Surviving the Brexit talent crush

Sharon Fishburne
Managing Director and Owner
Sharon Fishburne Consultancy
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There are fears Brexit might lead to a 'talent crush', with top-quality workers from Europe flocking back to their home countries and leaving our companies without the skills that they need to keep their businesses going - let alone expand.

This is hitting at the most inconvenient of times because, as I have written before for TrainingZone, there is already intensifying competition between companies for top workers.

So, how can you prepare? How can you make sure that your exposure is as limited as possible?

1. Keep the talent that you currently have

Firstly, don't forget to count your blessings. If you are running a successful business, then you already have a large number of quality workers who have helped build your business to where it is today.

It is sensible to be focussed on future talent, but don't let that undermine or steal focus away from people that are already working with you. Show your current workers that you are committed to their futures, and that you are invested in them as people. It is much easier to keep your current workers, than recruit new people. HR departments often forget that. 

So, if you are facing a talent crunch in certain departments or sections of your business, the first thing that you should do is ask yourself whether there is existing talent in a different part of your business that can be tooled up and retrained. Don't give up existing talent easily, because it is be difficult to find again in the future. This is what many companies learned during the recession.

As Scott Johnson, an economic analyst, writes: "The crisis led to a crash in the public markets, with the FTSE 100 falling by 31.3%. However, the UK economy more generally, of course, did not fall by the same amount. That is because many private businesses assumed the load of the national economy on their shoulders. There was a so-called 'employment miracle', where the crisis did not lead to large-scale unemployment. Instead, they 'hoarded' talent."

2. Correct any misperceptions

One of the most damaging problems - which may be leading to concern among your workforce - is the spreading of rumours about the future of Europeans workers in the UK post Brexit.

In fact, the Government has done a lot to reassure Europeans currently living in the UK that they will be able to stay here for the foreseeable future, with most people being able to apply for 'settled status'.

However, workplaces are often full of speculation and gossip, and it's easy for one of your employees to get the wrong end of the stick - and then suddenly everyone thinks they will be required to leave the country next year.

Don't let this speculation and these misconceptions spread. Use internal communications to get out right and accurate information, and let your workforce know that you will support them as a company throughout the process. This will provide them with the certainty that they may need to stay with you in the long term.

3. Take a stand

At the moment many European workers in the UK are looking for company voices who are willing to take a stand and defend their interests to Government. As a company you can gain both visibility and kudos for taking a stand like this. By improving your brand this way, you can encourage more people to consider you as an employer as well.

For example, if you are an agricultural company that hires a number of seasonal European workers, by taking a prominent stand to defend their interests, this visibility might lead to more - rather than less - applications in the future.

4. Recruit locally and set up training schemes

Finally, make sure that you are prepared for the worst-case scenario. The old adage is: prepare for the worst, and hope for the best.

If there is an additional talent shortage in the future caused by Brexit, you should start preparing for it now. One of the best ways to do so is to go on a hiring drive locally; something that some companies have neglected to do because they have fallen into a pattern of hiring from abroad.

Many companies I speak to say that they can't find the talent that they need locally, and I have a lot of sympathy with them. But this can be solved too by launching new training schemes.

Have you been thinking about launching a training scheme over the last few years? Now is the opportunity to do so.

Overall, the next few years could be difficult ones for the companies as they face talent shortages, but if you prepare and consider innovative solutions, you should be able to overcome the problems.

About Sharon Fishburne

Sharon Fishburne

A columnist and marketing expert, I previously worked at number of the biggest global consultancies, including PwC, advising multinationals on their expansion strategy. I saw the value that smaller local businesses could take from the process too.


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