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Your post-Brexit team: a force for the future?

Your post-Brexit team

Securing your pipeline of world-class talent calls for careful planning – and plenty of imagination – says Tim Payne, Head of People and Change.

Tim Payne

Partner, People Consulting

KPMG in the UK


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Your post-Brexit team: a force for the future?

No one knows how Brexit will look in 18 months’ time. For many businesses, that uncertainty is intensified by a very real concern about the potential number of highly qualified EU staff currently in the UK who might head home – or be deterred from coming here at all. 

Our recent survey on the intentions of EU nationals showed that some 35% of those we interviewed are considering leaving the UK. And it’s the young and highly educated – the most economically desirable – who are most likely to up sticks: for example, some 39% of those with postgraduate degrees and 50% of those with doctorates are seriously thinking about developing their careers elsewhere.

Firms which rely on top flight expertise – in, say, IT, engineering, scientific research or financial services – simply can’t afford to wait, fingers crossed and hoping for the best. And neither, furthermore, can those who rely on lower skilled EU staff, particularly in hospitality, agriculture and retail. 

The key to securing the quality of your post-Brexit workforce lies in putting in place a clearly-defined strategy – and starting the process right now. 

Step 1. Undertake detailed workforce scenario planning and modelling

Businesses need to ensure they have options, whatever happens after March 2019. From a workforce perspective, that means:

  • Understanding your current workforce in the UK. Ask yourself, for example, where you are exposed.  In which areas are your succession plans reliant on EU nationals? Which key roles do they fill?  And where do you have critical reliance on pools of EU nationals? 
  • Interrogating your current operating model to assess the level of expertise you need to sustain it – and the number of people required. Such decisions, of course, need to be made against a backdrop of cost challenges, including pressure from the minimum wage, the gender pay gap and the Apprenticeship Levy.   
  • Deciding whether outsourcing could be stepped up – or a more flexible, contingent workforce may help.
  • Investigating in detail how and where workforce gaps might also arise for your suppliers and customers.

Step 2. Investing in training and development at local level

With a clear flight risk in some sectors that rely heavily on highly-qualified EU staff, businesses can and should turn their attention to developing the young potential right on their doorstep.

  • Initiatives such as the Apprenticeship Levy offer a springboard to nurture a new generation of skills and talent in a collaborative way.
  • Business can play an active role in working with local schools and colleges to help build relationships and focus on the capabilities required.
  • Investing in the development of existing employees, helping them to retrain if necessary, may provide a solution to emerging talent gaps.

Step 3. Be proactive and imaginative in sourcing talent internationally

Up until this point, employers have taken for granted a steady supply of high quality staff attracted to a career in the UK. The vote for Brexit has changed that landscape. 

  • Consider whether the work that used to be performed here could be performed outside of the UK.  Are there other existing offices or locations that could be used?
  • Are there other non-EU countries which are hotspots for the kind of talent you need?  Could you source from there – and if so, what would your strategy be?

Step 4. Harnessing the power of innovation to transform your business

Innovations such as robotics, artificial intelligence and the gig economy could well play a major role in making up for a shortfall in the UK’s skilled EU workforce. As we enter the fourth industrial revolution, the very nature of many of our jobs – at all levels and across most sectors – is starting to change. Maybe Brexit will be a catalyst for thinking differently about the nature of work? Thinking through the future shape and size of your workforce, regardless of Brexit, will allow you start to evolve your current workforce in creative directions.

Boasting the best of the best

What will the team of 2025 look like? If you start planning your post-Brexit workforce now, in an imaginative and strategic way, you’ll be able to build a globally competitive team for the new business opportunities that lie ahead.

© 2020 KPMG LLP, a UK limited liability partnership, and a member firm of the KPMG network of independent member firms affiliated with KPMG International Cooperative, a Swiss entity. All rights reserved.

KPMG International Cooperative (“KPMG International”) is a Swiss entity. Member firms of the KPMG network of independent firms are affiliated with KPMG International. KPMG International provides no client services. No member firm has any authority to obligate or bind KPMG International or any other member firm vis-à-vis third parties, nor does KPMG International have any such authority to obligate or bind any member firm.

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