In many ways Brexit news hit like a splash of cold water – a shocking surprise. In the weeks that have followed, many organizations are now experiencing a constant, sprinkler-like flow of information and activities needed to manage internal and external stakeholders with preparedness during business as usual (BAU). But BAU this is not.
As this period of uncertainty continues, organizations need to think about alternative strategies for deploying its future workforce to manage potential risk exposure. Rather than start from scratch, organizations can leverage existing principles and methods for workforce planning to be more agile through the Brexit process. Whether Brexit impacts your business or not, workforce planning can be a lynchpin for delivering on strategic goals and driving greater workforce performance.
An unsettled and potentially divided workforce
One of the benefits of the E.U. has been free movement of labor and access to a single market for talent. An unintended (or perhaps intended?) consequence of Brexit could be the loss of easily accessible, highly skilled talent beyond the local market, like those in technology who are critical for building out and scaling key capabilities.
Not only is this is an opportunity to think of alternative strategies for talent deployment, but it also can be a strategic pivot point in how an organization makes talent sourcing decisions overall. To what degree do we need to “own” our talent going forward, and how might that differ for critical or hard-to-fill roles? How important is it that we are in a “center of innovation” (like London) or is there something to be gained by following a non-traditional route to work?
Triage the work
Given the magnitude and lasting impact of these potential decisions, organizations need to work through some key steps to determine the best approach for themselves:
1. Work strategy
What are the business priorities and what is the critical work that needs to get done? When thinking about critical work, organizations should step away from a job mindset to one of “work models” to determine needs and priorities. A work model lays the foundation for how work flows through the organization:
With work and work flow defined, now some of the alternatives for getting work done may be considered. If our premier work, as outlined in the level one descriptor above, is currently based in London, we can look to alternative strategies such as basing the work in another labor market, evaluating the benefits of co-location with the work found in level two, and so on.
2. Workforce planning
With defined work requirements and prioritization, the data review and scenario planning aspect of workforce planning can occur. How many people will we need by work model or role in the future? How many people will we have based on our historical workforce dynamics? How will external market factors and potential Brexit activities and timing influence labor supply and demand projections and what talent gaps (shortfalls and surpluses) could be created?
3. Action planning
With both strategy and evidence in mind, the organization is better positioned to understand the trade-offs for moving high-value or high-volume work from London to Paris or Frankfurt. In addition, this same approach allows for more effective decisions on where to keep the work intact in these markets, or conversely, automate some of the work and change the roles at the same time.
While the degree of uncertainty may lead some organizations to “wait and see,” those that are more proactive in planning their future will likely end up with a significant strategic advantage. In essence, they are managing the flow of talent intentionally and systematically vs. making bigger, more dramatic shifts later in the transition. To come back to our analogy, they are watering through a drip irrigation system – with ongoing attention to the nature of work and action planning that provides for an efficient and effective outcome.