The official deadline for the United Kingdom’s exit from the European Union is a mere fortnight away, but it seems like the relevant authorities and decision makers are no closer to figuring out how – or indeed if – the country will actually leave then. Logistics aside, it’s clear that Brexit has caused some major changes to life on the British Isles, from a political, personal and business perspective.
Whilst most of the country is engaged in debating and even wagering on the various Brexit and political outcomes, it’s crucial that businesses take a proactive approach amongst the disruptions. Brexit has already generated a lot of uncertainty within UK businesses, affecting things like investment (statistics show that investment across the country reduced by 6% during the two years following the 2016 referendum) and even employment (which dropped by 1.5% during the same period).
The impact of Brexit on sectors like the automotive industry, healthcare and manufacturing has been widely discussed, but the full impact on supply chains has been difficult to predict. One thing is for certain, no market will be immune to the impact of a withdrawal from the EU. So how can businesses take a proactive approach and find opportunities for growth amidst such uncertainty?
Create Contingency Plans
Contingency plans are absolutely vital in disruptive times. Rather than predicting one alternative outcome and then overhauling the structure of your business and its operations according to that outcome, a Brexit-focused contingency plan should instead model the various possible scenarios – another extension, revoking Article 50, no deal exit, backstop agreement etc. Businesses need to be flexible enough to quickly adapt to any of the scenarios that could happen come 31st October 2019.
Additionally, this approach will enable businesses to be more aware of and adaptable to other industry disruptions, not just locally but globally. Brexit is not the only event affecting the business world in the UK. There are, and will most likely be, other economic and geopolitical events that can have an effect on even the smallest British SME.
Take a Data-Driven Approach
One thing about the current Brexit climate is that it is defined by a lack of knowledge. At the time of writing, no firm decision has been made and the government, by its own admission, is unable to provide substantial forecasts of possible effects. Being proactive will therefore require business owners to use a data driven approach to forecasting and preparing for all eventualities.
A smart contingency plan will leverage data from across every area and process of an organisation – including assets, customers and suppliers, supply chains and employees/shareholders, etc. – and consolidate it in a centralised platform. Sudden changes are possible for many business processes, like being able to access key technology or even UK administrative procedures, so being able to model them digitally will help business owners mitigate them should they occur in reality.
Fill the UK Skills Gap
According to an official government white paper, we can expect a net reduction in EU migration of approximately 200,000 to 400,000 during the first five years following an official Brexit, which will reduce GDP by between £2 and £4 billion. This will make recruiting and retaining staff much more challenging, particularly for those businesses operating in the tech industry.
Research has indicated that the vacancies UK businesses struggle to fill the most require a much higher digital skill set than many British applicants possess – increasing the need to hire EU talent.
Confusion still remains about freedom of movement for both EU and UK workers, but work visas or permits may be necessary to employ EU citizens (and vice versa for UK workers in EU member states). Therefore, businesses will need to prepare to adhere to the rules and regulations of permits, as well as understand the relevance and validity of qualifications and certifications offered by bodies in EU member states.
As far as filling the skills gap amongst British workers goes, proactive business owners may wish to invest in technology that captures information from skilled workers as they carry out key processes and daily tasks. This will create a digital knowledge bank that is instantly and easily accessible by new recruits, providing them with a platform to refer to during induction and training periods.