Category Archives: Brexit

Post Brexit Recruitment

Post Brexit recruitment from the pointy end

As a Brit who embraced the European experience I am having a bit of an existential crisis. Post Brexit has been traumatic for many, but none more so than those Brits who live in the E.U.  I feel as if I am living in a parallel universe as every value I held dear is being changed out, reneged on, obliterated, and evaded. I read that a new disorder has been identified as Political Anxiety Disorder. I’m sure I have it! Post Brexit recruitment is already being impacted and I’m not sure how evident this is yet to decision makers. But at the pointy end – we are already seeing a shift.

Disconnect

The disconnect between the powers that be and what’s really going on is a major stand out issue for me. There was an expectation that life as many of us knows it would stop after June 23rd 2016 and there would be a tsunami of devastation. But anyone with half a brain knows that unless it is a tsunami or other meteorological disaster, negative change tends be a corrosive slow drip effect over time, rather than a sea change swell. It has a slow build up and like the 2008 recession, the impact is lasting. Many of us could feel the rumbles of down turn months before Lehman Brothers folded. We just didn’t know why. Now we do.

Anyone on the ground dealing with E.U. candidates, whether at home or in the U.K., knows that fall-out is building up.  Not only is there a reduction in job postings in many sectors in the UK, but it’s also getting harder to attract skilled  E.U. nationals as candidates for British based openings.

After talking to fellow headhunters and recruiters who work internationally, we are all making the same observations about the post Brexit recruitment situation. It obviously varies from sector to sector and the level of seniority. But for mid to senior levels of executive search this is the feedback we are encountering.

  • Brand Britain is damaged  

The reputation of the U.K. as a quirky and diverse career destination has been dented. The U.K. press may not report all the issues that have happened to E.U. citizens, but their stories of harassment and abuse are being recounted to the media in their home countries and getting traction. Based in Brussels, I had heard of the ill-treatment of  Eastern Europeans in the U.K via European media sources, long before my British colleagues had the faintest inkling.  One Czech candidate told me “I wouldn’t want to be stuck on that island post Brexit.”  

There is no doubt that Britain is developing a reputation as a culture where racism is embedded.  Some say it has always been there. Others believe that the xenophobic nature of the Brexit campaign has fuelled it. This does not only apply to Eastern Europeans or blue-collar workers. Senior executives of all nationalities report negative reactions and some express concerns for their children in school.

The fall out will be particularly felt In sectors where there is a skill set shortage with a reliance on non-U.K nationals to fill the gaps.

Read: Post Brexit Talent Drain 

  • Hard Brexit protection

One  of the concerns of candidates contemplating a transfer or applying for a new job in the UK is what will happen if a hard Brexit impacts them. Will they have to pay for a visa or even have to repatriate?  Recruiters are starting to be asked for clauses in their contracts to cover negative contingencies such as a visa support and repatriation.

  •  Salary protection 

Another concern is the current drop in the value of the pound, but also other volatile currency shifts. Many candidates have financial commitments in currencies other than they one they maybe paid in and are looking for salary hedging clauses. Candidates currently paid in sterling with commitments in Euro have seen a recent negative impact on net income.

  • Protection of other rights  

Prof Alan Vaughan Lowe QC a leading barrister who specialises in international public law told a House of Lords panel last month that it was “inconceivable” that the employment laws would survive entirely intact. He maintains that there is  “zero chance EU citizens in UK will keep same rights post-Brexit”  This massive level of uncertainty makes candidates wonder what they should be looking for from employers if they transfer internally within an organistion to the U.K. and where they stand longer term. The lack of clarity is creating a culture of uncertainty, which always  deals a damaging blow to any business or economy.

Not unsurprisingly the reverse situation does not seem to apply, in my experience at least. To date I can report no concerns from candidates contacted to relocate to Europe and even an increase in numbers open to international assignments.

If your company struggles to identify and attract the right candidates,for all executive search requirements contact me.

 

talent drain

Post Brexit uncertainty starts talent drain

The business world is trying to make sense of the implications of Brexit in a world now characterized by uncertainty. It was clear that this shock result, from which we are still reeling, was so unexpected that almost no one had a post Brexit plan. Against many unknown factors, businesses are trying to create strategies for changes which will significnatly impact the workplace. Practises related to E.U. rather than U.K. legislation, will be examined as new agreements are set up. Some experts are saying this could take up to 5 years.  One of the major elements will be the rights of E.U. workers in the U.K. and U.K. workers in the E.U. But what had not been anticipated is an immediate talent drain as skilled workers seek early voluntary repatriation or relocation to other parts of the E.U.

Yep. That’s right – some people actually want to leave now! Can you believe that?

