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Getting to Grips with the Likelihood of a No Deal Brexit

Published 1st Oct 2019

Getting to grips with the likelihood of a no deal Brexit

No matter how you feel about Brexit, or the way it’s been handled (which is certainly something most of us have views on including our MD, Kate, who was fortunate enough to get to air her thoughts on Radio 5 a few months back!) as things stand it looks like we’re leaving the European Union on October 31st and it’s going to be a no deal departure.

Like it or not, we need to handle what comes our way as best we can in the circumstances but as this Institute of Directors’ report says it’s been a pretty challenging task. Some businesses and organisations have committed significant resources to mitigate the numerous scenarios they (and we) could end up facing. Others have taken a more cautious wait-and-see approach, understandably reluctant to devote a lot of planning and resources to ‘what if’ scenarios.  The reality is, however, we probably only have weeks left. Businesses need to get themselves as ready as they can to cope with whatever the realities of Brexit turn out to be.

While there’s an awful lot we don’t know, there’s plenty we do

…Or at least we know enough to make some rational assumptions. For companies who conduct business within other EU countries, there’s a frankly breath-taking raft of issues to get to grips with: exporting paperwork, supply chain impacts, moving goods across borders, business travel, how personal data will continue to be treated and so on. The government’s currently running a series of workshops for businesses to help them work their way through all the issues.

What about people management? The most immediate priorities are obviously for businesses that employ EU citizens or have UK citizens working for them in the EU.  With free movement and right to work statuses affected, most businesses will already have been working with employees to take the necessary steps. But it’s going to affect retention. Some EU citizens may not be able to attain settled status, or may decide they want to move on from the UK. Employers need to be talking to them to get to grips with their intentions and pin down if there’s any help they can provide.

It also has significant implications for recruitment. It’s likely the UK will be a far less appealing destination for EU citizens. That’ll almost inevitably hit skills and the talent pool available meaning competition will become fiercer for the best talent out there.

It’s more essential than ever to have succession and development plans in place

What this is all pointing to is the need for businesses to have effective talent, succession and development plans in place. This has always been important. But it’s more vital than ever now.

How regularly do you review the performance, potential and aspirations of your employees? Do you know which skill areas require developing for business growth? Are you forecasting movement as accurately as possible? Do you have a plan to attract new employees? Are you doing enough to develop your own people – both to meet their aspirations and to ensure you have the skills you need in the business?

Of course, investing in people has always mattered, inside or outside of the EU. But our reliance on bringing certain skills in from the EU has meant as a nation we’ve tended to underinvest in our capacity to develop our own. Brexit is exposing this. Addressing it will mean education policy changes at the top but it also means companies need to get more creative about the ways they’re developing employees (think coaching, internal mentoring, collaboration technology…). Budgets are not endless but failing to invest means increasing the risk of poor performances or losing talent – both of which are even more costly.

However businesses feel about the referendum result, and how the process has played out ever since, we are where we are. Planning to manage the effects of Brexit is important as is remembering it isn’t simply about mitigating the feared downsides, it’s also about being ready to grab the opportunities it creates. As specialists in change and transformation consultancy we can help you do that, so please do get in touch if you’d like some support.

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