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A Responsible Business Is a People-Centric Business by Imran Zainal Abidin


A Responsible Business Is a People-Centric Business by Imran Zainal Abidin

When MAS embarked on a companywide restructuring in 2014, many feared the worst regarding the fate of its retrenched staff. Thanks the work of CDC Malaysia, however, that hasn’t been the case. Today, with assistance of CDC Malaysia, 80% of the airline’s retrenched staff have successfully transitioned to a new phase of professional life.

CDC Malaysia was established by Khazanah Nasional Bhd as a wholly-owned subsidiary in 2015. Upon incorporation, it was given the mandate to manage the national airline’s exiting workforce. Today, CDC a specialist in career transition - actively assists staff from a range of industries to move up the value chain and remain competitive.

But what does career transition have to do with being a responsible business? Shahryn Azmi, Chief Executive Officer of CDC Malaysia, shares a paradigm-changing insight. “Being a responsible business it about our accountability to the three Ps: People, Planet and Performance.

A lot of organisations focus on the Planet and Performance parts. Although they says, ‘People are our most important asset’, not many organisations manage the entire life cycle of the People element, which is from Hire to Retire effectively, or in some instances, ‘Fire’.


A responsible business must be a steward of holistic, human value. CDC focuses on preserving and increasing the value of the individuals at any stage in their lives where transition is happening. It helps individuals embrace change, prepare for the future and transition smoothly.

The last mile of a staff member’s career in an organisation is as important as the day they start work. Career transition support focuses  on helping staff transition from one phase of professional life to another while supporting their employers in managing their workforce.

CDC believes that every individual has unique talent and skills. Most people need  help to discover and harness these abilities as a value-adding proposition to future employers and the market at large. This is CDC’s mission - to help people bloom and realise their full potential.

Beyond their work environment, people are parents, influencers and community leaders for the next generation. Their family, particularly spouse and children, and peers as well as the people in their community are directly or indirectly affected by the way they react to change, especially so when the change is unexpected.

“We have to think laterally about this, “ says Shahryn. “If we can help a staff member deal with a change of circumstances in a positive way, then the people to them ot affected by such change will also learn to embrace the new reality with a positive mindset. Going forward, that’s the kind of individuals we need to make Malaysia stronger. But it all begins with what an organisation can do to help its staff. And that is to provide humanised career transition support.”

Helping people is at the heart of CDC’s focus. When the need to retrench staff arises, not many organisations are willing to support the staff beyond fulfilling minimum legal requirements.

“When an organisation has determined their needs and engages us to transition their staff, we guide and nurture them on a personalised, one-to-one basis. That’s the only way to truly help.”

This is why CDC believes career transition support provides organisations with a unique way to enhance its employer brand. The assurance that the staff’s well-being is uppermost on the  agenda distinguishes them as an organisation with a strong employer brand. There are advantages to this.

JCPenney, the established American department store, took this exact approach. Every staff member that was laid off during a recent retrenchment exercise was offered career transition assistance. JCPenney’s number one aim was to ensure each staff member that was impacted by this business decision felt supported, not neglected. The result? Former staff were able to regain their sense of composure and confidence, with many expressing help that enabled them to land back on their feet again. The assurance that the staff’s well-being is uppermost on the agenda distinguished JCPenney as an organisation with a strong employer brand.

According to Shahryn, having a strong employer brand means that an organisation has built a  reputation as a great place to work. They are the type that gets hundreds, if not thousands, of resumes sent in unsolicited by people who want to work there. “The advantage is they get to cream off the top for the best applicants, “ Shahryn explained, adding that being able to recruit the best-of-the-best from the pool of applicants helps an organisation to perform more efficiently and, therefore, more profitably.

“More organisations are now becoming aware of the value we bring and are investing in career transition support for transitioning staff. As  a result, our clientele has grown to include organisations from the oil and gas, marine engineering and logistics industries,” he says. CDC’s reputation has grown beyond Malaysia, evidenced by inquiries received from a foreign government and multinational corporations.


CDC complements its people-first direction whilst being mindful of the planet and the environment we live in. Everything from the printed booklets used in career workshops right down to the CEO’s personal notepad is printed in recycled, FSC paper. It is CDC’s published materials, Shahryn says, “It may be just a small step, but the point is, we were prepared to take that steps from the day CDC began, constantly being prudent in how we conduct our business.”

CDC clearly sees the long-term benefit to such measures, no matter how seemingly small. “When we expand, we may fill larger shoes but each small measure we take today to protect the environment will later translate into that many more trees saved, or a smaller carbon footprint tomorrow. The summation of all that effort is that CDC, in our own way, contributes toward protecting the people and planet.”


An organisation’s workforce differentiates it from the competition and determines how it performs and remains competitive. Organisations can do well by constant assessment of their employees and their business situation. At times, this may necessitate the internal movement of staff to enhance their repertoire or moving out to a better-fit role.

CDC can support an organisation’s needs to redeploy an entirely different one. This is becoming the norm with the advent of technology, where traditional roles have been automated. Assessing each staff member individually will help the organisation make informed decisions as to how best to utilise their abilities.

Transitioning staff individually takes time and resources. CDC commits both in order to get the job done right. People are the real assets in any organisation and it is the responsibility of the leadership to take care of all of them, be it those who are leaving or those who remain.

Career transition focuses on looking ahead rather than focusing on the present. Personalised advice and counselling helps them assess options and identify a path to a new job or career. Treating each staff member with dignity and respect during transition will help them informed decisions, and lead to a better outcome for both the staff member the organisation.

Providing such personalised support helps to retain the trust, loyalty, and goodwill of the remaining staff. If they see remaining staff. If they see that their colleagues are being treated well, staff that remain are able to feel secure in the knowledge that they too will be well taken care of, and can focus their attention on being productive. A productive staff and vibrant workforce drive the performance of any organisation.

Providing effective and meaningful assistance to any staff that is leaving, while taking care of those that is remain, is a strategy that any organisation should adopt. It should be seen both as the employer’s responsibility as well as a measure to safeguard the employer brand. The latter helps to attract new talent. Organisations that view career transition support as a win-win for their staff and their business understand that the benefits that such support brings to the table outweighs the associated cost.



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