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Brexit: We have thought about relocation, what about staff?

A recent event I attended on the impact of Brexit on HR by Ernst & Young was quite an eye opening one. At the event, the panellists explained that businesses are focusing solely on the impact of Brexit on commercial operations. Issues currently explored revolve around: business relocation, operational costs, taxes, real estate considerations, etc. However, more emphasis should be put on HR.

Indeed, staff tends to be a company’s best asset for a myriad of reasons, ranging from the fact employees represent a differentiation advantage and bring operational efficiency to the fact they actively contribute to brand awareness and recognition.

In a Brexit context, in order to address the HR component of every business, organisations will have to:

  • Identify the relationship between skilled labour and performance within the company – if a specific skillset is required for your organisation to operate as it should, then then your organisation needs to explore the likelihood of being able to acquire visas for these employees or the possibility of relocating such staff somewhere else (and financial repercussions of both options)

  • Review options for organisations – assess how Brexit might affect the organisation’s operations and what is the back-up plan. Gathering data on the current taskforce will allow companies to better assess risks

  • Address concerns regarding employee status – failure to do so might result in a brain drain

  • Review employee policies and assess the risk of indirect discrimination in interviews, promotions, etc. – there is a risk that organisations indirectly pick and choose candidates for a job or a promotion based on false assumptions relating to the status of non-British nationals after the negotiations, thus leading to indirect discrimination

  • Carry out a workforce planning, based on numbers, skills, profile and cost. This will be even more important in organisations with European/international presence

  • Decide how the company will ensure circulation and transfers of employees (for meetings, projects, etc.)

Such considerations ought to be made by any organisation employing a non-British citizen, from financial institutions to industrial factories.

Despite the uncertainty, thinking about these issues in advance can be time-saving and help retain talent. Moreover, an open approach to communicating these issues can help staff feel reassured within the uncertainty of Brexit and positively reinforce the organisation’s approach to staff as its best asset.

Even if the actual Brexit seems far (end of 2019?), considerations on the workforce will impact strategic business decisions. A responsible approach to employee management in uncertain times is often the best practice to ensure better performance along with talent acquisition/retention. Uncertainty in an organisation can lead to hearsay and (sometimes unfounded) fears, making it difficult for employees to trust the workplace culture and its leadership, which impacts their ability to perform at their highest levels.

In the face of change and uncertainty, it will be important to keep staff informed and reassured as much as realistically possible. Even if the company does not have a clear plan in view, it is valuable to keep open communication channels with employees to

let them know about the company’s intentions, direction and goals.

Likewise, operating an open-door policy with staff to enquire or relay their concerns in regards to their future prospects in the organisation often leads to trust and a more collaborative environment under which everyone can operate. In addition, this policy will allow every organisation to evaluate its employees’ mindset, leading to a strong understanding of how the uncertainty may be disrupting performance. More importantly, an open-door policy allows managers to address critical issues.

As information on the negotiations becomes available, it will become easier to come with clearer HR plans which benefit both the organisation and its employees.

If you have any questions or queries, on need support in getting your staff management plan in place, please do not hesitate to let me know:

“Employees are a company's greatest asset - they're your competitive advantage. You want to attract and retain the best; provide them with encouragement, stimulus, and make them feel that they are an integral part of the company's mission”.

Anne M. Mulcahy (former chairperson and CEO of Xerox Corporation)

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