What does Brexit Spell for HR?

As Brexit negotiations commence, HR teams have an invaluable role to play in helping the businesses within which they work to positively navigate the challenges presented by our EU withdrawal.

For most international companies, Brexit makes it necessary to revise long term business strategies – with changes being far greater for companies closely connected to the EU.

Consequently, any changes need to then be reflected in HR specific strategies and planning.

These changes mark a critical time for reassessing the skills needed by the HR team to drive the Brexit transition through. The HR skill set needed pre-Brexit in many companies may now be different – or heightened, to the skills set needed post-Brexit.

Many skills, such as listening and communication, become heightened and other areas present a shortfall; making training an essential need in the immediate future.  

Using case studies to help expound the case for additional / enhanced skills needed, we list the three areas we see as key considerations for HR.

1. Communication

Establishing and maintaining purposeful open communication channels with staff is critical to reassuring and informing them during imminent transitions.

Communication: Case Study

Business A is deeply connected to Europe and relies heavily on European staff and suppliers to conduct its business. The uncertain outcomes of Brexit negotiations create a difficult predicament for staff which may result in:


It is essential that HR skills have the skills to:

2. "Brexit"

It is essential that HR staff understand Brexit and its potential impact on the business while also planning meaningful communications as Brexit negotiations progress.  

Understanding Brexit: Case Study

Business B is a non-EU located bank, selling to Europe via a UK base which consists of EU and British staff. Staff are concerned their jobs may be impacted by a potential loss of freedom of movement, that the bank may relocate its presence to the EU, or that EU staff may have to apply for citizenship to remain.

The business is working to anticipate potential business impacts while also reviewing processes to ensure that systems will be compliant in the event of regulatory change.


It is essential that HR team members can:


Useful Reading:

3. Workforce

It is essential that HR draw on the best analytical skills of their team when profiling their workforce.

The HR team generally need to retain an analytical approach throughout our exit from the EU. Losing sight of the detail and implication of workforce changes could result in significant long term problems.

Understand your Workforce: Case Study

Business C is a language services company which is highly dependent on staff from Europe with the linguistic capabilities to engage with a large European client pool.  It also depends on the attraction of talent via programmes such as the Erasmus project – many of whom become permanent employees post programme completion.  


It is essential that the HR team:

The three areas outlined above are indicative only. 

As our exit from the EU progresses, there’s no doubt that agreements will throw to light additional challenges for HR teams and a more focused application of existing skills, additional training or the introduction of new systems. 

Clearly, we need to be flexible and ready for anything as Brexit continues. Will this process shape our roles going forward?  Undoubtedly, yes!