Jonas Prising on Human Resources, Malaysia and Leadership

Oct 18, 2018 23 Min Video
"Thinking about the future opportunities for growth here in Malaysia." More than 30 years later, Jonas Prising evaluates the growth of ManpowerGroup and the structural changes that have led to a massive skills shortage. Jonas also goes on to specify the four dimensions of great leadership. Watch the full interview to gain more insights!

As the man at the helm of a $US21 billion, 80-country wide workforce solutions group, Jonas Prising is a remarkably grounded leader who seems to take everything in his stride.

ManpowerGroup has been operating in Malaysia since 1997, with a workforce of 6,000 providing organisations with talents across a vast range of industries.
But Jonas’s love for Malaysia stretches back to the 1980s when, as a student, he spent his gap year here living, working and studying.

Appearing on The Leaderonomics Show with host Caroline Ong, Jonas joked that, when he first visited Malaysia 30 years ago, Dr. Mahathir was the current Prime Minister. Thirty years on, the 93-year-old statesman is once again at the helm of the country.

Future prospects in Malaysia

When asked about the prospects of Malaysia, particularly in light of recent social and political shifts both at home and abroad, Jonas gave an optimistic response as to how he views the country’s future.

He said, “Malaysia, as a country, has a lot of assets that make it very competitive and successful while navigating a changing – and sometimes volatile – external environment.

“But I think Malaysia has a number of assets that are very, very strong.

“Access to skilled talent; an openness to bring in strong talent where they don’t have it; and a good knowledge of English, which is a competitive advantage as the world moves towards English as a business language.

“So, we’re feeling very good about our future prospects here in Malaysia, but also for the prospects of Malaysia as a whole.”

A business in ‘matchmaking’

Currently, disconcerting global trends show a shortage of skilled talent, particularly so in the developing world where top performers look to go oversea to build their careers.Nevertheless, Malaysia has never been short of gifted professionals. So, how does Manpower work to help businesses fill the gap here?

Jonas said, “A lot of our business is making the match between companies that are looking for a skilled workforce and individuals who have skills and putting them together, both on a temporary basis and on a permanent basis.

“We do this for all the different skill levels you can imagine, from manufacturing, administrative and clerical, all the way to IT, cyber security specialists, engineers and accountants.

“So, it’s a broad range of skills, and it’s all across the spectrum. The skills shortage is due to, in some countries, a lot of the structural changes that are happening.”

Leadership in four dimensions

For talent to thrive in any organisation, the leadership needs to cater to nurturing and developing the skills and abilities of employees, as well as ensuring people remain engaged and passionate about the work they’re doing.

According to Jonas, leadership is multi-faceted and needs to take a holistic approach in ensuring employees are able to get the best guidance that helps them to give their best to the organisation.

He said, “When I think about leadership, I think about it in four dimensions. First, leaders have to be capable, doing what they’re tasked with doing in leading the organisation.

“They also have to have a bias for action. Leaders tend to be the ones driving the change, driving the initiatives, setting the direction, and doing that in a way that mobilises the organisation.

“The other two aspects of leadership are, first, putting others before self – you have to have an altruistic mindset.

“When I think about my own leadership, I’m very clear about the fact that it is a very important role in my position to prepare the company for future success, and I do that by helping my team members be more successful.

“Lastly, having a strong moral compass and ethical values is also extremely important from a leadership perspective.

Organisations follow the head, and whatever is perceived to be acceptable behaviour, acceptable mindsets, thinking about situations, is the way the organisation behaves.

Having been with ManpowerGroup for 20 years, Jonas has developed a solid reputation as a transparent and transformational leader, and part of his success has been down to how he views the leader’s role.
Acutely aware of the ego-trap that can occur the higher one rises in an organisation, Jonas advises that, in order to be effective, leaders need to always make sure they maintain a healthy perspective.

He said, “While the leader is important, the leader’s importance is measured by the team that he or she is able to build.

“It’s never about one person, it’s about the team effort. Your ability as a leader to collect and create a cohesive team, articulate a vision and a strategy to achieve that vision, and to motivate your team to apply their capabilities is what makes you a successful leader.”

“Self-awareness is a very useful trait and is something for leaders to practise.

“You have to understand your strengths and weaknesses, and make sure to address those weaknesses by having people with the talent and abilities that can compensate.

“The world is changing so quickly – it’s impossible to know everything – and so you have to have the right team in place to help you navigate and to make the right business decisions.”

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