Whilst the triggering of Article 50 does not of itself bring about immediate changes, businesses can position themselves to respond with more agility by, amongst other things, laying the groundwork for future workforce planning now.

Three key areas of action include:

  • Risk analysis;
  • Recruitment proposition;
  • Brexit management capability.

Risk analysis

Of the many events that could have an influence on your staffing levels and your organisation’s ability to meet its objectives, Brexit-related changes are perhaps the largest on the horizon. An essential part of preparing for these eventualities is to carry out a risk assessment by way of deploying workforce planning tools, techniques and analytics.

The CIPD Autumn 2016 and Winter 2016-17 Labour Market Outlook have reported that 27% of EU nationals are considering leaving their organisations or the UK in 2017. Sectors such as hospitality, agriculture, retail, health and social work, construction and manufacturing which employ 56% of the 2.26 million non-UK EU nationals will feel the adverse impact more acutely if those plans to leave are realised. This is where an analysis of potential flight risks could be beneficial and timely to future proof your organisation.

Process model

This example model offers a great framework and insight into the data you should collect including conducting an external environmental scan. In Step 3, when reviewing your labour supply data and capability, you should conduct an assessment for the ease or difficulty in securing the supply of labour to cover both internal and external routes to hire. This assessment could include workplace demographic and consideration of potential retirees, attrition rates and reasons, the potential capability of the workforce to develop new skills, who can adapt to change and innovate, and who may be affected by the vote to leave the EU (potential flight risks).

Succession planning has predominantly focused on business critical leadership roles but if your organisation’s EU nationals (regardless of job family or level) dominate your pay bill and were to contemplate leaving the UK, this could create a significant gap in your workforce and leave your business exposed.

Once you know the numbers and people involved, you can turn to engagement as a strategy and increase efforts in this area. To allay concerns over job security, you could handle communication in a number ways:

  • An announcement on your intranet inviting people to talk informally to a member of your HR team;
  • A company-wide, ‘town hall’ meeting or live-stream address by members of your senior leadership team, discussing openly and signalling at this early stage the intention to secure employment for those potentially affected;
  • Briefing line managers on having simple one-to-one conversations on the potential implications of Brexit, particularly to help put concerns around job security to rest (further resources are available on our 'Employee engagement' topic page).

Alongside risk assessment and communications, businesses should also consider how they may be able to realise the full potential of their workforce through understanding and measuring the impact of people on business performance. This will lead to more strategic investment in people, a recognition of human capital as a fundamental element of business, and benefits to the employee from better opportunities and greater fulfilment at work (see our research on ‘Valuing your Talent’).

Other useful links

Recruitment proposition

In the competition for skills and labour, it will be particularly important to make your recruitment proposition as appealing as possible within available resources.

Businesses can make a push to increase social media activity to engage with and attract potential hires. Many organisations, especially SMEs, are missing this relatively inexpensive trick to increase their standing amongst bigger names and competitors due to lack of social interaction and effective branding (social media recruitment training is available here).

If your brand is lesser known, what strategies could be considered to drive people through to your website? You may wish to conduct an Employee Value Proposition (‘EVP’) exercise to look at strengthening the congruence of brand image, identity and reality.

In essence, EVP is the reward (or value) an employee gains from working for the employer. A simple EVP exercise would require an initial examination of 3 areas:

  1. How your current employees see your company (your identity)
  2. How the external market sees you as an employer (your image)
  3. How the leadership team sees the development of the company.

Alternatively, businesses can opt to write down — in a simple declarative sentence — what employees gain from working for their organisations (for further on EVP, see our ‘Employer Brand’ factsheet).

If exit from the single market means heavier migration restrictions in the future, this would reduce the number of overseas workers available. Coupled with research conducted by UKCES which outlines the need to fill 15 million positions by 2024 with only 3.3 million additional young people leaving schools and colleges, there will be a shortage of workers.

As businesses compete for a reduced pool of available workers over the coming years, one growing trend is to diversify recruitment base to hire from within those demographics that may be under-considered such as ex-military personnel, the long-term unemployed, or ex-offenders.


One pioneering organisation that has put the idea into practice is Auticon, an award-winning IT and compliance consulting business. The enterprise was the first to exclusively employ autistic adults as its consultants. It focuses on harnessing precisely the different skills and perspectives that people with autism bring, into a successful and profitable operation. CEO Ray Coyle has commented that such qualities, like outstanding pattern recognition, a uniquely logical and unbiased approach or the ability to maintain sustained concentration, lend themselves particularly well to certain IT functions.

This is a great example of resourceful application that at once successfully fulfils a business need and takes inclusion above and beyond regulatory requirements.

Brexit management capability

At this stage, it has yet to be established which pieces of employment legislation will be affected in the years ahead. Changes to the Working Time Regulations, TUPE, immigration policy and the tier system, discrimination compensation for injury to feelings and the latest call to remove ‘worker’ from the 3-tier employment relationship structure (a likely topic of discussion in our ‘What’s new in employment law’ 1-day course) may also be anticipated.

In any circumstance, organisations should aim to set aside resources to implement possible changes as well as to manage the transition, for example through the formation of an internal Brexit taskforce. HR professionals, who have a vital role in planning and landing change programmes within their organisations (see podcast ‘Landing transformational change’ and the ‘Managing and communicating change’ page on our Brexit hub), should take the initiative in calling this to their organisation's attention.

External links