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Brexit for Recruiters: Practical actions to make sure you survive

Tags: Recruitment Process

Whichever side of the vote you’re on, you’re probably sick of thinking, hearing and talking about Brexit. 

You’re almost certainly sick of watching politicians uhm and aah about the issues. Brexit Day has been extended yet again– as of 4th November – we have no solid idea exactly what it’ll look like. 

But sick and tired or not, Brexit still has two big implications for recruiters. 

In this article, we’ll unpick the two big consequences of Brexit for recruiters and share some practical tips to make sure you’re prepared and continue to thrive. 

1 – Reduced hiring budgets and decreased demand

“The economic skies are darkening”, The Guardian say, and “economic confidence in virtually every UK sector is dropping like a stone”. The Guardian don’t pull their punches in predicting economic recession, and they’re certainly not alone. For many, 

the picture of a post-Brexit UK is not a rosy one.

If those predictions come true, the knock-on effect will see companies tightening their purse strings, cutting costs in the name of staying afloat. 

Tribepad CEO Dean Sadler says:

“Businesses want and need certainty to invest in people and machinery. Without proper guidance, politicians will create an environment where real business interests are pushed over the edge, creating a self-fulfilling prophecy of doom and gloom”

What that means for you:

Many companies could hire fewer people – and they’ll be more cost-conscious when they do hire. For internal recruiters, you’ll likely find you’re battling to do the same (or more, as your business moves away from agencies) with less.

Agency-side, recruiters will likely feel the squeeze from both sides, losing business both to internal recruitment teams and competing agencies who can afford to drop their prices.

Both internal and agency recruiters could find their own jobs under threat as recruitment becomes harder. Agency-side, commission structures could be cut and commission-only roles might see a resurgence in popularity. 

What you should do:

Cross your Ts and dot your Is. Recruitment will never completely fizzle out because top talent is always in-demand. Even in a recession, there’ll be winners as well as losers: make sure you’re the former.

That means going back to basics; hitting your numbers; putting in the time. Now more than ever, you can’t afford to coast – being fantastic at your job is survival-critical.

It also means looking for ways to drive efficiencies. It might seem counterintuitive for businesses to invest during a cost-conscious period, but the right tools and technology unlock efficiencies so you can lower margins. For recruitment agencies, that means you can price more competitively for clients, to keep them on-board despite their own cost-cutting plans.

Agency recruiters will also find client retention is increasingly important, if client acquisition slows. Investing time and attention in loyal client relationships will pay dividends if Brexit has a negative economic impact. 

Whether you’re agency or in-house, look for ways to add maximum value to the business(es) you serve. For instance, agencies could consider adding loyalty discounts, drop-out period extensions or free replacements. In-house recruiters must work harder than ever to improve metrics like quality-of-hire, to maximise the value from every hire. 

Now’s the time to make yourself especially valuable as a recruiter, or you risk losing out to others who do. 

2 – Talent shortages, especially in specific sectors

CIPD say, since June 2016 there’s been a 95% fall in EU nationals joining the UK workforce. Which isn’t surprising given the uncertainties about living, working and remaining here after we leave the EU. 

That’s an especially huge issue for sectors that hire a high proportion of EU nationals – like hospitality, healthcare, food production, retail, construction and care. 

As Ursula Jayes, Head of Carer Recruitment at Helping Hands said at the FIRM Leeds Conference 2019,

“Until recently, there’s been a scarcity of advice coming through from the Home Office around the new system for EU Nationals to apply for UK residence (under what is called ‘Settled Status’). Employers who hire EU nationals have been left completely in the dark”

Tapping into EU talent pools isn’t only an issue of quantity. It’s also about quality. Ursula Jayes points out that only 1% of UK applicants into the care sector are educated to degree-level, compared to some 15% of EU applicants. EU applicants often pursue caring as a career from an earlier age, while the UK still generally sees care roles as low-skilled. 

For employers in the care sector – and any number of EU-reliant sectors – Brexit could spell a vast reduction in the available talent pool. 

What that means for you:

If you recruit into sectors that depend on EU-nationals for survival, you’re about to have your work cut out. 

In late 2018, 44% of employers faced greater difficulty hiring, and another 34% faced problems with retention (which makes hiring even more critical, compounding the problem). 

Those issues are especially pronounced in the sectors we’ve talked about above – everyone feels uncertainty, but nobody more so than EU nationals who might lose their home and livelihood. (Nearly 50% of employers reported an increase of insecurity specifically amongst their EU workforce, for example). 

Another knock-on effect is an increase in starting salaries, to try to attract candidates despite uncertainty. In late 2018, nearly half of employers had raised salaries to combat acquisition and retention issues.

From your perspective, that means there’s a greater chunk of recruitment budget earmarked for salaries. For in-house recruiters, that amps up the pressure to cut costs elsewhere. Agency recruiters will find there’s an even smaller slice reserved for your fees. 

What you should do:

Reassuring EU candidates is crucial. Make sure you’re up-to-date with the law – perhaps seeking legal advice about EU workers’ rights – to help encourage EU candidates to apply, then stay, in the UK.

Arm yourself with knowledge, so you can position as a helpful and reassuring partner who candidates can rely on. In a more competitive talent market, this positioning helps you differentiate from other recruiters and earn candidates’ trust. Crucial to securing top talent, despite shortages. 

As Ursula Jayes notes, 

“It’s hugely important that every employer has a reassuring communication strategy in place post-Brexit, to make employees feel welcome and included. Everyone in the business must be aware of how Brexit anxiety effects EU employees, as momentum around the UK leaving Europe continues”.

That’s why Helping Hands is proactively gathering groups of employers who’ll be affected by Brexit, having regular conference calls to share knowledge and ideas. 

Both in-house and agency recruiters should mirror this approach, creating a community to share ways to better navigate a post-Brexit world. 

It’s also important to conduct a company-wide audit of EU nationals – across your business or for clients, if you’re agency-side. This will form the groundwork for a holistic risk assessment so you can make better contingency plans.

Activity like this positions you as a strategic partner, not simply a delivery partner. For recruiters post-Brexit, proving above-and-beyond value will be crucial to remaining in-demand. Whether that’s from internal stakeholders or external clients. 

You could consider introducing value-add services beyond normal recruitment delivery, for example, like offering Brexit support for EU nationals. 

Recruiters can thrive post-Brexit – if you’re prepared

We’re all sick and tired of hearing about Brexit. And the baying politicians making nothing happen fast don’t help the matter. But don’t let constant exposure to Brexit-this and Brexit-that inure you against taking this seriously.

With possibly now months left until we leave the EU –  without any certainty and arguably without anyone who knows what they’re doing either – recruiters can’t afford to bury your head in the sand.

The fact is, in a post-Brexit environment continued recruitment success depends on making life easier for your clients (whether internal or external), even as life gets more difficult for you. 

Tribepad help talent acquisition professionals streamline and optimise the recruitment process, so you can add more value to the businesses you serve. 

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