It’s nearly impossible to predict the ultimate economic and societal consequences of Brexit, but the current atmosphere of uncertainty has already created challenges for UK employers.
Nearly three-quarters of UK managers believe that Brexit will make it harder for businesses to acquire skilled employees, and research shows that skills shortages have already begun to negatively impact UK sectors that rely heavily on EU nationals.1 When current European Union freedom of movement rules come to an end, UK businesses may no longer have the same access to new migrant talent.
Moreover, existing employees may be disinclined to stay. According to research by Gartner HR, we are likely to see two trends during Brexit: a decline in employee engagement, with the most promising workers resigning, and an increase in problematic or unethical workplace behaviour.2 Therefore, every business must examine their retention strategies if they are to thrive during and after Brexit.
5 ways to retain talent during Brexit uncertainty
1. Make sure employees understand the EU Settlement Scheme
Under the EU Settlement Scheme, EU citizens and their families can currently apply to stay in the UK after Brexit. Those who have been in the UK for five years can apply for permanent settlement, and may then apply for British citizenship 12 months later. Those who have been here for less time may be eligible for pre-settled status.
This means that EU employees can remain in the UK and continue working in their existing jobs. However, employees need to make sure they submit their application in time. Consider holding workshops for all EU citizens in your company to ensure they comply with the settlement scheme requirements. The Government has created an employer’s toolkit, which is available for download at gov.uk, to help communicate with your employees about Brexit.
2. Boost employee engagement
During times of economic uncertainty, employees do not necessarily feel more loyalty towards their employers. In fact, the opposite sometimes occurs, especially if they feel under-valued or underpaid. To reduce turnover, you need to help your employees to feel more engaged with their work. Here are some quick tips to get you started:
- Foster transparency. Employees thrive in transparent, open work environments, so it’s crucial to facilitate good communication at all levels of your company. Hold company huddles where company updates are shared with everyone and leaders can answer employee questions. Request regular feedback from new and tenured employees via satisfaction surveys and Glassdoor reviews, and act on the feedback you receive.
- Provide avenues for career growth. Ensure your managers are checking with employees regularly about performance. Encourage two-way engagement, so that managers are also asking how they can best support their employees. Prioritise the personal and professional growth of your employees by considering hiring internally for open roles and providing assistance for employees considering a new career path.
- Offer flexible working options. A recent analysis in the journal Employee Relations concluded that “maintaining workplace flexibility is critical to retaining and attracting EU workers post-Brexit.” 3
- Celebrate your employees. A celebrated employee is an engaged employee. From marking employee milestones such as birthdays or work anniversaries to celebrating teams for their accomplishments with lunch or small gifts — a little recognition can go a long way.
- Evaluate your Employer Value Proposition (EVP). Are you providing employees with adequate compensation, a good work-life balance, and opportunities to advance in their career? If not, you are at risk of losing your best people.
3. Don’t put your best workers under too much pressure
A common mistake is to lean heavily on your best performers and highest-potential employees whilst failing to offer them appropriate compensation for their additional work. You can ask an employee to take on more responsibility during a difficult period, but may become dissatisfied and resentful if you take their efforts for granted. If you often find yourself asking high-performing employees to shoulder more than their fair share of work, you need to step back and evaluate your operation as a whole.
4. When somebody leaves, ask why
Where possible, hold an exit interview every time an employee resigns from the company. Their answers can help you make changes that help you retain your staff. For example, if a poor work-life balance is a common theme in your exit interviews, it’s time to look at how you assign work and assist overburdened employees.
5. Take a proactive approach to mental wellbeing
Research with EU immigrants working in the UK shows that ongoing uncertainty about Brexit is having a significant negative impact on their mental health.4 Stress and mental illness are the two most common reasons for absence in the workplace5 and are linked to increased turnover, so supporting those vulnerable to mental health problems benefits everyone.
There are several UK-based charities that help employers promote good mental health at work. By creating a safe space where mental illness isn’t a taboo subject, you can reduce workplace absenteeism and empower all employees to reach their full potential.
Navigating the post-Brexit landscape may prove difficult, but a strong talent retention strategy will give your business the best possible chance of thriving. By keeping your staff engaged and making a special effort to help EU employees remain in their jobs, you can look forward to a new period of stability.
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1The Adecco Group. (2018). Brexit: Retaining talent through change. adeccogroup.co.uk
2 Kropp, B. (2019). Expecting staff loyalty during Brexit? Think again. personneltoday.com
3 Ridgway, M. (2019). Brexit: human resourcing implications. Employee Relations: The International Journal.
4 LSE. (2019). No way to avoid Brexit: How it affects the mental health of EU migrants in Scotland. blogs.lse.ac.uk
5 MIND. (2013). Training and consultancy. mind.org.uk