Since the word referendum was first uttered by David Cameron in 2016, the country has embarked upon one of the most uncertain economic times in modern history. But what has added to the Brexit confusion for many, has been the continued ups and downs surrounding exactly what is going to happen going forward.
To say with any real certainty how the workplace will be affected, both long and short term, is therefore difficult. Brexit represents the latest major external force at play- not just in business, but also in society. And whilst we cannot control the decisions made in Parliament, we can plan for different eventualities. Endeavouring to remain one step ahead of external market forces means that, whilst these forces are always at play, the savviest of organisations can anticipate them, address them and look to the future.
Those with Human Resources responsibilities need to acknowledge and embrace the role they play in keeping the workforce energised, focused and resilient. Unfortunately, and especially in the context of Brexit, there probably isn’t a quick fix or a simple checklist, but with the right mindset, there is far more chance that you can succeed.
The economic uncertainty that has arisen as a result of Brexit means that the need for a better grip on workforce planning is now even more significant. If you struggle to quantify how many employees you have in work right now, it could well be even more of a struggle to triangulate all of the external data factors that will influence your wider recruitment needs in 12 months’ time.
There are a number of key questions that you, as an HR professional, need to be asking right now. If you find that the answers are difficult to deduce, we would advise you to raise them as urgent matters on your boardroom agenda. These include:
When armed with the evidential answers to such questions, it is far easier to conduct scenario planning that will inform what needs to happen next in terms of resourcing.
Remaining abreast of ever-evolving employment legislation is no mean feat for HR professionals, and Brexit has only compounded the headaches and concerns for many. Published guidance to date has stressed that major changes are unlikely, but obviously nothing is conclusive as yet.
Following the Brexit vote, the commitment was made that employment legislation from Europe would be integrated into UK law, and so as it stands, you should not expect any immediate or significant changes as a result of Brexit. However, there are some changes on the horizon that you should be ready for:
From April 2019
From April 2020
The world of pensions is constantly changing, and not just because of Brexit. Specialist advice should always be sought in relation to specific Payroll business queries, but some useful points on any changes post-Brexit have been raised.
UK workplace pensions tend to operate on a national basis, but currently, the Parliament website highlights that the regulatory framework for pensions acts at EU level. Whilst this means that generally, UK schemes are looking to provide pensions to people in this country, it doesn’t mean that they don’t want access to investment opportunities in the EU and further afield. And, of course, a strong economy will influence the performance of such investments.
From a HR professional’s perspective, due diligence should therefore be carried out to consider and minimise any potential impact on pension provision, and to ensure that the impact of any post-Brexit volatility is clearly communicated to employees.
Our other tips include:
Recruitment, especially when sourcing and attracting international talent, has become extremely difficult for many UK companies.
Indeed, research by Adecco has found that 70 percent of UK managers fear that Brexit will make certain skillsets much harder to recruit for. The importance of more considered workforce planning efforts is therefore paramount. You may also wish to consider talent pools that you have not previously tapped into – these could include retired individuals, experts hired for specific projects, or freelance workers.
Working with contractors on a freelance basis also allows you to benefit from a variety of expert help on specific projects, provide flexible working terms to workers and employees, and also provide the ability for people to effectively ‘try before they buy’ into your workplace in a longer term or permanent role.
So many aspects of workplace success boil down to having robust lines of communication in place. Supporting employees during uncertain times really does require a commitment to communication, as people naturally wish to remain as informed as possible. HR can play a key part in fostering and promoting this dialogue.
As an HR manager, you should consider four key engagement enablers:
In the 12-18 months following the Brexit referendum result, engagement levels fell by 3 points across the UK – the largest recorded decrease amongst the world’s 29 biggest economies. Uncertainty is therefore a major negative trigger for human beings and their wellbeing, as typically employees do not function well in an environment where is a high degree of uncertainty. After all, minimal investment, an aversion to growth planning, a scarcity mindset and being ‘on call’ for crisis management are not particularly motivating reasons to get out of bed on a morning!
The role of technology
Systems, processes and automation can play a pivotal role in HR professionals lives amidst Brexit – technology can genuinely act as a valuable change management aid. In the context of Brexit, the implementation of technology can therefore result in three-tiered benefits:
What are the over-arching priorities for HR to be aware of right now?