Deal or no deal, the UK’s departure from the European Union is set to influence the British and European economies for years to come.
Although 25% of UK companies currently employ staff from the EU, net migration from the EU to the UK fell by 95% in 2017. Coupled with the skills shortages increasingly plaguing the Aerospace, Aviation and Engineering industries, employers are continually struggling to find qualified workers.
Here’s how employers can continue to reach, hire and develop the best talent following Brexit.
Whilst EU workers currently make up 7% of the UK workforce, research from the Recruitment and Employment Confederation (REC) suggests that following Brexit, fewer EU workers will choose to fill these roles in the future. Recruiters and employers are concerned about fulfilling these positions with UK candidates and have recently had little success recruiting UK workers into low- or medium-skill vacancies, either because UK workers are overqualified, unwilling or due to disabilities or caring responsibilities, unable to do the job. So how can UK businesses attract and engage the UK jobseeker market?
The best companies don’t always offer the highest pay – one third of employees consider benefits packages as their most important considerations when looking for a new job. Many industries will operate with similar sets of values and ways of working, but benefits packages aren’t dictated by outside forces and can instead be moulded to suit the wants and needs of both permanent and contract employees. Flexible working, work-life balance policies, holiday incentives, fitness programmes and discounts are amongst the most popular employee benefits.
An excellent benefits package can attract new hires and help existing employees feel motivated, valued and involved in their work, enhancing greater loyalty to their employer and improving employee retention.
Staff perks also contribute to a positive, dynamic workplace environment that helps all employees thrive at work. Creating a positive working culture involves encouraging staff to work together and support each other, as well as trusting and empowering staff to make changes and decisions. Freedom and autonomy allow employees the time and space to solve problems and innovate new ideas, and helps workers feel good about themselves and the future of their place in the organisation. A positive company culture can rapidly and sustainably increase employee retention, as well as attract new staff through referrals, recommendations and a positive brand image.
There will be a transitional immigration period from the day following the UK’s departure from the European Union until 31st December 2020. During the transition period, EU citizens and their families have the right to continue living and working in the UK. The UK Government intends to introduce a new immigration system from January 2021, whereby the working rights of EU citizens in the UK may change.
Employers that provide current and future employees with clear guidance on the EU settlement scheme and their living and working rights will help to reassure and secure their workforce.
The Great Repeal Bill, set to outline replacement EU legislation on work and human rights, aims to ‘maintain the protections and standards that benefit workers. The Government
has committed not only to safeguard the rights of workers set out in European legislation,
but to enhance them.’ In many areas the UK Government has already extended workers’ rights beyond those set out in EU law, including statutory annual leave, maternity leave and parental leave and pay.
New immigration rules after Brexit may result in fewer EU citizens choosing to live and work in the UK. In 2019 EU workers give the following five reasons for deciding whether to work in the UK:
· Connections with friends and family already in the UK
· Pay compared with other EU countries
· Job and career opportunities
· Workplace culture and conditions
· British culture
Job and career opportunities can be clearly communicated from the first job advert seen by a potential applicant, and consistently reinforced and tailored to the worker throughout years of employment. HR departments and hiring managers can use job adverts to clearly outline realistic routes for career progression within roles to attract EU jobseekers looking to build a career and stay in the UK, and provide an insight into long-term career and earning prospects for EU workers starting out in low-pay, low-skilled roles.
An inclusive workplace culture can be achieved by introducing measures to improve workplace culture and working relations between staff from across the UK, EU and other countries globally. Successful mixed workplaces are built and maintained by ensuring management prioritises and addresses xenophobia and all forms of discrimination, providing voluntary English classes and specific and regular communication outlining management and HR support for workers of all backgrounds.
Employers that address these job motivations will attract, engage and retain skilled and non-skilled EU workers across business functions.
Current staffing requirements may fulfil current work demand, but agile staffing strategies are essential to adapt to changes in the European and UK markets. Conduct an informal audit of your hiring requirements: certain positions may not benefit from the qualifications or technical skills requirements that are currently presenting barriers to potential recruits. Many skills can be picked up learning on the job or acquired through a formal training programme.
Reassessing requirements will also tap into unused talent pools that are available right now in the UK. Candidates with no degree but decades of experience could be just as valuable to your organisation, and older generations lacking technical skills but a wealth of knowledge as well as diverse talent pools without experience in the market could prove valuable long-term employees if given the initial training investment.
