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Human Capital Planning in the Wake of Brexit


The flood of political departures in the wake of the recent Brexit decision has made the impact that an unexpected loss of human capital can have on an organization, abundantly clear. Employee loss can occur in several ways, including death, termination, and family leave. With global personnel turnover averaging an estimated 30% annually and costing 30% of an employee’s remuneration package, the financial risk is measurable. What is often overlooked are the risks to competitive advantage, intellectual property, and an organization’s reputation. While turnover is a normal and unavoidable part of doing business, organizations can minimize the impact with careful planning.

The potential impact to organizations based in the UK is particularly high following the Brexit event. The Business Continuity Institute estimates that of the 33 million people currently working in the UK, as many as 2.5 million are citizens from neighboring European countries. While the full number of leavers won’t be fully known until the UK completes exit negotiations with the EU, it would be prudent for these organizations to implement plans and mitigating controls now, to reduce the impact. The skill levels required to deliver products and services will vary, but it is reasonable to expect that the more complex and unique the service, the greater the threat of an impact of the loss of the skilled personnel required by the organization. Replacing these skilled workers could be made even more difficult if the post exit agreement restricts freedom of movement into the UK. All of this will be made even more complex by what is sure to be new employment regulations to follow.

All of this uncertainty makes effective planning and communication with personnel even more important than usual. In order to alleviate disruption, management can start by taking the following actions.

Regular communications

In the age of social media and “alternative” news sources, the risk of negative information can leave employees feeling insecure and more likely to leave for safer shores. This increases the need for regular, proactive, and factual communication with your staff. Releasing regular internal emails and intranet posts, and holding weekly Q&A sessions will allow for a free flow of information and reduce the threat of false rumors that tend to spread in isolated forums.

Key function cross training

Where possible, set aside time in the daily work process to have related functions cross train. This will allow for a smoother transition and reduce the impact of the departure of key personnel. Many organizations have programs in place requiring cross training of key functions, to you I say bravo. The rest of you, it’s not too late to implement this strategy, which will benefit everyone during periods of turn over.

Knowledge transfer as part of exit process

Prior to collecting the personnel’s access card, it is important to spend as much time “downloading” all information critical to the delivery of products and services. This information may be in different formats, for example, process flows, account access, and client contact details. So many times, I have seen organizations rush people out the door more concerned with avoiding legal issues resulting from inappropriate termination, only to later find out that the viability of the function is negatively impacted due to the loss of information required to maintain it.

These suggestions are low hanging fruit that can be implemented in a fairly reasonable amount of time, but this is just the start. Planning requires business impact and risk analysis to ensure the most appropriate strategies are implemented to meet your organization’s specific requirements. The result should include an effective people plan that includes input from key internal groups such as human resources, legal, and business continuity.

Relationships change, people grow, ambitions evolve, this is unavoidable. Planning for these events won’t stop that, but it will make managing the impact an ordinary course of business.

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