Why Brexit means business for interim talent

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Demand for interim managers has risen impressively since the UK’s decision to leave the EU. Jo Sweetland, managing partner at recruitment specialists Green Park, considers why this might be the case.

The run-up to the Brexit vote last June will be remembered for many things, but one of the most noteworthy elements was the use of “facts” to prove the case for a yes or no vote.

A year on and there are very few signs that the situation has changed. Committed leavers and remainers alike continue to present their evidence for why the UK’s exit from the EU will be either a triumph or a disaster (and rarely anything in between).

Why have the echo chambers continued to resonate beyond the voting process?

The simple answer is that a great deal of uncertainty still remains about the future and how life outside the EU will change from a business perspective, especially following the recent election. This applies to the UK job market as much as anything else.

It certainly hasn’t helped global employers because there is still huge speculation over how life outside the EU will change British business, the terms that employers can expect to adhere to and how much leaving the EU is actually going to cost businesses, in terms of profit but also people.

Interims in demand

However, against our initial assumptions of a slowdown and against a backdrop of unprecedented political turmoil, we are already seeing many clients wising up and moving forwards beyond an initial period of paralysis.

This has resulted in an increased demand for executive interim managers who are being brought in to enable core organisations to resume business as usual, as well as plan for potential future scenarios.

Analysis of demand for interim managers across Green Park shows an average 30% increase in the past months but also a firm focus on demand for executive interim HR and transformation professionals.

It is this group that will be challenged with getting the right talent strategies in place to mitigate the risks posed by anything from passporting rights to off-shoring European talent.

Statistics abound on how Brexit will affect the supply of talented candidates, with speculation about the end of passporting in financial services leading to predictions some banks may move their headquarters.

But as long as uncertainty remains around major outcomes such as: whether or not there will be limited free movement; whether or not multiple financial services companies will move out of London; and whether or not international merger and acquisition activity begins to leave the UK out of the equation, it’s far from being the right time to turn the talent management and recruitment tap off.

Plan ahead

In fact, as many forward-thinking companies have begun to realise, Brexit doesn’t mean they need to panic and batten down the hatches, but instead means it’s time to strategise and plan for potential outcomes.

Interim managers with experience in organisational restructuring are integral and perfectly skilled to execute this.

The truth is that whatever the nuts and bolts of Brexit turn out to be, it’s likely that there will be a shortage of skills in the HR arena as organisations return to business as usual and begin to plan for the future.

We are already seeing a much higher demand for interim HR professionals with specialist skills in areas such as mergers and acquisitions, transformation and organisational design, employee relations, talent management and rewards and pensions.

As firms endure a potentially rocky transition period, using interims allows for them to have a “wait and see” approach but still have top level expertise on board to advise and direct the organisation.

Interims are becoming more popular during this uncertainty as they can ensure the very best level of knowledge without organisations having to commit and invest long term at a time when their financial security is potentially at risk.

Period of opportunity

And as we race further into a candidate-driven market, these demands will accelerate.

Organisations will need to react quickly to a requirement to deal with a Works Council, for example, or different working legislation in new markets, or to put talent management strategies in place to recruit and retain the best people within their businesses.

In addition, we are seeing firms use this period of time as an opportunity to boost diversity in their workplace, given this may again be impacted by Brexit.

Firms that recognise the value of diversity are taking the opportunity to change the face of their organisations, broadening recruitment pools to bring new experience and outlooks into their business, which will be crucial in a post-Brexit environment.

The need to acquire, develop and retain the best employees will never go away. But it’s all the more important to have the right teams in place to enable business as usual as well as Brexit planning and execution.

Organisations need to be in the best position possible, armed with the short-term, specialist skills through the use of interims as and when they are required.

If not, there is a big chance they may miss an important opportunity to secure their foothold in the market completely.

Jo Sweetland

About Jo Sweetland

Jo Sweetland is Managing Partner at Green Park
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