A third considering automation to plug post-Brexit skills gaps

A third (34%) of UK managers said their organisation has considered automating elements of the business to tackle post-Brexit skills shortages

This number rises to 44% in London, finds Adecco’s Brexit: retaining talent through change report.

The majority (71%) of managers think the UK's decision to leave the EU will make skilled personnel harder to acquire for organisations operating in the UK.

As well as automation, organisations exploring different strategies to manage potential skills shortages are considering upskilling existing staff (35%) and increasing talent retention efforts (25%).

Yet one in five (20%) do not plan to employ any strategy to tackle Brexit-related skills shortages. And a third (34%) of respondents think that skills shortages will worsen irrespective of the outcome of Brexit.

After Brexit (33%), skills shortages (27%) was cited as the next most likely factor to hinder Britain's ability to remain globally competitive. Other concerns included a lack of investment in AI (9%) and a lack of financial investment from global businesses to operate in the UK (9%).

On 26 November a number of businesses wrote to home secretary Sajid Javid warning of severe skills shortages in the UK if a £30,000 earnings cap is applied to foreign workers after Brexit.

Signatories included London policy chair of the Federation of Small Businesses Sue Terpilowski, chief executive at business group London First Jasmine Whitbread, and chief executive of the London Chamber of Commerce and Industry Colin Stanbridge.

Alex Fleming, country head and president of staffing and solutions at Adecco Group UK and Ireland, said that some organisations have still not prepared for the effects of Brexit on the labour market.

"The idea that Brexit will exacerbate the UK's skills shortage is not a new one, but with one in five businesses not planning to do anything to mitigate this, not all organisations are prepared to deal with this reality. To not just succeed but thrive once the UK leaves the EU, every employer needs to have a plan for how they will address current and potential future talent challenges,” she said.

Fleming added that the UK could look to other countries to see how they have tackled skills shortages: “In Singapore, for example, organisations are being encouraged to create opportunities for older workers, and think about how they can design jobs to help extend their working lives.”

Employers should also better utilise their existing workforces by focusing on retention, she added: “Alongside making better use of your existing workforce and improving your retention rates, thinking about how to attract potentially-untapped sources of talent can help futureproof your organisation in the face of any skills gaps Brexit-related or not."

The report comes as EU leaders approved an agreement on the UK's withdrawal and future relations. The UK parliament is expected to vote on the deal on 12 December but its approval has not been guaranteed. At a news conference in Brussels, UK prime minister Theresa May said the agreement would end free movement "once and for all", protect the constitutional integrity of the UK, and ensure a return to "laws being made in our country by democratically-elected politicians interpreted and enforced by British courts".

The survey of 1,000 managers in UK firms was carried out in October 2018 by Opinion Matters for Adecco.