Hanging onto talent in the post-Brexit world is going to be harder than ever…

Just as every landscape needs a balanced natural ecosystem, every organisation needs a healthy talent ecosystem. You need the right mix of age, skill, experience, gender, culture and neuro-diversity to meet your organisation’s needs, and these systems are not static. To maintain your talent ecosystem, you need to manage dynamically and attract, retain and repatriate the best talent you can get.

In this second blog in our series on your talent ecosystem, we address the challenge of employee retention.

More and more companies are reporting significant skills gaps. As the proportion this year of the working population in the UK in employment reaches 75.5%, its highest figure ever, many mission critical posts are remaining unfilled.

Beyond the difficulty of attracting top international talent, explored in my recent blog, the problem is made worse if you can’t hang on to the skilled, trained and experienced staff you already have. A number of companies are reporting staff leaving, according to The Times last week. And Government statistics (ONS) back up the claim. The number of EU nationals leaving the UK hit 130,000 to September 2017, the highest figure since the financial crash.

The main challenge here is one of uncertainty. A recent study reported over 80% of EU-trained doctors in Scotland were unconvinced by promises to protect their rights after Brexit. In a survey published by Crown World Mobility last week, 40% of those polled in the UK said they felt “more uncertain as a worker”. In the absence of clear data, many will be tempted away, often to inferior jobs, just because it feels like a safer bet than sticking with you.

The curse of uncertainty is a big element in modern life, and not just because of Brexit. The US department of defence created a term for this, VUCA, to crystalise thinking about how to make strategy in the modern world. VUCA stands for Volatile, Uncertain, Complex and Ambiguous. I can hardly think of a better description of the challenge facing those working on employee retention.



Even in a VUCA world, it is possible to keep your head and make sound decisions. What can you do in your business to thrive in a VUCA world and improve employee retention?


Rebalance communication

  • The media is naturally drawn to bad news and crisis. Rebalance the discourse by making sure your good news is out there.
  • Make sure your employees know what is working well in the company, your sales successes, your innovations, how people in your organisation are flourishing.
  • Invest in well-being initiatives, like promoting mental health at work and encourage optimism. Steven Pinker’s TEDtalk last week highlighted how life is overall, getting better. We sometimes lose sight of this.


Offer practical help to stay

  • Do you know who is at flight risk in your organisation? Get some analysis of your staff regarding nationality, visa status and your top talent list.
  • Offer practical information and support. Let people know that your company welcomes and values all nationalities. Can you offer practical help in visa extensions, EU settled status and naturalisation processes? A recent CIPD survey of 1002 employers revealed that 55% said that they know little about the Government’s EU settlement scheme. Get informed and you can put your anxious employees’ minds at rest and get ahead of your competition.


Embrace your flight-risk talent

How can you get people to want to stay? Make sure your employees get the chance to develop themselves as well as delivering your targets.

  • Make them feel a valued part of the team by involving them in exciting projects
  • Get them involved in projects and activities that develop their skills
  • Consider pairing them up with internal Mentors to facilitate their professional development and progress in the organisation
  • Offer individual coaching to address their personal learning needs now. Whether they need help with intercultural skills, coping with the VUCA world or developing leadership skills, coaching will address those needs efficiently and has been shown to promote self- confidence and improve loyalty to the organisation.


Consider the whole family

Unhappiness of the partner and or children of employees who have changed location to work for you is a well-known cause of talent flight. What can you do to make the whole family settled?

  • Consider supporting community groups for partners and children. Our own Welcome Club has provided a great place for partners of relocating employees to share their experiences. Just recognising that other people have encountered and overcome the challenge of feeling out of place can be a great support (see our blog What is Home?). Over and above this, community groups can offer each other practical help and access to resources and activities to help the whole family feel at home and settled.


Don’t panic!

There is lots you can do to improve employee retention, even in the face of Brexit and other VUCA risks. Think how much better it is to retain your great people than to have to keep re-hiring! A healthy employee retention performance can be a significant contribution to maintaining your healthy talent ecosystem.

And don’t forget to manage your own VUCA challenge. What will help you?