Do not base a candidate on their title. Titles can be exaggerated in Myanmar. Ask detailed questions on the responsibilities they had in their work. Try to understand their work experience and what their job actually involved.

Make the recruitment process last for more than 3 or 4 weeks. Good candidates will get hired extremely quickly. Do not let your recruitment process last too long or you may find that you have wasted your time as the candidates have accepted other offers.

Do not expect a position to be filled within a month. We talk to many companies and they are still looking for the right candidate after 6 months or even a year.

There are a few other areas to take note of;

Be prepared, not every candidate who signs an acceptance to your offer arrives for work on day 1. Due to competition, an increasing percentage of offered candidates accept counter offers or other positions even after they have signed an offer letter.

Staff benefits and holiday entitlement are very different in Myanmar. For me this was probably the biggest surprise when I moved here.  Please review these key elements. You must include these details into your contracts (note these may change, so you should always check with the appropriate government agency):

    •    Staff are entitled to 30 days of sick or compassionate leave a year
    •    Staff are entitled to 10 days paid holiday a year
    •    Staff are entitled to 6 casual days a year
    •    There are 23 public holidays a year (as at 2015) but these are not substituted for working days if they fall on a Saturday or Sunday

It is common for staff to request prepaid phone top up cards or a telephone allowance even if they are not in sales.

Commuting, travel to work costs, an allowance is usually part of a package unless there is a ferry service provided by the company

Social security payments are paid monthly and are 1.5% employee contributions, 2.5% employer contributions.

Medical insurance is an option but about 50% of companies do provide this as a benefit. Companies take out medical insurance to cover all employees. If visits to the hospital or doctor are required, staff just present their medical invoices to the company and they will be paid by the company directly to the medical institution.

Culturally Myanmar has unique points that any expat needs to be made well aware of, these include:

The family unit in Myanmar is extremely tight. If one member of the family is sick, even with just a cold, it is not uncommon for another family member to take time off work to care for that person. There is no method to limit this as Government regulations around sick and compassionate leave allow this as a legitimate reason for staff to take time off.

Criticism of staff is an area that needs to be taken very carefully. Myanmar nationals are generally a very sensitive race and do not take any form of criticism well, even when spun in a positive way. The wrong approach can often result in the staff member taking the following day off work, or just quitting.

Staff arriving late is a regular problem for many reasons. The most common will be traffic issues as the roads, at least in Yangon, are extremely busy and travel times are hard to predict. This is the most common cause of people being late, or at least the reason they give.  However, if you have a start time of 8:30 a.m. expect that staff can regularly arrive as late as 9:30 a.m. without any explanation and also they do not understand why they are disciplined.  This will be the same for external meetings and something you must understand will happen and you must plan with this in mind.

It is also uncommon for the locals to inform you that they are running late. Usually they will contact you after they are late to tell you how much later they will be. This is an education process that most managers will need to take up with their staff and with regular reminders.

The following advice may seem I am selling you my services, so my apologies in advance. Usually for any mid career and more senior roles using a recruitment company is generally the best way forward. For junior and low salary wages your other staff will have networks of friends that will probably introduce you to candidates that can fill the vacancies. However, specific skills and people with good leadership do not appear that often and generally require a targeted search.

There are also potential problems when working with recruitment companies.

Not all recruitment companies in Myanmar are licensed to perform recruitment services. We strongly suggest you check these details before engaging any recruitment company. The government hasn’t decided to crack down on this yet, but it is always better to play it safe.

Many recruitment companies do not understand the real requirements of a role. For example they will often send someone with only Payroll experience for an HR Manager role, or a Bookkeeper for an FP&A role.

Resume spamming is a common issue. You can definitely obtain many resumes from some of the local firms but usually these will not match your job requirements.

Staff turnover in recruitment companies is extremely high here, so building relationships with reliable consultants is tough.

With all this negativity around finding staff in this market, many may ask it is worth it? It definitely is, but sometimes you just need to make do with what you can get and hope you can train the team up.

Keep an open mind and be flexible with your requirements as there are some definite gems in the market and they are worth finding.