Stuart Gentle Publisher at Onrec

How will Brexit affect talent acquisition?

On 23 June the people of the UK voted to leave the European Union. The immediate aftermath of the referendum certainly couldn’t be described as positive: the pound plummeted to its lowest value in over 30 years (and has yet to show any sign of a sustained recovery) while global equity markets suffered losses of over $2 trillion dollars in a single day.

As worrisome as the immediate economic impact has been, is this really a sign that the worst Brexit horror stories put forward by some in the Remain camp will actually come to pass … or is this merely a short-term financial aftershock of the sort that often follows momentous political events? How will Brexit affect the British economy – and talent acquisition in the UK – in the longer term?

There may not be a straightforward answer to those questions; at least not in the immediate future. While many business owners have expressed legitimate concerns about reduced overseas investment in UK businesses once we’re out of the EU, the fact is that we don’t yet know how quickly Britain will withdraw from the union, and what our political and economic landscape will look like post-Brexit.

Trade agreements with our former EU partners may be subject to extreme renegotiation … or could in fact remain much the same as they are now. It has already been posited that future trade deals with the EU could be conditional upon continued free movement of EU nationals in Britain, which could in the final equation mean little to no change in the European talent pool available to UK businesses.

It’s an unfortunate truth that many UK business sectors talk about the skills gap they find when it comes to recruiting the right people to fill positions. The financial technology sector is a good example of this – London is the world’s leading fintech hub, but many companies struggle to find both the volume and quality of British graduates to meet their needs. Presently, the skills gap is being bridged by EU tech talent, particularly from Eastern European nations which have a strong reputation for science and technology education.

That would clearly change if post-Brexit trade agreements didn’t include provisions for free movement of EU nationals within the UK – in that case that same Eastern European talent would be more likely to look for jobs in more accessible EU fintech hubs such as Stockholm or Berlin. Indeed, Berlin’s economics minister, Cornelia Yzer, has already stated that the city “will exploit the opportunity provided by Brexit”.

For better or worse, immigration was a subject at the heart of the referendum debate. What is clear is that the government is going to have to give serious consideration to immigration and visa requirements for both EU nationals and other migrants in post-Brexit Britain – and particularly with regard to how immigration rules can be leveraged to allow British businesses to attract the best talent from elsewhere in the world.

The UK already operates a points-based visa system for evaluating non-EU migrant workers, which crucially includes provision for additional points to be awarded to immigrants taking jobs on the “national shortage occupation list”. If post-Brexit visa rules continue to work on a similar basis, the skills shortage list or a comparable scheme could be used to attract quality talent from elsewhere in the world to strengthen segments of the UK economy that might otherwise suffer from a lack of available talent once we leave the EU.

Here at Jobatar we will obviously be watching developments with interest. We believe that technological innovations in recruiting will become all the more important in the years to come as the economic, political and recruiting landscape shifts and changes. Video interviewing, in particular, allows the hiring process to be made more streamlined and cost-effective by reducing or eliminating travel costs – and this could play an even more important role if British companies are in the position to start recruiting more talent from beyond the EU.