Is your business Brexit-proof?

The Business of People Blog Series

Like most people, I often find the constant Brexit headlines and endless TV reports pretty boring. But it’s dangerous to put your head in the sand about the subject - especially if you’re an employer. Here’s what you should be doing now to weather the Brexit storm, says Darren Ryemill…

The rule of etiquette – in business, down the pub or at the dinner table, used to be ‘never discuss politics or religion’. I think now you can safely add Brexit to that list – and not because people don’t have opinions on it - instead because people are thoroughly bored of it. But the worst thing employers can do right now is to ignore what’s happening. They need to start making sure they’re in as strong a position as possible, so when any changes do start happening, they’re not a horrible shock. Latest research shows, only a third of UK businesses are currently prepared for Brexit. Make sure your company doesn’t sit with that 66% of businesses just waiting for something to happen…and take control today.

So, what can we do? Surely it’s all down to Theresa May and we can only wait? Well, frankly…no. Brexit is already having an effect in the marketplace - large numbers of EU workers are considering leaving the UK, companies are moving head offices away from London, the exchange rate has been hit – all these things indicate what may be ahead. And one thing is for certain; it’s going to be harder to recruit. I voted Remain for stability and for access to the top quality people. I believe it’s better if our candidate pool is as large as possible, with talented people from all around the globe. So I don’t think Brexit is great news but likewise, it’s not all doom and gloom. The UK economy is still continuing to grow and I believe that in every change there’s an opportunity. So there will definitely be some upsides. 

For example, cities like Berlin, Amsterdam and Dublin are already benefitting as businesses look to relocate to – or put a presence in the EU. Opus are a British business – and proud to be so – but we have a global footprint, so we’re expanding in the EU to increase our presence there. We want to make sure that irrespective of what deals do or don’t happen, we keep our trading as strong as possible. And the CEO’s of many of our clients are doing the same – if you’re Europe’s next big, IT startup business, for example, why would you locate in London when you could be in a tech-savvy city like Berlin? But it’s time to seize opportunities like this now, rather than leave it to the last minute.

If expanding – or relocating your business isn’t an option, there is something all employers can start doing today. Communicating with – and looking after their staff. People are every businesses core asset – and companies need to look after them now like they never have before. Currently, about 6% of the UK workforce is from the EU (3.2 million) and 47% of these high-skilled workers are considering leaving the UK in the next five years – and that’s just the skilled workers. So businesses need to start upskilling their existing employees to fill those positions. They need to start training and developing staff and to put them on a good career journey. There’s about to be high competition for brilliant skilled workers, so your employees will get poached unless you’re offering them something better.

A saying I’m fond of that I think sums this up is this – the best time to plant a tree was twenty years ago, the second best time is now. In other words, ideally the UK – and the world – wouldn’t be facing the massive skills shortage it is in areas like nursing, engineering and technology. But it is – and we can’t ignore it. So businesses need to invest in staff and implement a proper, talent attraction strategy. They need to get hold of good employees and look after them like never before. They need to start planting trees. 

Following on from this, I strongly believe companies should also be recruiting people from a more diverse background – and taking advantage of the skillsets we do have in the UK. For example by making use of probably the most underused resource in the world – female workers. Companies should be supporting people with flexible hours, addressing the gender pay gap and getting this valuable section of the workforce as engaged as we possibly can. Anything that gives businesses a greater pool of candidates needs looking at – and that applies to skillset too. So I might decide a candidate hasn’t got the exact skills I’m looking for – but they’re a positive person with the right attitude, so I’ll recruit them and train them up myself. In short – employers need to start thinking differently.

My hope for Brexit is that it could lead to us being a much more inclusive in terms of employment. And certainly, from a recruitment perspective in the UK, I think there’ll be an increased need for agencies like ours as the war for talent becomes more intensified. And that can only be good for the talent too.

See you next week. And if you have any comments or feedback then, please contact me on my Twitter or LinkedIn.

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