Strategy & LeadershipWorking in an age of uncertainty: the impact of Brexit on a workforce

Working in an age of uncertainty: the impact of Brexit on a workforce

The outcome of Brexit will have a huge effect on the UK in the coming months, we look at what impact this is already having on the UK workforce.

With a Brexit deal still looming on the workforce in the UK, there are a number of workers who are sceptical and worried about their future employment due to a lack of clarity on their employer’s Brexit plans.

Recent research by Right Management has suggested that there is a lack of communication from employees to employers. The study examined the perspectives of employees in the UK to find that only 11% of employees said that their company had clearly communicated their Brexit plans to their employees.

“It’s important to keep in mind that Brexit is a process, not an event. These might be uncertain times, but the best businesses will use Brexit as an opportunity to examine and reassess talent strategies. This includes ensuring they have the right programmes in place to address skills gaps, build leadership pipelines and foster a culture that invests in employees’ careers,” commented David Duffy, General Manager, Right Management

With there being such a small amount of insights into the future of Brexit plans, and how this will impact every working individual, this has caused a large number of employees to severely worry about their future career progression, their increasing workloads in an attempt to save their businesses from collapse due to upcoming changes. 

This study further found that 33% of employees expected a freeze in pay and promotions after the UK leaves the EU. In addition to this, 54% said that this will put an additional amount of pressure on them. A concerning statistic was that only 38% of participants said that they were confident that their company will survive the coming Brexit. Furthermore, only 21% said that their company were prepared to turn the impact of Brexit into success.

When looking at how much of an impact these Brexit changes could have on HR leaders especially, Ian Williams, Director HR at the British Council discussed how this may change his and other roles in HR. “In the UK we’ve relied heavily on EU nationals, which opens us up to critical gaps depending on how the negotiations go because we can’t fill all these roles if the EU nationals prefer not to be here anymore, it’s just not possible.”

The report recommended 4 key actions for all organisations to take to plan for periods of uncertainty, such as Brexit.

These are:

Invest in people’s careers – from embedding career conversations into performance management to developing careers maps, take talent to the next level by rethinking career management strategies

Develop a coaching culture – identify the right coaching needs to support development planning and business goals simultaneously

Assess talent needs – plan to create a career focused culture that sustains success through your employees

Turn employees into leaders – use data-driven insight to develop and measure leadership effectiveness and ensure the right people, with the right skills, are in place to lead the organisation through a period of uncertainty

David finished by saying, “An organisation’s success or failure depends on its people. Periods of change, like Brexit, test both company and personal resilience. Rather than inadvertently drive talent elsewhere, management teams need to proactively engage with their workforce to positively align their career and talent strategies with business objectives. Although workers don’t expect management to predict the future political process, they will want to know what plans are in place to navigate these and how their careers might be affected.”

With 42% of UK workers saying that they prefered to have more clarity on how Brexit will impact that role. It is important for employers to engage this message with their workforce. An additional 26% of employees said that Brexit is a taboo topic to discuss with their management team. If organisations do struggle to handle this sensitivity of the topic at hand, this could negatively impact company culture and staff turnover.

Right Management worked with leading research agency Censuswide to survey 1,045 UK employees, in companies with a 1000+ headcount, to understand their perspectives on Brexit regarding their career development, what expectations they have of their employer in relation to Brexit, and whether their experiences measure-up. Respondents worked in various sectors including automotive, financial services, professional services, retail, hospitality, and healthcare.

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