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Putting people at the forefront of your Brexit planning

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By Susan Moylan, Associate Director, People and Change Consulting, Grant Thornton 

We are now into what should have been ‘Brexit week’, and yet we still don’t have clarity or a definite date.

What we do know is if you are a business owner or if you are leading a business in these uncertain times, you are no doubt aware of the vast array of implications that a Deal or No-Deal Brexit will have on your operations.

There are so many government decisions still to be clarified, with implications for customers, supply chain, customs and taxes. It is key that organisations do not lose sight of their greatest asset of all – their people.

Irrespective of where organisations are in their Brexit preparations, they still have time, but they need to act fast. Regardless of a Deal or No-Deal outcome, what we know for sure is that you will still have people in your business. Brexit will present organisations with challenges, and, like with any change impact, planning is key.

Brexit planning is just good business planning. We advise businesses to use this as an opportunity to review their people strategies. With your people as your greatest asset, are you confident that you are leveraging this asset to its full potential?

So, what can a business do? The starting point should be to understand who in your workforce is likely to be directly affected by changes to ‘freedom of movement’ due to Brexit, so it is important to conduct a residency audit.

Once you have identified the EU nationals in your workforce, then it is important to support them to establish their ‘Right to Remain’ and help them apply before the deadline (31 December 2020 in event of No Deal). Support could range from offering advice clinics, to giving access to systems for uploading documentation.

As with any change, communication is key. If organisations do not keep their workforce informed, the ‘rumour mill’ will ensue and may have a destabilising impact.

Ensure that you make the effort to cascade regular clear messages to your workforce; which will help build trust and will reassure them, allowing them to maintain their focus on the task at hand, rather than worrying about things outside their control.

In times of uncertainty, ensure the fundamentals are in place around your people practices and policies. Are you attracting the best talent in the most efficient way? Are you recruiting the best candidates for the job? How are you sourcing people both now and in the future given the proposed new immigration policy? Are you providing meaningful opportunities for learning and development? What are you doing to keep the talent you have? Are you learning from and managing exits?

Following a review, you can then implement improvements as appropriate.

Position yourself as an employer of choice; ensure your employee value proposition is as attractive as it can be by developing and reviewing remuneration packages, benefits, and incentive schemes with an increased focus on non-cash benefits.

With so much ambiguity and uncertainty, take the opportunity to control the controllable. Right now, and beyond the Brexit date, people are critical to your businesses; so take the time to plan for all outcomes and make the no regret decisions.

For further information or advice, Susan Moylan can be contacted at Susan.Moylan@ie.gt.com

Grant Thornton (NI) LLP specialises in audit, tax and advisory services and was ranked by Experian as the Number 1 deal adviser in Northern Ireland in 2018

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