UK firms struggling to secure talent before Brexit

Hannah Sims · 10 May

Employers in the UK are struggling to fill roles, according to a report that suggests more difficulties will follow in the wake of Brexit.

What does the research say?

Research by Willis Towers Watson stated that UK HR and reward executives are concerned that Brexit will cause ‘another workforce disruption’.

It revealed that more than half (59%) of HR executives surveyed in the UK say Brexit is just another disruption to be navigated as part of the normal course of business, while only 26% see it as a fundamental challenge to the way they operate.

Companies in financial services, leisure, retail and distribution are most likely to see the change as fundamental. With the outcome of those talks highly uncertain, the survey highlighted that HR professionals’ concern about the impact on talent retention and workforce planning remains high.

For 36% of companies, attracting and retaining EU nationals with specific skills in the UK has become more of a priority as a result of the referendum. A growing concern is the need to attract and retain a sufficient number of staff within the UK to meet business needs, expressed by 32% now versus 20% last July.

Similarly, recent research by the Recruitment and Employment Confederation (REC) found that UK firms are finding it hard to fill vacancies following the steepest deteriorations in candidate availability for 16 months. Prior to the restrictions that are expected on immigrants when the UK leaves the EU, organisations are fearful of skills shortages across roles including engineers, IT specialists, care workers and more.

REC’s report also stated that the jobs market saw vacancies continuing to rise in April for both permanent and temporary staff, despite growth in demand for both types of staff softening slightly since the previous month.

What does this mean?

Tamsin Sridhara, says: “Attracting and retaining specific talent groups remains a key issue for companies post Brexit, this affects not only high-profile categories such as scientists and technologists but also operational workers where demand outstrips supply such as HGV drivers in the retail sector and multilingual staff in customer service centres.

“The increased anxiety around the ability to attract and retain staff has coincided with the Government’s renewed commitment to exercise greater control over immigration post Brexit, which may have contributed to this change.”

In terms of talent-related activities, 24% have assessed the type and number of staff they needed in the UK and 29% were in the process of doing so. To fulfil those needs, 6% have reviewed their talent resourcing and pipeline in the UK, while 43% are in the process of doing so.

Kevin Green, REC’s chief executive commented: “Demand for staff is growing within all sectors and all regions of the UK, but there are fewer and fewer people available to fill the vacancies. We have the lowest unemployment rate since 2005, and people already in work are becoming more hesitant about moving jobs amid Brexit uncertainty. Meanwhile, the weakening pound and lack of clarity about future immigration rules is putting off some EU nationals from taking up roles in the UK.”


What should employers do?

At a time of so much uncertainty, it is important to remember that no changes have come into place yet. Although it is expected to have some impact on businesses, so it is essential that employees are kept in the loop. Organisations need to provide employees with assurance and job security by being transparent and communicating effectively with their workforce.

Three things to consider:

  1. Take time to understand the bigger picture

Over the next few months, we will be inundated with information from the government, trade bodies and expert commentators. HR and management are going to need to allocate time and resources to consider the unique ramifications for their business and act rationally accordingly.

  1. Help employees to make sense of it all

Reassure the team and your employees that there will be no immediate ramifications. Encourage them to ask questions. Understanding is the key to navigating uncertain environments.

  1. Open the lines of communication

Management must be openly expressive of their ideas and thoughts, particularly on the topics where the greatest feelings of uncertainty lie: employment law, migration, job markets and pensions. Ensure that the communication stream between you and your team is two way.

To tackle the talent and employee acquisition issue, employers need to do more. These days, a job’s about more than just a salary. Your employees want to know their hard work is valued too.

Perkbox helps you offer your team something a bit different – something that sets your business apart from the competition. Employees want work-life balance, learning and development opportunities, a sense of inclusion in the business and reward and recognition for the work they put in. Perkbox helps to do just that through the great perks and discounts, the reward and recognition platform and the wellness hub.

To find out more about what we do, visit here or alternatively call us on 0208 396 6812.

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