Brexit - The impact on your people and workforce planning

31 / 01 / 19

The 29th March 2019 is a big day for everyone in the United Kingdom. This is the day we are due to formally end our membership to the European Union. There is much uncertainty surrounding Brexit and what this means to businesses, however, what we do know is that there will be an impact on talent and labour markets. I’m sure your planning process is well underway, however, it’s never too late to take control and assess potential barriers to make the most of Brexit and the opportunities which will arise. Workforce planning should be a business priority, so, if you haven’t already, it’s time to take charge and take full advantage of the new ‘normal’.

Potential implications for your business


Essentially, you need to ensure that your business has the correct skills and labour to continue delivering against your business objectives. You need to understand the threats and make the most of the opportunities. There will be major implications for many businesses and a particular impact on those organisations employing a high ratio of EU nationals, so, for example, retail, construction, and hospitality and care organisations. Also, organisations that offer the type of work that is highly repetitive and unskilled or highly technical. If you think about it, you may have never had to worry about the availability of labour, but it’s a different story taking Brexit into account and so you may have to think about workforce planning for the very first time.

When immigration rules and trade arrangements are completed, businesses will be able to respond more positively. It’s the unknown that is an issue as it proves a challenge for planning and this is perhaps why many employers have yet to begin their planning process.

Of course Brexit will have different effects on the different occupations and industries, including a potential increase in costs, lower exchange rates, wage inflation, an economic upturn or downturn and changing trading regulations.

Workforce planning

Rather than sitting and waiting for Brexit and the changes it will bring, it’s time to plan, if you haven’t started already. Your HR function, whether that’s an internal or external force, needs to work closely with your management team and internal teams to compile a workforce plan that will ensure the right people with the right skills are part of your business, both now and moving forward.

PESTLE analysis

A PESTLE analysis (which looks at 6 key factors: political, economic, sociological, technological, legal and environmental) is a great way of gaining an understanding of how certain external factors will positively or negatively affect your business, ensuring you are ready for change.

It’s obviously imperative to mix your external research and information with internal factors, so it’s vital you know and understand your workforce. First off, it’s important to know how many EU employees you have within your organisation. Within your reporting, think about their skillsets, length of service and location. This is simple within small to medium sized companies, but a slightly tougher task within larger organisations. Of course, the use of HR technology makes this type of task a lot easier.

Flight risk assessment

How likely are employees to leave your company? Undertaking a flight risk assessment is a great way of understanding how your employees feel about their work. So for example, forums, polls, employee surveys etc. can give you more of a picture of how your workforce feels about the business. This assessment may also include retirees and attrition rates as well. This data should be able to give HR the information they need to address business and workforce needs and whether this sits with recruitment and retention, training and development, reward programs or improved communication for example.

Scenario planning

Now you have explored the internal and external factors surrounding Brexit, you can move forward and begin scenario planning to ensure you’re able to deal with the uncertain situations ahead and have the ability to begin your planning process for each of these scenarios. And, the aim here is to broaden your thinking about the range of scenarios that may present and then picture the different potential futures. What might be your future skills and labour requirements and availability and what contingencies should be in place to ensure that these items can be a reality? Asking this question is also useful to identify the continuities. Compare all of the above with your current workforce strategy and you can then determine the actions to be taken to ensure successful delivery.

Brexit with no deal, all organisations should be encouraging their foreign national employees to apply for settled status via the government website. Write to them informing them of the steps to take to apply for settled status. As the £65 fee has now been abolished all they need is a mobile phone to download the app. Although the app is currently only accessible to android phones iPhones will be included when the scheme is fully rolled out. In any event employees will need access to an android phone if they wish to scan their documents and upload them, otherwise these will need to be posted. It is a good idea to give your employees as much help and support as you can, there could be serious implications for you as the employer in the event they fail to obtain settled status, ranging from talent shortages to illegal worker fines.


Your contingency plan

First you need to complete a risk assessment. Make sure your assessment clearly identifies all types of incidences that will trigger the plan of action. When developing your plan, outline time periods that will keep employees on track (so what needs to be done in the first, hour, day and week). Make sure the plan is simple and look for opportunities to reduce risk in the workplace. It is also important to maintain the plan, and, remember, workforce plans centre on effective resourcing. Here you could think about building on your existing resource by means such as apprenticeships or graduation schemes, encouraging job rotation and mobility.

Brexit or no Brexit, all organisations should invest time and money in a robust training and development scheme. Of course, businesses can also re-deploy resources from other areas of the business to cover gaps. You could even think about restructuring work and redefining roles and reducing or expanding hours. It is important to keep work efficiencies at the centre of your thinking.

You want to ensure you keep hold of your best staff. Retention strategies, including reward and recognition, will be of huge value here. This will also alleviate pressures on recruitment in a tough labour market. Understand what is driving the churn – Is it poor management, poor reward schemes or lack of training and development for example?

Hiring new candidates will still be on the list for consideration, so it’s important to enhance your employer brand. How can you demonstrate to potential employees you have a fantastic company culture and your company is a great place to work? Marketing will obviously play a huge role in communicating your key messages.

In times of uncertainty, you may want to increase your number of ‘contingent’ workers. So, agency staff, zero hour’s contracts, temporary employees, etc. These can be increased as demand rises and decreased as it reduces.

Why not think about utilising technology by automating as many of your business processes as possible. This can be particularly helpful for those roles which consist of highly monotonous, administrative and repetitive tasks.

It may be that your talent pool in your particular location just isn’t large enough/right, so you could look into remote working, freelance, part-time or flexible working options.


Communication and change management

As with everything, communication is key. And so, make sure you engage with your staff at every level and at every point. Make them feel a part of the planning and make sure they’re able to contribute. It’s vital you are transparent. Employees can get extremely jittery if they think something is happening but know nothing about it. And finally, make sure you monitor company satisfaction levels.

Brexit will be the single largest event in the last 20 years to majorly affect operating models so it is important you are ready; rather than watching and waiting, as political dialogue and negotiations intensify, make sure you’re ready with a workforce initiative to ensure your business has the resources to successfully negotiate the upcoming changes. If you need support with this extremely important and sensitive task please don’t hesitate to contact me: on 01453 297557 or email enquiries@peepshr.co.uk.


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