Business leaders appear to be taking a 'wait and see' approach to Brexit, viewing it as another disruption rather than a fundamental challenge, according to Willis Towers Watson research.
The firm's Brexit Talent and Rewards Survey, seen exclusively by HR magazine, found that 62% of British business leaders see Brexit as ‘another disruption’, compared with only 25% who classed it as a ‘fundamental challenge’.
When it came to Brexit planning, 43% of firms said they aim to review their talent resourcing and pipeline in the UK within the next three months, while 6% had already done this. Only 9% were either planning or considering a recruitment freeze.
Firms were also relaxed about communicating with their staff about Brexit; 55% of those based in the UK said they had not communicated on the subject within the past three months.
Of those that had not communicated, 46% said they had too much else going on, 28% thought Brexit was not a big enough business issue, and 22% thought it was too far away to worry about. Another 14% were unsure about what to say.
Richard Veal, director of Willis Towers Watson's talent and reward practice, told HR magazine that the results had not changed considerably from when the same questions were asked in July 2016. “Last year 51% of firms had communicated with their staff about Brexit, so only a slightly higher number,” he said. “At the moment firms seem to be treading water, but I would expect that to change as Brexit draws closer."
He added though that now is the time for communicating with staff around Brexit. "I think any employers who have expat EU staff and/or UK staff working in the EU should be communicating with them," he said. "Employers need to prepare the ground and build trust so when legislation actually changes they and their employees will be more prepared. If firms fall into that 14% that don’t know what to say they can still offer reassurance."
Jonathan Gardner, senior economist for Willis Towers Watson, agreed that firms will likely step into action soon, but said a 'wait and see' approach for now was understandable and not cause for concern. “At the moment firms seem to be treating this as business as usual,” he told HR magazine. “Businesses are currently contending with a lot of other concerns, such as automation. As the impact of Brexit starts to bite we would expect this to change, but for now they are content to watch and wait.”