Human Resources

HR & Brexit: How to Create a Brexit-Ready Talent Strategy



Brexit is on its way and it’s fair to say that there is still a huge amount of uncertainty in the air.

Our politicians can’t seem to agree on what post-Brexit Britain will look like and businesses of all sizes are in a state of panic over their future.

A recent survey from the British Chamber of Commerce found that with just six months until Brexit, 62% of UK firms haven’t conducted a risk assessment of the impact it will have.

To ensure that organisations are as prepared as possible, HR teams must take on the burden of planning for the unknown.

Recruitment will be a key area during this process as EU migrants currently make up a significant part of the UK workforce. Last year, the Office for National Statistics revealed that EU workers make up over 20% of the labour force across 18 British industries. Yet with no Brexit deal struck so far, there remains little in the way of guidance for employers who rely on talent from the EU.

“The outcome of the government’s post-Brexit immigration policy, including the need for some form of low-skilled route, and the UK’s future trading relationship with the EU will be critical factors in determining employers’ decisions around relocation, investment and hiring."

- Gerwyn Davies, Senior Labour Market Analyst, CIPD


So how can HR develop talent strategies when so much is unknown?




Take stock of your existing skills base

The best place to start is by reviewing your current situation; you might be surprised by what you find.

A brand new study from the CIPD investigating skills in the UK found that 49% of those surveyed said their skills were not well matched to their jobs. This was either in the form of being over-qualified, over-skilled or not possessing the right skills for the role.

Over a quarter of those surveyed were over-qualified for their current role. This is particularly common among those with university degrees as many graduates have ended up working in non-graduate roles.

An even higher percentage (37%) reported that their skills are under-utilised in their current role, whilst 12% reported that they were lacking some of the skills needed to effectively carry out their role.

You may want to conduct a similar skills audit of your organisation’s workforce. This will give your staff the opportunity to seek out CPD if they need to develop their skills.

It will also allow you to see which staff are looking for more to do and could be promoted or take on more duties.

To get an accurate picture of the skills in your organisation, you might want to make it clear that staff won’t be penalised for being honest about their own skills. If you don’t, you’ll never be able to get true results as those who lack skills may lie for fear of being dismissed, and those who are over-skilled may lie for fear of being thought arrogant or ungrateful.



Create long-term plans in line with business priorities

Conducting research and studying workplace analytics will give you a good picture of your current skills base and if you have any gaps, but HR teams will also need to start evaluating what the long-term needs of the business will be.

Jon Addison, Head of Talent Solutions at LinkedIn UK, suggests that HR should be planning 6 to 12 months ahead and evaluating how they can meet the skills needs of their business.

This will mean keeping on top of what the key priorities are and what direction the organisation is going in. To do this effectively you’ll need to keep good communication with other departments, sharing your plans and asking them to reciprocate so that you’ll have all the information you need to make informed recruitment decisions.  


Recruiting new hires is not always the best option

If you’re panicking about not being able to hire new candidates post-Brexit to fill your skills gap, it should give you some comfort to know that hiring new staff isn’t always the right way to plug it.

Rather than rushing out to recruit, you should be thinking about learning and development first and providing training and support to make sure all employees are well-matched to their roles.

Remember those staff who felt over-skilled in their roles? Now is the time to give them the option to expand their duties and take on more responsibility.

If these staff feel confident they can take on more, there’s no reason to recruit someone new when you have capable people on hand who are already familiar with the business.

Make sure these staff are supported and are given any L&D they need to progress. Staff who feel fulfilled and supported in their role are less likely to want to leave and increasing your employee retention post-Brexit is a great way to avoid shortages in talent.



Show you’re a desirable employer

There will be certain roles that you find you still need to recruit for, so to attract the best candidates you’ll need to show why you’re a great company to work for. 

Here are a few ways that HR can do this:

  • Make the job description as clear as possible outlining the responsibilities of the role and the exact skills you’re looking for. Thinly written job descriptions can lead to a lot of candidates who don’t have the right skills and experience applying, which is a waste of everyone’s time - be very clear about what you need.
  • Use the job description to highlight any employee perks that you offer. This could be anything that shows that you value employee welfare from a flexible working policy to your commitment to learning and development.
  • Most candidates will do a bit of online research before applying so it’s a good idea to use your website to sell your employer brand. Consider adding a ‘working for us’ section which delves into the benefits you offer and shows testimonials from your current staff.

If all goes to plan and there is a transition period between March 29th 2019 and 31st December 2020, then freedom of movement to and from the EU will continue. So, at least for the immediate future you’ll be able to recruit from Europe in the same way if you need to.

However, a study by recruitment website Monster found that the number of EU residents actively looking for jobs in the UK has dropped by 11% since the referendum in 2016.

This could mean some talented candidates may have reservations about moving to the UK. So, if you find you need to look overseas for the talent you need, promoting why you’re an excellent employer far and wide will help you attract a diverse range of candidates.


More than ever HR will need to be agile in its approach to the future. The HR teams that will be best placed to deal with Brexit - however it pans out - will be those who thoroughly understand their organisation's needs and objectives, have planned ahead, have invested in their staff, and are able to be flexible in their approach as developments are made.


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