Karen Hebert-Maccaro, chief learning experience officer, O’Reilly Media, identifies possible talent development gaps.
Downstream Impact of Brexit.
Brexit is already impacting the social, political and economic state of the UK and it has yet to be realised. What’s most worrying is that Britain is facing a lot of unknowns. How much money will the UK have to pay the EU? What will happen to UK citizens living abroad or citizens of the EU living in the UK? What will happen with the Irish Border? If the UK were to have a “no deal” Brexit, thought to be a worse-case scenario, there could be significant impact on the economy, including food price increases and possible import and export delays and extraordinarily high customs costs for businesses among other negative impacts. These are the some of the more high-profile concerns about the UK exit from the EU but there are countless other potential effects of this shift.
Regardless of whether a deal is made or not, the approaching deadline represents a significant period of uncertainty for government, industry and individuals of the UK. Economies do not like uncertainty and may react erratically. This in turn may mean many companies and industries will “button down the hatches” and shift to a more fiscally conservative approach until this uncertainty diminishes. When companies adopt conservative fiscal practices, they will often look to reduce “non-essential expenses” from budget lines. In terms of industries such as educational technology (edtech) and professional development services, this may mean a particularly tough period as budget owners delay edtech or professional development services buying decisions, or cancel existing contracts with providers as a relatively easy way to reduce spend.
This strategy is not without risk however, as those companies that delay or cancel such spend on products and other employee development efforts may find themselves with several short and even long-term challenges. In the short-term, companies may find themselves struggling to recruit and retain top talent if they stop providing them the resources necessary to succeed in their current role and prepare for future opportunities. Additionally, we know that millennials evaluate potential employment opportunities on the basis of how much opportunity they perceive the company provides for development and growth even over some more traditional job offer perks. A short-term failure to invest in edtech and other resources could lead to a longer-term negative impact on the employer value proposition. Further, some pre-Brexit studies already suggest that more than 40 per cent of technical applicants lack the necessary skills for the jobs to which they are applying. Without investment in edtech and other development opportunities, companies may find themselves with a workforce unable to help them compete in the world of rapidly changing business and technology trends.
The effect of a delay in investment is compounded by the reality that some organisations will continue to invest during this period. It may be that those organisations that do not choose to make delays and cuts in edtech purchases and professional development services, may find themselves disproportionately ahead of their competitors after the uncertainty of Brexit has subsided. While others took the conservative approach, those that push ahead in valuing employee development will have better employer brand stories, are more likely to compete in difficult talent acquisition markets and will have a workforce that is on top of the business and technical changes and can innovate to provide a competitive advantage.
The exact impact of Brexit is speculative at the moment and one can only hope for a relatively positive outcome across all the variables of this change. It will be important however, that companies make decisions to continue to invest in their employees and talent strategies during this critical time. Regardless of the outcome of Brexit, companies must continue to ensure a relevant workforce with the skills and knowledge needed to drive innovation and to gracefully adapt to the inevitable uncertainties of all types that lie in the future.