Despite the recent progress and the advancement to Phase Two of the talks between the European Union and the United Kingdom, uncertainty remains when it comes to EU citizens’ rights in a post-Brexit UK. It is a good sign that the joint progress report from 8 December states both parties’ intentions to ensure reciprocal protection of EU and UK citizens. But at the same time the report also stresses that “nothing has been agreed until everything has been agreed”.
Consequently, UK businesses cannot take a break - they need to continue doing their best to reduce uncertainty among their staff and burnish their employer brand to attract the best talent available, all the while net immigration of EU citizens into the UK continues to slow down.
In our recent book, Attracting and Retaining Top Talent in Times of Brexit, thought leaders from media, technology, professional services, and academia have shared their strategies and tactics to do just that.
Here are some of the highlights of what they had to say on employee attraction. We will look at retention in a separate article.
#1 - Educate the applicants
Sophie Meaney, MD of Amberjack, a volume recruitment agency.
While it will take time, it seems inconceivable that the government would not put in place, as a high-priority piece of the Brexit puzzle, adequate mechanisms to enable UK-based employers to fill their vacancies with suitably qualified and motivated talent.
For those organisations struggling in the interim, the best advice is to offer what certainty you can offer to potential European applicants:
- Include a section on your careers site or within your job adverts acknowledging the issue of Brexit, and committing to conversations with potential applicants who might be concerned about it.
- Create FAQs on Brexit and outline the support options you will consider for your EU-based employees in the different scenarios which could play out.
- Remind potential applicants that they have a stronger chance of being able to remain employed in the UK post Brexit if they are employed within the UK pre Brexit.
#2 - Educate the recruiters
Andy King, Global Mobility Manager at Improbable, a gaming and entertainment company
Educate the recruitment function - Talent teams need to be able to explain the most up-to-date effects of Brexit to EEA nationals that they are trying to recruit, as well as the unknown effects that might impact the candidates, both before and after March 2019.
Include Mobility in the interview process – Depending on the number of interviews and the size of your team, consider organising a meeting with Mobility at the final interview. You can use this to discuss the candidate’s personal situation and alleviate their concerns about Brexit.
Budget for increased costs – While planning for these scenarios, the end result might show an increase in the need for ‘settled status’ applications or visa applications. You should start to plan for this increased cost, based on the policy you have implemented to retain your current EEA nationals.
#3 - What the data says
Mariano Mamertino, EMEA Economist at Indeed.com, a recruitment platform
Let me highlight some employer strategies you can use to attract and retain talent in a new geopolitical climate, based on numbers we gathered at Indeed.com:
- Evidence shows that successful attraction strategies consist of a careful mix of competitive salaries and benefits packages, at mission-led companies, which provide a strong sense of job security and career progression.
- The demand for a balance between the demands of work and life will only continue. Offering flexible working is a powerful way to access wider pools of talent – whether that’s Britain’s sizeable older workforce, or millennials who place greater emphasis on work-life balance than previous generations.
- The scale of the logistical and administrative burden that Brexit will place on the average UK-based European worker is unknown. But employers who take a supportive and leading role in helping their staff navigate this terrain are likely to be poised to win favour amongst candidates.
#4 How Santa Fe Relocation rolled out its global graduate hiring scheme right after the Brexit vote
Dr Barbara Zesik, Chief People Officer at Santa Fe Relocation, a global mobility company
Rather than succumbing to potential doom and gloom predicted by many, Santa Fe Relocation decided to proceed, unfazed by uncertainty, with the inaugural intake of the Accelerate Graduate Programme.
In December 2016, 9 graduates joined the organisation, 6 of them in the UK, 3 in Singapore. The UK-based cohort included one US and one Polish national who had attended UK universities and were looking for their first roles in business. The second intake of the graduate programme in September 2017 comprised an even more diverse group of students. A total of 18 graduates with 9 different nationalities joined.
It was a resounding success – we received over 1,200 applications from dozens of countries.
So how did Santa Fe go about attracting graduate talent at such an uncertain time?
- Taking a leap of faith and ignoring the potential fallout from Brexit certainly played a role! We believe that the search for talented graduates requires organisations to make courageous decisions rather than being hindered by what might happen in two years’ time.
- Next, a compelling graduate programme design, coupled with a thorough recruitment and assessment process to ensure the right candidate fit from an experience, capabilities and culture perspective is critical. It is also important to bear in mind that skill requirements change over time.
- Finally, Santa Fe Relocation also decided to be open to diverse academic backgrounds. Our graduates have degrees in English, Economics, Management, Logistics, Languages, Accounting & Finance and Communications.
Say farewell to the Brexit Blues and hire the right people for your teams. You’ll be amazed with the results.
#5 - The most important attributes aren’t found on a CV
Andrew Richardson, Head of Growth at La Fosse, an executive search and recruitment agency
- Start by identifying the key qualities outside the formal job specifications which are essential for success in your business. This goes beyond the ‘culture-fit’ question: ask your employees which five key attributes are most important to make someone in their role succeed. Run workshops or focus groups internally to establish these, or ask them to complete a survey.
- Hospitality critics who hand out stars to luxury hotels examine a thousand tiny factors, from the temperature of the fridge in the mini-bar to the springiness of the mattress. Anyone who is hired as a hotel critic will therefore need to have a minute attention to detail. Similarly, those who will succeed in a customer care-centric industry will be those who have resilience and a generosity of spirit.
- Once you have established these required attributes, decide how you will test for these qualities: whether it needs to be based around questions, tests, talking through case studies etc. An examination of attention to detail for a hospitality candidate could involve asking them what they would change in the interview room, or what is out of place. Keep the key attributes of your business front of mind.
#6 - Retention starts at the interview stage
Hakan Enver, Operations Director at Morgan McKinley, an executive search and recruitment agency
In a highly competitive market for talent, retention of employees is critical to the success of a business. Retention starts from the moment a prospective employee is invited for an interview.
Common recruitment mistakes that occur in unprepared businesses include:
- Too much selling with not enough assessing;
- Lack of structure to the interview process.
A lack of planning can frustrate candidates and have them accept offers with competitors who have slicker processes in place.
Make sure you cover these bases:
- Recognise what ‘great looks like’ and create a job specification based around that.
- When coordinating multiple interviews, avoid duplication of questions
- If appropriate, HR should lead the competency-based questioning on behalf of the business, particularly if psychometric testing is required.
- Who should interview?
- Always: the direct line manager;
- Preferably: CEO, Partner, MD or business owner (depending on the size of the organisation);
- If suitable: the accompanying team;
- Extend offers only with a caveat of a reference check being passed.
* * *
Attracting great people is key. But it’s only the beginning of the journey. You have to deliver on your promise every day, especially with the best employees you want to retain the most - after all, they have a lot of choices to go work elsewhere. We will cover retention in our next article.
The above are highlights from selected contributions in our Thought Leadership Book “Attracting and Retaining Top Talent in Times of Brexit”, published in December 2017.
You can download the complete eBook here.