Preparing for Brexit: six steps HR can take now

Have you ever transferred 100% of the workforce to another country with different employment laws? Well, that’s not too far from what UK companies, as well as many multinationals, could potentially face on the official EU departure date of March 29, 2019.

Whether Brexit is “soft” or “hard” and whatever form its immigration policies take, HR teams who are responsible for UK workers have a lot of work ahead of them. It’s time to start the preparations. Below, I have outlined six steps to take right now to help smooth the Brexit transition.

Step 1: Keep abreast of Brexit’s implications for your workforce

It appears that UK employers will be waiting for a while to see how Brexit will change their workers’ environment. Theresa May is saying that the 3.2 million EU citizens in the UK will be able to continue living and working in the UK, but employers and workers are  reporting high levels of anxiety. They’ll be looking to the HR teams for updates on work visa requirements, healthcare rights, pay and pensions, and the implications of global mobility in the post-Brexit world.

Here are a few sites we have found useful:
Brexit news from the BBC (also contains a “101 guide” for Brexit newbies)
Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD) Brexit hub
Deloitte UK Insights
Willis Towers Watson

Step 2: Clean up your HR data

In order to make good workforce decisions and to proactively reach out to people who are potentially affected, you’ll need good data. If you haven’t done so already, it’s time to invest in systems to make your data clean and easily accessible, particularly data relating to work locations and nationality.

Step 3: Communicate to employees – early and often

Your employees need the latest information, and they want to know that you’re going to support them through any transition. One relatively easy way to do that is to build a “Brexit Center” in your employee portal. For now, you can share relevant information – this could include HR-related law changes, your CEO’s shareholder communications on how Brexit affects your selling strategy, or basic information about the differences between the EU Single Market and Customs Union. You can also reinforce company values such as diversity, tolerance and respect.

Step 4: Make support readily available when employees need it

Brexit proposals could have impact on your EU citizen employees, their colleagues, spouses or partners and children. You should put a “Brexit Help Desk” in place through which employees can efficiently request one-on-one help. For example, EU citizens who have been in the UK for at least five years can apply for Permanent Residence, but they need to understand the tax implications. They may have questions about their healthcare. Quick, efficient support can help you stand out as an employer of choice.

Step 5: Retool your talent sourcing and hiring processes

And that brings up the next step you should be taking… because even employers of choice will most likely face a different talent market in April 2019. It’s time to look hard at how you find the right talent for your UK operations.

According to a survey conducted by Deloitte, 47% of highly skilled EU citizens working in the UK are considering leaving within the next five years. Another study found that applications for tech jobs from overseas workers have fallen by around 50%. Given that 13% of London’s workforce was born in the EU, outside of the UK, certain companies could experience critical talent shortages, such as companies with large, high-skill labor forces in the UK, as well as companies like those in the hospitality industry who depend on large pools of less skilled workers.  In the CIPD’s Resourcing and Talent Planning 2017 survey, 61% of respondents said they anticipate that it will be more difficult to recruit senior/ strategic or skilled/ technical staff over the next three years.

Make sure you have recruiting teams and supporting software that are aligned to the needs of your business. You may also want to use workforce planning software that can model the latest Brexit immigration scenarios.

You’ll also want to think about streamlining hiring and onboarding processes to make hiring faster and more efficient. (Hint: OpenText™ People Center can be a big help!)

Step 6: Keep looking ahead

Most experts expect to see a number of companies make adjustments to their business models as a result of Brexit, whether that means changing their sales focus, moving operations, or restructuring shared service models. All of these changes have people implications. Planning for specific scenarios may be premature at this point, but having flexible people processes with the right technology to support them will make all the difference when March 29 comes next year.

As you keep looking ahead, take a few minutes to learn more about how OpenText People Center can ease the effort to manage employee communications, provide self-service support giving employees answers to get their questions when they need them answered and simplifying employee document management associated with Brexit.

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Jenny Victor

Jenny leads the Business Process Management product marketing for OpenText, including messaging, go-to-market, thought leadership, and product launches for OpenText Process Suite.

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