6 HR Strategies to Deal with Brexit Disruption and Uncertainty
We have to accept that Brexit uncertainty is the new normal and this uncertainty is disrupting business and making it harder for employers to maintain focus and engagement. As a result, companies are leaning more heavily on their HR teams for Brexit-proof HR strategies that sustain focus during the period of turmoil (as evidenced by research findings from the Institute of Employment Studies). But, what remedial steps can HR take?
Stakeholder Engagement Plan
In times of change and uncertainty such as Brexit, radio silence is unacceptable, stakeholder engagement is mission-critical to ensuring that staff remain focused and not distracted by the shifting sands. This is because a drop in focus can lead to a loss in motivation, productivity, and market effectiveness. It’s vital therefore that a coherent stakeholder engagement plan, which talks to staff, representatives, shareholders, customers, and suppliers, is developed. Two-way communication is imperative and there should be an avenue for staff and leaders to safely express concerns without recriminations and ask questions in return for answers and support.
Medium to long term resource planning
Brexit has created an environment of uncertainty around employment/immigration law and jobs retention, (due to the threat of offshoring). This will make it harder for many employers, (especially those who are very exposed to Brexit risk) to find, attract and retain talent. The IES study revealed that employers are reacting to future uncertainty by bringing a much greater emphasis on medium and long-term planning. They are analysing skills needs and numbers for the future at a much greater frequency.
Contingency planning for a no-deal Brexit
In the event of a no-deal Brexit, research from the British Chamber of Commerce suggests that 18% of businesses will cut recruitment and 20% would move all or part of their business to the EU. 21% would cut investment. Sadly, a no-deal Brexit remains a live possibility, particularly while politicians remain gridlocked. As a result, businesses can and should plan for the potential shock-waves of a no-deal event. This can be done by conducting a short-term risk assessment and developing no-deal contingency plans. Remember, chaos is a ladder and the turmoil of a no-deal Brexit doesn’t just bring a looming threat to the status quo, it also presents potential opportunities. For example, if a competitor is making noises about going offshore in the event of no deal, there could be a sudden availability of talent, for which your business should be ready to take advantage.
Skills Audit to Identify Promotable Talent
The ability to effectively utilise existing staff to fill resource gaps will be a key differentiator during the Brexit transition when there is so much uncertainty around resource availability. With research showing that 37% of workers believe that their skills are under-utilised in their role, now is a good time to audit your staff skills to identify promotable talent that is ready to step up now or in the near future. This will increase your organisational bench strength, enabling your organisation to be adaptable and ready to take on new challenges as they arise in a no-deal Brexit or status quo post Brexit scenario.
Invest in learning and development, especially in high-risk areas
If your skill audit uncovers high-risk areas where skill availability is low and/or dependent on an uncertain EU talent pipeline, up-skilling strategies will also need to be developed. Targeted investment in learning and development will ensure that your organisation is able to adapt well to a variety of post-Brexit talent shortage scenarios.
The political tone around Brexit has been one of confrontation and negativity. If this negativity infects your business, morale, engagement and team spirit can be compromised. That’s why the research from the IES and best practice recommendations from PwC are strongly suggesting an emphasis on positive leadership within the business. Leadership needs to set a constructive, calm, purposeful and positive tone around Brexit. Also, reinforcing or establishing company values around diversity, tolerance, and togetherness to promote healthy teamwork.
Brexit has become an opportunity for HR to step outside the box, and make its mark on the business, by leading the strategic people management process through these times of uncertainty and change
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