Adapting the recruitment process itself could also open up organisations to untapped talent pools. Group or panel interviews may prove difficult for younger or first-time jobseekers, and job adverts with certain language may be deterring applications from qualified female candidates.
Whilst women make up over 50% of the UK population, just 9% of the UK’s engineering workforce is female – the lowest in Europe. Despite people of ethnic minority background making up around 14% of the UK’s population, only 6% of UK engineers are from BAME (Black and Minority Ethnic) backgrounds. Employers who can access these untapped talent pools will harness a wealth of new skills, experience and knowledge, and race ahead of competitors.
Re-onboarding and re-induction programmes are vital to retain employees returning to work after maternity leave, paternity leave and time away for caring responsibilities or illness. Employees returning to the office or worksite need more time to settle back in and adapt to the demands of their role. Analysing and improving the candidate experience for those who are less confident in applying for roles will help recruit applicants with less recent experience or learning difficulties, a significantly untapped labour market. Business leaders can reach out to recruiters and not-for-profit organisations for best practice advice on suitable roles and communication for new employees from minority, diverse and excluded groups.
Flexible working is a highly appealing employee benefit that transcends demographics, increases employee wellbeing, motivation and engagement, and doesn’t cost employers a penny. Consider the current working hours of your staff, and identify possibilities for staff to work remotely, job-share or choose their own hours. Flexible working patterns help accommodate the wants and needs of parents, carers, students and workers with long commutes.
Fewer young people than ever are joining industries such as Manufacturing, Engineering, Aerospace and Automotive. 42% of Aerospace and 22% of Engineering business leaders list skills shortages as their most urgent business problem, ahead of Brexit, technological advances and climate change.
At the same time, over two thirds of current UK graduates say that they now work in a role completely unrelated to their degree and 1 in 3 graduates are unhappy in their current job. The UK’s young people are in urgent need of rewarding careers, and UK businesses are in need of skilled workers – apprenticeships could be the answer.
Free from crippling University debt or time constraints, apprenticeships enable talented individuals from all academic, social and cultural backgrounds can quickly build practical skills that will set them up for life-long careers and prove themselves valuable additions to any workforce. Apprenticeships also promote a diverse workforce by improving the social mobility of thousands, and providing businesses with new perspectives to solve problems and appeal to new customer groups.
Sylatech is a fast-growing and prosperous engineering business with over 130 employees, and Director of Marketing Gordon Gunn is committed to harnessing the talent challenge to drive further expansion. ‘Parents and schoolteachers can lack knowledge of the engineering industry and are sceptical about apprenticeships: many view them as cheap labour rather than a way into a brilliant career path. Businesses need to invest more time and energy into promoting engineering as a successful career pathway.’
Last year the UK Government addressed the technical skills shortage by committing to recruit 8,000 new engineering and technology teachers and investing £84million into engineering education. VHR’s Aviation recruitment consultant Ryan Abbot views the move as a welcome step to attracting more young people into engineering, but feels it must be driven directly by industry leaders: ‘In an increasingly connected world where students are overwhelmed with choices, we need to expend as much effort as possible into reaching potential talent. Business leaders and recruiters can partner with colleges and schools to directly engage with students and show them the variety of successful careers open to them across UK industries.’
Work in collaboration with other companies and through trade associations and industry organisations to identify what your sector has to offer potential recruits, and work with local schools and colleges to highlight examples of employees who enjoy their roles and examples of progression that began in low-skill roles.
Regardless of any and all Brexit outcomes, an international-focused recruitment agency can continue to provide seamless recruitment services to businesses based across the UK, Europe and globally.
In 2016 VHR incorporated in the Czech Republic as Virtual Human Resources s.r.o., a fully compliant and fully regulated recruitment company based in Prague. VHR is also incorporated in Dublin (Ireland), Leipzig (Germany) and Nicosia (Cyprus) and has five other international offices.
Our four European incorporations enable VHR to provide recruitment services to all our EU-based clients and full access to the EU staffing market.
Read our Report on Increasing Employee Retention.
VHR won the Queen’s Award for International Trade in 2018 – find out more about our award-winning recruitment services.