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The impact of Brexit and how HR and Finance can better plan for the unknowable unknown

Brexit: an example of how businesses have had to plan for the unknowable unknown.

Published by Orgvue 

Talent acquisition, retention and deployment is in a state of considerable flux. On one side we have Brexit and ongoing uncertainty over how it will impact the hiring of EU nationals, and the movement of labour between the UK and the EU in the years to come. On the other side, we have tightening and evolving policy regarding non-EU nationals and their work visas.

Looking at the situation purely from a practical and operational perspective, the real-world impact of immigration and skilled worker limits is unquestionable. It is red tape that can kill a growing business or a good idea, or at the very least deflect it to another country with fewer administrative obstacles. We’ve already seen warning shots fired by the likes of Airbus, Astra Zeneca, the car industry and several parts of the financial services sector.

The challenge to business today isn’t the fact the UK has voted to leave the EU, or even that the country is re-evaluating its approach to visas and entry requirements. Rather, it’s the high level of uncertainty about what all of these changes mean for businesses in both the short and long term. There are simply too many unknown unknowns. It means businesses can’t effectively plan for the future, can’t anticipate their own needs and can’t comprehend the true cost and complexities of hiring and retaining staff. This is why scenario planning, documenting actions and plans ahead of time is so important to give you a game plan to work with if any of the scenarios actually come to pass.

Planning should take into account three key pillars: Scenario – Option – Impact. Look at what each situation might be – further cuts to the skilled worker visa pool would be one such example. Then document what your options are if that comes to pass. Greater focus on UK-based hiring, higher visa and staff acquisition costs would be likely elements. Then consider the knock-on impact. These could be higher staffing costs, along with slower workforce growth due to longer talent acquisition times and a smaller pool to hire from. Straight away you’ve eliminated a number of unknown unknowns from your future planning horizon. With that knowledge locked in, you can then work on taking action to mitigate the impact or risk.

Businesses need to plan for multiple different future scenarios right now, in order to mitigate the impact of unknown unknowns in the months and years ahead. That also means business leaders need to go on the offensive now and own their organisation’s destiny. Think about what you can do about an unknown or a potential impact. Don’t wait until the business becomes a victim of a political or population shift.

Top tips for HR and Finance leaders

  1. Understand where your customer footprint is today and where it might need to be serviced from geographically post-Brexit. This should be part of your scenario planning, allowing you to eliminate some immediate unknown unknowns from your business outlook.
  2. Try to eliminate as many unknowns from your talent acquisition strategy as you can in order to make it more predictable and plannable. Whether that is visa cost, application time or maximum stay length. Start factoring these things in to your workforce strategy.
  3. Minimise your maximum regret – take steps wherever possible to reduce the negative impact of possible fallout. This could be actions like implementing measures to make more use of homegrown talent in the event of a skills shortage. While not a solution to the issue, the UK’s indigenous talent pool will be more in demand post Brexit if free movement is not agreed. Failure to prepare for a scenario will leave your business regretting the missed opportunity.
  4. Think now about how you will attract and connect with both graduates and experienced UK potential employees in order to leverage their skills as well as their flexibility of movement in the months and years to come.

How Orgvue can help

Contact us for a demonstration of how Orgvue can support your scenario planning and understanding potential impact. More specifically, Orgvue can help analyze whether to redeploy resources, relocate or restructure work, automate work, or review different labor sources: contingent workers or outsourcing.