After Brexit, investment in people will be more important than ever

Britain’s departure from the EU brings with it many unknowns, says Sarah Jones, but that’s even more reason to up your L&D efforts

There’s no doubt that Britain is facing uncertainty but, whatever your opinion, there’s one thing we should all be united in protecting: the investment and development of our people.

Brexit is having an impact, and will continue to do so for some time. Constant headlines are creating unavoidable niggles at the back of people’s minds as they are faced with fluctuating exchange rates, food shortage warnings and variable costs.

Businesses are being told to plan, with Unilever hitting the front pages earlier this year when it admitted to stockpiling Magnums in the event of a national shortage, and we are already looking at hikes in food prices, with Asda increasing its own-label prices back in May.

Most worryingly, perhaps, is that despite all the planning discussions taking place regarding stock, currency and manufacturing, new discussions are opening up regarding job cuts, hire freezes and office relocations. Jaguar Land Rover hit the headlines earlier this year with plant closures and job cuts, blaming Brexit for the unpopular business decision.

There is also a risk that the UK is going to become a less attractive destination following Brexit, thanks to the challenges that people throughout the EU will face. It is highly possible that the UK will experience a decline in the number of EU citizens coming here looking to work, resulting in a limited talent pool. 

Understandably, people are worried. 

The problem is further compounded when your team members start to become mere numbers on a spreadsheet. When that happens, it’s time to take a step back and think about your team. After all, in Brexit terms, where do we stand when it comes to investing in our people – both in retaining existing colleagues and acquiring new ones? 

According to a Michael Page study of millennials, the younger market of jobseekers value purpose over pay check, and seek out training and development as one of their key requirements when searching for a new role.  And don’t forget that younger workers, when compared with the older generations, are far more likely to move between companies if they don’t feel their needs are being met.

The only way to win in this uncertain environment is to ensure you recruit the best of the best, and develop and upskill your existing employees to promote retention. Now is the time for your business to be increasingly competitive when it comes to your people strategy.

According to the UK L&D Report 2019, 76 per cent of companies that use learning and development to take on new hires believe it gives their organisation a competitive advantage as people are becoming more invested in their own professional development and job security for the future.

Of course, we cannot ignore the obvious obstacles that come when deciding to invest in our people – mainly centred around budgets and the productivity of the team in relation to their day-to-day jobs. After all, training days may be popular and may motivate your team, but this must understandably be balanced with the need to meet targets and focus on the success of the business. But organisations looking to make it to the top of their industries are increasing their L&D spend – there’s no other way around it. 

It comes down to which skill areas need to be developed to ensure business growth, and what new strategies need to be put in place to operate effectively, while ensuring your existing talent pool remains motivated and committed to your company.

With Brexit bringing with it many unknowns, now has never been a better time to ensure you have a competitive and stable training and development strategy, including:

  • Internal mentoring. This can help bolster employee engagement, while also supporting leadership skills within the mentor themselves. When selecting a mentor you will ideally choose someone from a cross-functional team who can offer a different perspective on challenges across the business.
  • Upskill through training and development programmes. This can range from group training to individual training and includes your apprenticeship levy. Showing your staff you have a clear development training programme is highly motivational and shows them you care about their progression.
  • Accelerating leadership. Focus on how your managers can lead and develop their own staff by harnessing the functions and requirements of their department. 

Sarah Jones is a consultant at Blueprint Management Consultants