Stuart Gentle Publisher at Onrec

9 Steps HR needs to take to survive Brexit

Brexit is looming larger than ever with very little understanding of what the outcome will bring to UK businesses and employees.

HR organisations know how to operate in an ambiguous environment, but the changes yet to come bring so many major repercussions. The big question is: How can you prepare for the next six months?

1 – Stay informed

Since the dawn of its ominous vote, Brexit has been high on everyone’s agenda. From 2016 onwards, there hasn’t been a week when someone hasn’t asked for my opinion on this very tricky matter. My take on it today, as a representative of the international HR profession, is that we’ve grown tired of all the debates and we’re increasingly tired of waiting. However, a new deadline is approaching in a few weeks – one that cannot be ignored.

The entire HR community is waiting for things to pass before focusing their attention on the ramifications of Brexit. So, should you be worrying about something you cannot predict?

The answer is a resounding “yes”. Now is truly the time keep tabs on what’s going on within your own organisation, as well as keeping up to date with the latest legislative updates and socio-economic threads.

HR needs to review all internal and external practices – fast! Join those webinars and networking events, speak to your community and your people. This is the time to act and steer your company in the right direction for the longevity of your business.

2 – Workforce planning

First, you need a plan. Workforce planning means understanding who will be affected and how, and how this impacts your business. The first step is to identify all employees currently travelling to an EU state for work or working in the UK on a EU residency or passport. This will allow you to build a list of individuals impacted and enable focused discussion.

Then it’s all about considering the economics of the situation and how this might impact people’s movements. Are you planning redundancies or business transfers?

Finally, you must dedicate time to review internal processes – is employee data kept, processed or reviewed outside the UK? How will that affect GDPR? What about non-compete confidentiality agreements, work visas and company transfers? You’ll need plans for all these eventualities and more.

3 – Skills mapping

It’s estimated that since the outcome of the Referendum, there’s been a 95% fall in EU nationals joining the UK workforce. Many of us hire people from EU countries for their specialist skillsets, such as languages, IT, research and so on. With such a downturn in immigration, you need to quickly assess the risk to current and future staffing needs. What skills are currently at risk in your organisation? What contingencies do you have in place now and for the future?

Typically, a skills mapping approach would look at opportunities and requirements over the next five years or so. Reach out to your business leaders on a tactical and strategic basis to advise, guide and support during this period of transition.

4 – Recruitment

Due to skills shortages, 44% of employers are experiencing difficulties hiring staff since Brexit. Skilled workers from outside the UK may choose to work in another EU country where their long-term future is more secure. There’s a high likelihood that employees hired beyond 2021 with no settlement status will need some sort of visa to work in the UK.

HR teams must engage with their people and review relationships with recruiters, while identifying new sources of top talent and new hiring trends.

5 – Benefit

It’s always a good time to review your employee benefits programme – actively support employees with their application processes and so on. Enhancing the benefits package to include items like legal services/support and employee financial wellbeing can boost brand affiliation between your company and your employees. Although benefits are never the deal breaker, they will contribute to an individual’s confidence in your company’s ability to weather these uncertain times.

6 – Pay

Skilled workers coming from the EU are becoming a rare breed, resulting in some roles experiencing a considerable hike in salaries. In addition, currency fluctuations are also having an impact on the British population living abroad. So, working in the UK can be attractive to some and a curse for others. Staying informed and joining networking events with fellow HR colleagues will provide a clear understanding of what’s happening in the market and in the industry. Find out what others are doing, then decide whether this is an appropriate course of action for your own business.

7 – Consult

At an individual level, not knowing what the future will bring and the consequences for you and your family is a significant cause of stress. However, knowing that your employer can support you through this challenging phase will be a true asset to companies in the long run. All EU citizens have the right to apply for EU settlement status – the deadline extends to 2021. But now is the time to consult and inform your colleagues on their options through FAQs, town hall meetings, HR clinics and so on – all these will contribute towards lowering potential employee stress and help you with your people planning strategy process.

8 – Plan HR resources

Brexit won’t happen overnight – there are too many moving parts. This isn’t the right time to re-consider your performance management process or your HR Software. Whilst planning your activities for the year, I would dedicate at least 20/30% of HR resources to this task in the next 6 to 12 months.

9 – Retain a sense of humour

Regardless of how Brexit affects the HR community, change will be constant. These upcoming months promise to be challenging as well as consuming on your resources. In periods of change, people look up to the HR profession to step up and demonstrate resilience. This is your opportunity to become a leader in your profession, demonstrate true professionalism, character, compassion and drive. In these challenging times, a sense of humour is also essential.

Julie Provino is an international HR leader, founder of VeryHR and the author of How to Get What You Want in 7 Weeks. To find out more go to:

Julie: @JulesPT
Very HR: @very_hr