Information is still relatively scarce on how leaving the European Union will affect different parts of the UK economy. The impact of Brexit on talent acquisition, particularly, remains to be seen – but it’s clear that business leaders are concerned about what it might mean for both existing employees and for filling future roles.
What can you — as HR and recruitment professionals — do to help alleviate Brexit uncertainty for your employees and your business as a whole?
Brexit and the UK Workforce:
Before the referendum in 2016, the number of EU nationals working in the UK was on the increase. Since then, EU migration has declined by 70% and is now at the lowest level since 2009.1 Some estimates suggest that Brexit has caused as high as a 95% fall in the number of EU workers joining the UK workforce.2
These declines are driven by the uncertainty over the future status of EU workers in the UK — and this uncertainty is already impacting hiring.
While EU workers represent around 7% of the total UK workforce, they make up 15% of lower-skilled roles.4 High employment rates in the UK and the unwillingness of UK workers to do lower-skilled jobs mean that these EU nationals provide an essential workforce across a range of industries. Lack of access to EU workers could have significant impacts on many workplaces.
HR and recruitment professionals need to act now to address these challenges.
Responding to Brexit:
Brexit represents real challenges, but you can respond to these challenges in ways that will both reduce the impact of Brexit and benefit the workforce as a whole. Here are our top five actions to build into your contingency planning:
1. Start a Brexit impact assessment
Many businesses are conducting assessments on how Brexit will impact them, in order to revise existing processes and plan any necessary changes — in every area from logistics to finance. HR should be no different. Here are a few tips to get you started:
- Implement some forms of measurement internally to help you identify trends and potential problem areas e.g. tracking turnover, cost-per-hire, seeking regular feedback from current employees
- Consider your workforce’s relationship to the EU — do you employ any EU citizens, in the UK or in the EU, or do you plan to? Does your business rely on any specialist or service located in the EU? Do your employees need to travel to EU countries?
- Review your hiring roadmap and identify the roles you plan to hire for which may be affected by Brexit. Is there a sufficient talent pool in the UK for these roles?
2. Provide the right support for EU nationals
Brexit will mean a change in migration rules, with limitations on the freedom of movement into the UK.
EU nationals will have two options if they want to live and work in the UK. If eligible, they can apply to the EU Settlement Scheme, designed to provide clarity and security for those already living and working in the UK. For EU nationals seeking to work in the UK in the future, a new system is set to be implemented in 2021, whereby most workers will need to apply for short-term work visas.
As HR and recruitment professionals, your role is to make sure you and your employees understand the impact of these changes on the individuals affected and on your organisation. The UK Government has launched a toolkit for employers, which includes guidance for your workers, and the CBI has teamed up with Deloitte to create further advice and support. Take the time to familiarise yourself with the available resources and then share that information with your staff.
3. Define and enhance your employer value proposition
We know that recruitment is getting more and more competitive, with fewer applicants per vacancy across all skills levels and higher numbers of hard-to-fill roles.5 This will likely be exacerbated by Brexit. To attract the best applicants, you need to have the best proposition. It’s time to conduct a review of how you approach talent attraction and retention. Here are a few tips to get you started:
- Build an EVP team: A broad range of functions within your organisation will have a vested interest in this review e.g. HR, talent acquisition, marketing, corporate communications etc. Assemble a project team with representatives from each function, appoint a project owner, and decide as a team on your objectives and timelines.
- Survey stakeholders: Find out what exactly your employees value about your organisation — why they joined, why they stay etc. Combine this data with what you see in your company’s Glassdoor reviews to help your team define EVP.
- Review and enhance: Discuss what you have learned. Does your employee feedback align with where you want to be as an employer? Will your current EVP resonate with the talent you’re looking for? Identify the areas — from interview processes to employee benefits – that fall short of the ideal. Strategise and begin implementing the changes necessary to ensure your EVP attracts the best talent in a competitive talent marketplace.
4. Upskill your workforce
With a potential scarcity of available skills and labour looming, as well as the falling numbers of EU workers, it’s time to invest in training and developing your existing workforce.
Consider the current and potential skill gaps in your business that would typically require a new hire — are there existing employees who could upskill to fill the gap? As well as ensuring your business is functioning at its highest potential, training and development will be appreciated by your career conscious employees and will make them more likely to stay.
Explore a mix of training tactics – external courses, seminars, as well as on the job training — and work with line managers to identify and develop the members of their team with highest upskill potential.
5. Enhance your employee wellbeing offering
Take care to build a wellbeing package that provides the physical and emotional support that your workers need, especially in these times of heightened change and uncertainty. Recent survey evidence has shown that while 86% of UK employers recognised the benefits of wellbeing in the workplace, only 48% felt ready to implement such a package and only 59% had only the basics in place.6 Stand out from the crowd by building a wellbeing package that works for your employees and your organisation.
While the full impact of Brexit on HR and recruitment remains to be seen, these five actions will help you get prepared. Be proactive. Inform yourself of changes to legislation that will impact your staff. Think through likely scenarios. Put plans in place. And — most of all — communicate with your employees.
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1EU net migration falls further as Britain takes a leap into the unknown, Migration Observatory (2019)
2Brexit impact on workforce trends, CIPD
3Labour market outlook: views from employers, CIPD
4Ready, willing and able? Can the UK labour force meet demand after Brexit? Recruitment & Employment Confederation (2017)
5Brexit impact on workforce trends, CIPD
6Global Human Capital Trends Survey 2018, Deloitte