Uncertain Brexit, uncertain career, uncertain future

Person walking into uncertainty of Brexit

Research from the Institute of Directors shows a surge in UK companies seeking to move some part of their UK operations abroad due to Brexit. Regardless of where you stand over the issue of the UK’s place in Europe these are worrying figures with 29% of those organisations surveyed stating that they either had already, or were strongly considering the move. This period of unprecedented change within UK plc is concerning enough at a macro-economic level, however as with any business change it is the impact on an organisation’s workforce where it is most strongly felt.

Building a career in uncertain times

It has become increasingly difficult for an individual to focus on ‘building a career’ over the last few years and any new challenges add additional and often unexpected dimensions. Ongoing organisational restructures, the increasing fluidity of international operations, the ever increasing pace of technological change and a huge uptick of roles in the gig economy can appear to challenge conventional wisdom around career development strategies. Equally, with organisations continuing to state that a lack of talent availability and, as importantly, the ability to retain that talent, continue to hinder organisational growth plans there is an increasing disconnect in how ‘careers’ are being developed. It’s an ever changing and increasingly complex picture add in the uncertainty associated with Brexit and it’s easy to see why workers in some parts of the economy don’t know which way is up.

To relocate or not to relocate?

In many ways the challenges surrounding Brexit exemplify these issues. Employees in key sectors including finance, pharmaceuticals and manufacturing are exposed to international challenges on a day-to-day basis and have to adapt accordingly. Currently, they do, with many employees well-able to develop and manage their careers whilst at the same time successfully incorporate any international dimensions. However, should their employer choose to relocate some or all activities elsewhere, these employees are likely to face difficult choices – the ‘goalposts’ end up being well and truly moved.

In many cases how far an organisation is willing to ‘help’ depends upon an individual’s willingness to relocate – particularly if an international move is on the cards. Moving from one part of the UK to another is often manageable however moving from Manchester to Mainz or from Birmingham to Bologna creates a very different set of choices, and of course could become more complicated depending on how the UK leaves the EU.

Despite the fact that many organisations looking to relocate parts of their operations abroad will offer generous relocation packages to staff, for many this is simply not an option and, reluctantly, many individuals will have to accept that their career may stall or that their role with their current employer will become redundant. Those with niche skills or higher levels of seniority are not immune as, whilst they may be offered even greater incentives, they are likely to face similar practical and emotional ties to a current home location.

Is it time for plan ‘B’?

With a workforce unwilling (or simply unable) to relocate and with key skills and experience often unavailable at the destination location, organisations are forced to begin looking at ‘Plan B’ – essentially having a workforce split across different locations; this in itself throws up yet another series of difficulties.

Opting to relocate due to improved access to markets, for tax planning purposes or simply as a result of changing regulatory environments – employers are having to manage disenfranchised and disenchanted workers at home whilst looking to secure new employees elsewhere. With many of those who remain in role ending up working as part of a ‘virtual team’ with colleagues in multiple locations, managerial challenges abound – engagement and communication being two commonly cited examples.  For some it works, for many others it doesn’t.

Providing the right support to manage change

Over recent months INTOO have found that demand is increasing for initiatives focussing on supporting both employers and employees through these challenging times. This has included coaching or mentoring to ensure leaders are clear about how to manage internationally, maintain engagement during uncertainty or highlight future career-paths; sessions aimed at giving employees  the tools to better manage their own development or, in the case of those leaving organisations, support, advice and guidance around securing future roles or moving a career towards a different trajectory.

Whilst many would say that Brexit is simply the latest in a long line of challenges impacting British workers and that our workforce will adapt, prove resilient and innovative, and will bounce back accordingly – we should acknowledge that, regardless of how Brexit plays out, people, like business, abhor uncertainty. By simply being aware that individuals at all levels across the organisation may be in need of unbiased, practical support and advice might just be the time to support all our careers and protect our collective organisational success.’

To find out how INTOO can help you develop the coaching skills of your leaders drop as a line at getintouch@intoo.com or call 0800 164 2220.