How to succeed in HR post-Brexit

news article

Posted:
Mar 13 2019

Since the word referendum was first uttered by David Cameron in  2016, the country has embarked upon one of the most uncertain economic times in modern history. But what has added to the Brexit confusion for many, has been the continued ups and downs surrounding exactly what is going to happen going forward.

Succeeding in HR post-Brexit

To say with any real certainty how the workplace will be affected, both long and short term, is therefore difficult. Brexit represents the latest major external force at play- not just in business, but also in society. And whilst we cannot control the decisions made in Parliament, we can plan for different eventualities. Endeavouring to remain one step ahead of external market forces means that, whilst these forces are always at play, the savviest of organisations can anticipate them, address them and look to the future.

Those with Human Resources responsibilities need to acknowledge and embrace the role they play in keeping the workforce energised, focused and resilient. Unfortunately, and especially in the context of Brexit, there probably isn’t a quick fix or a simple checklist, but with the right mindset, there is far more chance that you can succeed.

What should you be conscious of right now in relation of Brexit? 

Workforce planning 

The economic uncertainty that has arisen as a result of Brexit means that the need for a better grip on workforce planning is now even more significant. If you struggle to quantify how many employees you have in work right now, it could well be even more of a struggle to triangulate all of the external data factors that will influence your wider recruitment needs in 12 months’ time.

There are a number of key questions that you, as an HR professional, need to be asking right now. If you find that the answers are difficult to deduce, we would advise you to raise them as urgent matters on your boardroom agenda. These include:

  • What is the likely impact on demand for your company’s products/services, post-Brexit?
  • Could your business actually become busier after Brexit?
  • Are there any risks to the continuity of your supply chain relationships?
  • Are all individual employee HR records fully up to date?
  • What proportion of your workforce is made up of non-UK EU nationals?
  • How do existing employees score in terms of engagement levels?
  • What is your workforce flight risk?
  • What does your resourcing budget look like?
  • Does your organisation have a succession planning strategy?

When armed with the evidential answers to such questions, it is far easier to conduct scenario planning that will inform what needs to happen next in terms of resourcing.

Legislation

Remaining abreast of ever-evolving employment legislation is no mean feat for HR professionals, and Brexit has only compounded the headaches and concerns for many. Published guidance to date has stressed that major changes are unlikely, but obviously nothing is conclusive as yet.

Following the Brexit vote, the commitment was made that employment legislation from Europe would be integrated into UK law, and so as it stands, you should not expect any immediate or significant changes as a result of Brexit. However, there are some changes on the horizon that you should be ready for:

From April 2019

  • Payslips must be provided to both employees and workers (currently only required for those with employee status).
  • Where an employee or worker’s pay varies according to their hours, their payslips must include the total number of hours worked.

From April 2020

  • Employees will be entitled to receive a statement of terms of employment from their first day in a role
  • Workers will also be entitled to a statement of their key terms from their first day in a role
  • Parents who suffer a child bereavement will be entitled to take up to two weeks of paid parental bereavement leave.
  • Employees who have worked more than six months on variable hours will be able to request a more stable working pattern, such as a guaranteed number of hour or days per week.
  • Holiday pay will have to be based on average pay calculated over a full 52 week period.

Pensions 

The world of pensions is constantly changing, and not just because of Brexit. Specialist advice should always be sought in relation to specific Payroll business queries, but some useful points on any changes post-Brexit have been raised.

UK workplace pensions tend to operate on a national basis, but currently, the Parliament website highlights that the regulatory framework for pensions acts at EU level. Whilst this means that generally, UK schemes are looking to provide pensions to people in this country, it doesn’t mean that they don’t want access to investment opportunities in the EU and further afield. And, of course, a strong economy will influence the performance of such investments.

From a HR professional’s perspective, due diligence should therefore be carried out to consider and minimise any potential impact on pension provision, and to ensure that the impact of any post-Brexit volatility is clearly communicated to employees.

Our other tips include:

  • Remaining in close contact with your scheme provider
  • Select a trusted resource that will publish need-to-know updates as they happen
  • Keep employees in the loop, and ensure clear communication levels remain open

Recruitment

Recruitment, especially when sourcing and attracting international talent, has become extremely difficult for many UK companies.

Indeed, research by Adecco has found that 70 percent of UK managers fear that Brexit will make certain skillsets much harder to recruit for. The importance of more considered workforce planning efforts is therefore paramount. You may also wish to consider talent pools that you have not previously tapped into – these could include retired individuals, experts hired for specific projects, or freelance workers.

Working with contractors on a freelance basis also allows you to benefit from a variety of expert help on specific projects, provide flexible working terms to workers and employees, and also provide the ability for people to effectively ‘try before they buy’ into your workplace in a longer term or permanent role.

Employee engagement

So many aspects of workplace success boil down to having robust lines of communication in place. Supporting employees during uncertain times really does require a commitment to communication, as people naturally wish to remain as informed as possible. HR can play a key part in fostering and promoting this dialogue.

As an HR manager, you should consider four key engagement enablers:

  1. A strong strategic narrative – a story that everyone understands and can play a part in
  2. Engaging managers – to ensure that vision and strategy are successfully executed
  3. Creating an environment where employee voices matter and travel through the organisation
  4. Promoting high levels of integrity, where values are reflected in the behaviour of all staff

In the 12-18 months following the Brexit referendum result, engagement levels fell by 3 points across the UK – the largest recorded decrease amongst the world’s 29 biggest economies. Uncertainty is therefore a major negative trigger for human beings and their wellbeing, as typically employees do not function well in an environment where is a high degree of uncertainty. After all, minimal investment, an aversion to growth planning, a scarcity mindset and being ‘on call’ for crisis management are not particularly motivating reasons to get out of bed on a morning!

The role of technology

Systems, processes and automation can play a pivotal role in HR professionals lives amidst Brexit – technology can genuinely act as a valuable change management aid. In the context of Brexit, the implementation of technology can therefore result in three-tiered benefits:

  • Operational or transactional, such as improved efficiencies, reduced costs, and/or the alleviation of administrative pressures.
  • Relational, such as more widespread access to data, which could be achieved via self service, and which will help to continually monitor the ‘temperature’ of the workforce.
  • Transformational, such as the greater ability to support remote workers, streamline processes and policies, and enact positive business change.

What are the over-arching priorities for HR to be aware of right now?

  • Create a positive mindset, allowing your company to become more equipped to leverage opportunities that arise as a result of Brexit.
  • Address ‘here and now’ issues, as economic volatility has and will continue to impact on your business operations.
  • Look longer term, so that scenario planning can encourage change within your business, if and where required. After all, it is always better to be prepared.

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