An enlarged European Union (EU) will mean much more than just an influx of
extra workers to the UK – HR will have to work hard to stop top talent going
east, warned a leading academic.
Headlines across the media have warned of an ‘invasion’ of 73 million
highly-motivated and under-paid individuals, who would swamp UK business after
the extension of EU boundaries, which took place on 1 May.
However, Victoria Curzon-Price, director of the European Institute at the
University of Geneva, said countries in Eastern Europe could offer much greater
opportunity for reward, and people would move to these new and dynamic areas.
"It is much more exciting to be in Eastern Europe as far as growth is concerned,"
"Five years ago, the question was: ‘is the transition from Communism
going to work?’ Today, it is: ‘can we – old Europe – handle the competition?’
"The winds of change have always blown, but now they are at gale force
and they will sort the wheat from the chaff," she said.
Curzon-Price said that companies, especially multinationals, should move
fast to exploit differences in the different markets.
Multinationals could come into a low wage, low productivity area with their
skill in raising productivity for themselves. They could also fragment the
production process by moving capital around and/or outsourcing, as well as
putting the right people in the right places on a very large scale, she said.
She warned that while this meant HR management would become more
international, companies should beware of suggestions that it should be
centralised across the EU.
She said: "There is still a large gap between free movement of goods,
capital and labour, and the harmonisation of employment conditions. People
still have to be managed locally and will do for a long time to come."