Brexit Blueprint: Top five tips on labour supply and workforce planning

            Having concluded our Brexit Blueprint: Labour Supply events, in both London and Manchester, we thought it would be useful to summarise the key lessons learned from our thought provoking and insightful panel.

            Date: 14/12/2017

            Recruiting the right talent post-Brexit is a major concern for UK businesses.  With reports of European Union (EU) citizens returning home in their masses, workforce planning and labour supply is a top priority.   Brexit planning cannot be carried out in a vacuum and it is necessary to consider wider workforce issues such as the economy, generational forces, atypical work, the effects of technology (including AI and the digital economy) and last but not least globalisation.  Employers need to take a holistic view of their workforce and plan now to ensure a labour shortfall does not impact on their future business. 

            The following are our five tips on workforce planning pre-Brexit:

            1. Audit your workforce and update records

            Carry out a risk assessment to determine the impact of Brexit on your labour supply.  How many EU nationals do you have working for you?  Do you have any UK employees working in the EU?  Identify those who will need to regularise their immigration/settlement status in the future (EU and non-EU nationals). 

            Even if you do not rely on EU nationals, consider the impact of Brexit on the wider labour market which could have a knock on effect on your own talent pool. 

            2. Recruit and retain. 

            Ensure your business is the preferred place to work.  Reward schemes, career progression, loyalty bonuses and strong values are all key to achieving this.  Recruiting and retaining the best talent takes serious investment and employee engagement must certainly not be overlooked, particularly when labour supply is a concern. 

            Realise the full potential of your workforce.  Ensure efficiencies are in place and performance is maximised through robust and fair performance management.  Provide as much job security as you can. 

            Consider diversifying your recruitment strategy to ensure you make the most of the talent pool available.  How strong is your social media presence?  Do you have a social media recruitment strategy?  Making use of sites such as Facebook and LinkedIn can be an inexpensive way of recruiting labour. 

            3. Assistance for EU nationals

            There is much uncertainty surrounding Brexit, however it is within every employer's control to provide their workforce with the comfort that they will do everything they can to support the individual through the process. 

            • The Government has provided a useful guide for UK employers and EU citizens entitled Rights of EU Citizens in the UK.  The guide provides much needed comfort on the UK's stance and may help to allay fears that EU citizens are not wanted in the UK and will not be looked after. 
            • Communicate with your workforce.  Send intranet messages, arrange business wide meetings and brief line managers on the clear message that EU citizens will be supported.
            • Proactively explore options that may be available for those staff i.e. possible pre-Brexit citizenship for qualifying EU nationals, indefinite leave to remain applications for points based system employees.  Put in place staff support programmes to assist in securing settlement at Brexit or during the transitional period.

            4. Succession planning

            What strategies can be implemented to deal with the labour supply shortage? 

            • Alternative resources for labour provision.  Consider tapping into overlooked talent pools such as: those in retirement, disabled people (making full use of Access to Work), ex-military and ex-offenders.
            • Technology.  Can working practices be streamlined to maximise efficiency?  What use can be made of automation?  Businesses which can innovate, diversify and adapt to change will stay one step ahead. 

            5. Brexit ready.

            Businesses should prepare and plan ahead. 

            Now is the time for workforce planning and reviewing the potential impact of Brexit.  If you haven't already done so consider appointing an employee focused Brexit working group.  Having a team of people who are responsible for managing the impact of Brexit on the business is advisable.  Not only can they help filter information to the business on key immigration announcements, they can also help prepare the business for any changes to employment legislation which may be on the horizon.


            One theme which came out of our Brexit Blueprint: Labour Supply events is that businesses should "control the controllable".   Although this phrase can be used in many contexts, its significance in a pre-Brexit environment is paramount.  The UK Government has the unenviable task of negotiating a deal with the EU and this transitional period inevitably creates a large amount of uncertainty.  Like it or not UK businesses cannot change the status quo.  What businesses can do is engage with their people to ensure labour supply is not a significant issue and the business is not left exposed. 

            Employees are known to be a businesses' key asset, employee engagement has never been more fundamental.  Businesses that are able to innovate, adapt and engage their people will find themselves in an advantageous position post-Brexit.   By carrying out workforce planning now businesses can ensure they remain in control rather than having to deal with a potential labour shortage crisis further down the line.

            Related people

            Jonathan Branton

            • Partner // Head of Public Sector // Head of EU Competition

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