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HR teams lag behind in preparation for Brexit

Two Months on is Brexit a threat or an opportunity to UK Business?

The majority of companies (56%) continue to ‘wait and see’ before they take any action to prepare their organisation for Brexit, this is despite two-thirds (66%) of employers believing their business in the UK will be significantly affected by Britain’s vote to leave the European Union (EU), according to the latest Willis Towers Watson survey.

The survey of approximately 200 UK businesses took a ‘two months on’ view of employers’ thinking about the implications of the Brexit vote whilst looking at what organisations are planning to do to prepare their business and employees.

The report shows that almost four-fifths (78%) of companies have begun a broad consideration of the implications of Brexit and more than half (60%) have conducted an assessment of what it means for key areas, but so far only 24% have carried out a detailed impact assessment and only a third (33%) have done any scenario planning. When considering sectors the most scenario planning was seen in financial services (carried out by 45% of companies) and the least in technology, media and telecoms (20%).

Richard Veal, Director of Willis Towers Watson’s Talent and Rewards practice GB, said: “The results show that UK business is concerned about the effects of Brexit, but uncertainty appears to be hindering many companies taking immediate action. It is important that companies think about what the next steps should be and get into a more action-oriented state of mind.”

The report goes on to show that UK businesses’ biggest concern is the impact of Brexit on the workforce, cited by 76% of those questioned, organisational change cited by 51%, total rewards was also important, cited by 49%, while engagement and communication was also cited by 49%.

Richard Veal continued: “Minimising the impact on the workforce seems the obvious area of attention and it should be the area of immediate concern. The ability of a business to understand the number of workers affected and how it impacts the business will be crucial to any organisation going forward.”

The report also took a more in-depth look at organisational change. Half of companies (50%) are thinking of reassessing their current operating model and organisational structure, while just under half (47%) are looking at the HR implications of business disruptions or delays to corporate transactions. There is a slightly stronger trend for organisations in financial services and professional and business services, where 59% and 67% respectively are assessing implications for organisational change.

Richard Veal said: “The data implies that many businesses are not assessing the effect Brexit will have on their business structure. This is particularly noticeable in the HR space where the research shows less than half of businesses are creating a specific HR Brexit team, suggesting that HR may be lagging behind other business areas in terms of readiness.