How to How to Retain Your Staff Now and in a Post Brexit FutureJan 02, 2021
As we draw closer to the end of what has been a difficult year and one which has tested the resolve of many, so too does it signify the end of free movement for EU nationals into the UK (and vice versa). On the 31st December 2020, the Brexit ‘transition period’ ends and the world of employment as we know it, changes forever.
The transition period has acted as a security blanket for many businesses, allowing things to ‘continue as usual’ until the pending deadline. This has in some respects been a blessing, offering time for businesses to strategize and plan for their futures. However, for those who have adopted more of a ‘wait and see’ philosophy, the pressure is now on to get their house in order before it’s too late.
The consequences for those employers that miss the deadline will be significant. The immediate repercussion could include a £20,000 fine per illegal worker, a prison sentence of up to 5 years for repeat offenders, or the closure of their business premises. But there is also a wider threat here and one which goes beyond punishments and penalties, to impacting your ability to retain staff both now and in the future. How you deal with the challenges thrown at you by the impact of Brexit and how you support your staff through the process, will truly demonstrate your value as an employer and play a significant role in the growth and success of your business moving forward.
So, what are the key things you need to do to ensure you retain your staff now and after the dust settles on the Brexit saga?
Step 1: Stay informed
As an employer, it is your responsibility to understand the impact of legislative policies and other factors which may impact your workforce. You have a duty of care to ensure your staff are protected and looked after at all times. To this end, you have an obligation to ensure you are aware of and up to date with, all the necessary rules and requirements surrounding Brexit which may impact your workers. They will be looking to you for support, if you are unsure yourself it will raise doubts and concerns as to your commitment and investment in them as an employee. Stay informed by subscribing to email newsletters, following news outlets on Instagram, listening to podcasts, and following journalists on Twitter. You can also join sector specific business communities and forums for live debate and Q&As. For the most up to date facts however, always head to gov.uk.
Step 2: Know your workforce
It is critical that you understand who in your business will be directly affected by the new regulations. This is so that you can not only ensure you are operating within the confines of the law but that you also have the necessary skills and labour in place to continue to deliver on your business objectives moving forward. There are two parts to this process.
i. Identify who may be affected
This will certainly include workers from other EU countries but also workers that are UK nationals with a family member from another EU country e.g. spouse of partner. Additionally, it will include employees that are UK nationals currently working in another EU country.
Once the workers have been identified, it will then be important to delve deeper into their service history, role responsibilities and scope of skills to assist with workforce planning and potential future hiring strategies.
ii. Assess employee satisfaction
Another key to knowing your workforce is to understand how happy they are in general and whether they pose a flight risk i.e. do they have an intention to leave the business? Satisfaction surveys, focus groups and appraisals, are a great way to assess this and allows for better control over staff turnover trends. Through this level of assessment businesses can make informed decisions to address workforce needs whether in terms of hiring, training and development or better engagement.
Step 3: Show your support
This is a challenging time for everyone in more ways than one. By showing your support your workforce will feel valued which in turn will help to alleviate some of the pressures they will be experiencing from the changes that are developing.
One way you can offer support, is by ensuring your employees understand the EU Settlement Scheme. Many businesses are at risk of losing staff simply because the employee either forgot to apply in time, chose not to complete it or failed to complete it accurately. The Settlement Scheme, which needs to be completed by the 30th June 2021, allows EU citizens and their families to apply to stay in the UK after Brexit. Those who have been in the UK for 5 years can apply for permanent settlement and then apply for British citizenship 12 months later. Those who have been in the UK for less time may be eligible for pre-settlement status. This means that EU employees can potentially remain in the UK and continue working in their existing jobs. This is of course, hugely significant for employers from a staff retention perspective.
Here are some tips on how you could offer your support.
• Holding workshops to give guidance and advice is a simple solution which also helps to build a sense of camaraderie within the business
• You could nominate a ‘Brexit Support Representative’ to act as the go-to person for any Brexit related queries, and to ensure all Settlement Applications are completed on time
• You could offer to cover the costs of the application which is significant particularly for a family. Price is £65 for adults and £32.50 for children
• Use the Government Employer Toolkit which is available for download at gov.uk, to help communicate with your employees about Brexit
Step 4: Master your communication
Brexit has left many people confused and unsure about their future-prospects. In the workplace, this can lead to demotivation, lack of productivity and overall unhappiness. During times like this, people seek answers. They want to be informed, reassured, and encouraged. Effective communication is critical, and this goes beyond just those directly involved, but to the entire business who will naturally be impacted in some way by the change.
Here are some communication tips you could apply to your business
• Communicate regularly, using multiple channels such as speaking, writing, video, workshops, message boards
• Communicate with speed, so employees do not feel left in the dark. If not all the details are available, explain that some of the information may change later-on
• Provide significant amounts of time for people to ask questions, request clarification and provide input – true communication is a two-way conversation
• Provide answers to questions only if you know the answer. If not, it is ok to say you don’t know or that you will find out
Step 5: Focus on employee engagement
Employees who are engaged in their work and workplaces are more likely to be motivated and remain committed to their employer. During times of economic uncertainty, it is more important than ever to build a culture where all workers are committed to their organisation’s goals and values and are motivated to help drive business success.
Here are six tips you could apply to your business to help engage your employees.
#1 Define your Employee Value Proposition (EVP)
This is the total value you will offer an employee in return for their work. It covers everything from culture, people, values, mission as well as monetary gains including salary and benefits. It is the answer to the question “why should someone work for you instead of somewhere else?”
#2 Provide opportunities for growth and carve out career paths
Employees who feel they are advancing in their career are less likely to look for opportunities elsewhere. Outlining a clear path for growth will keep employees engaged and help you retain talent. Training courses, coaching, webinars, lunch and learns, are all great ways to achieve this. Shift the focus from hiring externally for open roles and make sure you hold regular one-to-one’s so you are clear on how you can best support your employees to achieve their career objectives.
#3 Train your managers in employee engagement best practices
It is estimated that managers account for at least 70% of the variance in employee engagement and employees whose managers consistently acknowledge them for good work are 5 x more likely to stay at the company. By investing time and money in proper training and coaching for your management team, you will be sure to reap the benefits.
#4 Recognise performance and reward achievement
Engaged employees are motivated to go the extra mile however they want to know that management recognises and appreciates their efforts. Take time to acknowledge your employees, celebrate their accomplishments and reward their successes.
#5 Connect beyond work and get social
The level of employee engagement in your workplace is greatly impacted by how connected workers feel to their colleagues. Set up opportunities for them to interact on things outside of work and foster personal relationships. This is even more important as working remotely becomes a thing of the norm. Plan a games night or remote coffee and cake mornings. Make sure to provide variety to promote inclusivity.
#6 Prioritise mental wellbeing
It is easier for individuals to engage with their work when their employer finds ways to enhance their overall wellbeing. A company-wide wellness initiative is a great way to achieve this. This could include offering free meditation classes or subsidised gym membership. It could also include mental health days offering employees the opportunity to step away from the office and focus on themselves.
Retaining talent even in the steadiest of times is no easy thing to do. Combine this with economic uncertainty and political unrest, and you have a potentially chaotic cocktail of challenges to overcome. How you support your staff, communicate your strategy, and embrace the changes, will have a significant impact on your ability to retain staff both now and in a post Brexit future. Be conscious of the value positive employee engagement can have on your business and be considerate with your approach. Find what works best for you and your staff, and don’t be afraid to try different things – after all, variety is the spice of life!
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