Overall picture

The highly emotional and divisive referendum campaign and brexit shockthe subsequent leadership debacle, dealt a savage and damaging blow to Brand Britain on the global market. We now live in a new age of uncertainty. The CIPD reports that in general, 44% of working adults say they feel pessimistic about the future as a result of the UK’s vote to leave the EU, while one in five say they feel their job is less secure. Unfortunately, in the wake of this, we have witnessed an astonishing and aggressive xenophobic backlash against non-UK nationals studying, living and working in the U.K. Many European nationals are now reporting “feeling unwelcome” in a country which they have made their home, some for many years.

The U.K. government has made some half-hearted attempts to allay the fears of E.U. residents in the U.K. With a lack of definitive statements, many are unconvinced. Head hunters and recruiters are reporting increased numbers of spontaneous CVs and applications from individuals looking to leave the U.K, – now, or as soon as possible. This is also my experience.

The Talent Drain

What seems surprising is that no one factored in a potential talent drain before the referendum.  It should have been evident that if politicians run divisive campaigns based on hate, specifically targeting non-U.K. residents, the U.K. will be perceived as (and even become) a less attractive place to seek employment for workers who have choice. By this I mean those with strong transferable or difficult to find and attract skills.

The UK Commission for Employment and Skills’ (UKCES) Employer Skills Survey 2015 of 91,000 employers has already reported a chronic skill shortage even before the referendum.  The people who are reconsidering their positions are people who can go anywhere. In the mean time the talent drain has started.  Other E.U. nationals who might have had their eye on a U.K posting particularly London, are now re-thinking their career strategies.

What is behind this talent drain?  

These are just the comments I’ve had to indicate a potential talent drain.

  • Uncertainty: a Commodities Analyst with a Spanish based London bank suggested that “the U.K. is showing a post Brexit slow down. Uncertainty and a lack of confidence are damaging for everyone in the short-term. For my career, it would be better to move to another European financial services centre. I speak German and French so could move to Paris or Frankfurt. Dublin would also be a possibility. It’s anticipated that some Banks will move their whole operations so I may wait a while and see what happens , but I have sent my CV out. The current atmosphere is depressing and gloomy.”
  • Xenophobia:  a French strategy manager with a global logistics company said “there is definite backlash against foreigners now, which was whipped up hysterically before the vote and is being fuelled even now by a partisan press. I can handle it fine, but the kids are being targeted in school for their French accents and that’s not O.K. It’s not just against low paid Poles.”  A German account manager also reported abusive comments and being told to “go home.”   This is apparently rife. 
  • Fear of housing market collapse: others who have bought property in the U.K. particularly the South East at premium prices are concerned about a possible fall in house prices leaving them in a negative equity situation, especially as the pound has fallen to the lowest it’s been in years. They see an early departure as vital.
  • Concern about new requirements:  many would rather leave now voluntarily, than be made to go in two  or five years’ time. This would be dependent on the type of trade deals that are  negotiated and there are concerns.
  • More openings now:  there is a feeling that there would be more international openings in other E.U. centres now, rather than later. There might also be less competition for those jobs.
  • Concern about reduced conditions: a Marketing Director from Stockholm indicated concerns about employment conditions deteriorating “The only way the U.K can offer advantages to international organisations is to offer greater tax breaks (already happening) and greater flexibility with employment conditions. This will work in favour of the employer. I anticipate a loss of employment protection similar to the type of systems in place in the U.S. which would be negotiated with a T.T.I.P. deal. We could see a shift to very exploitive employment practises I fear.”           
  • Citizenship: with the question of  the right to work under investigation, perhaps requiring British citizenship, the uncertainty around this issue is a concern for some. They would want to maintain dual citizenship so they could work in the U.K. and Europe.

What did they expect?

A Belgian research scientist told me “There is no doubt that a hostile environment has been created by the politicians and press during the referendum campaign against multiculturalism. Beneath the British veneer of outward civility, it’s obvious now there is a seething layer of resentment towards foreigners which has become clear to non-Brits in the last month.  Although I am not a direct target-(yet) the U.K. is just not an easy place to be at the moment for overseas workers or students.” 

Over the next months we will find out how things play out. Currently everyone seems to be carefully treading water. A more cynical H.R. analyst suggested that those E.U. nationals with strong skills will eventually be able to command premium salaries in the U.K.. “Most politicians have no idea of the true level of skill set shortage in the U.K. Brexit was not expected and almost no one had a plan.  Individuals should just bide their time. By 2020 if anyone leaves the U.K., they will probably be able to return at even higher salaries. And for anyone currently paid in Euros or dollars – they are already ahead.”

Interesting thought. What do you think?