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 the 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. 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.”

And this is even before you factor in highly skilled U.K nationals wanting to jump ship.

Interesting thoughts. What do you think?

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3 thoughts on “Post Brexit uncertainty starts talent drain

  1. Alastair

    Excellent article and comments where the truth is being spoken about what is now happening to the UK. I am just gutted by this.

    I have worked across a number of sectors including education and the arts. I was brought up around European culture; I went to a higher education institute in Germany and got my degree there. I have worked extensively in the Middle East where I was in the minority; I made friends there over a ten year working period in the Middle East. I’m a fluent German speaker and can get by in Spanish, French and Arabic. I have spent so much time around other cultures that I can only see multiculturalism as a positive.

    As a Scot I look at the UK in wonder and astonishment that such a thin could happen. Not even I would feel welcome in the UK. I am overseas at the moment. I had dreams of coming back to mainland Europe and settling there. Now all of this is in tatters. I feel so disillusioned in the people in the UK who have caused this. I wanted to be in the hears of Europe working and living and would end up stuck on a claustrophobic island where even hatred is being turned against the Scots.

    What has happened to the island calling it the ‘UK’ is now an oxymoron.

    1. Dorothy Dalton Post author

      Thanks Alastair for your comment. As a Brit who embraced the European experience and was disenfranchised, I am at a loss to know what the solution is. People seemed to be bracing themselves for immediate and dramatic negative repercussions and when that didn’t happen they think that everything is OK. What is happening is a gradual diminishing of “Brand Britain” as Brexit becomes associated with racism and xenophobia which will corrode over time. I am observing a gradual downslide rather than a single tumultuous event. One Czech candidate refused to engage in a search process because he wouldn’t want to be stuck on “that island” post Brexit. EU nationals in the UK report being harassed because of their accents. Recruiters on the ground are reporting spikes in enquiries of EU nationals wanting to leave the UK. This gets little coverage.

      The biased media coverage also doesn’t help. I sat in traffic on the M5/M6 recently for 7 hours and listened to R4 bias laden reporting on the BBC. It’s clear that there was no plan and while ego driven politicians scramble around trying to cobble something together the rest of EU looks on in amazement. It’s shambolic. I would love to to be able to come back in 2116 and see how 2016 is desribed by historians.

  2. Asianwomanleadership

    Ahead of the 10×6 Female Leadership event, which takes place on Wednesday, March 27, at the Tramsschapp Cultural Centre, one of the speakers, Djuna Bernard (Déi Gréng), shares her vision of leadership.


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