Will Brexit result in a tech talent deficit?

Brexit is coming and with it the UK's tech sector must adapt to ensure it continues to attract and retain talent, homegrown or foreign, with whatever means possible.
According to the ‘Innovation boosts Immigration’ article in HR Magazine, the UK is currently the 5th destination of choice for tech talent. The current uncertainty over the UK’s future immigration laws and policy, in light of the pending Brexit, appears to be having a negative impact on the skills gap usually filled by foreign tech talent. Elsewhere, the latest ‘Migration Statistics Quarterly Report: May 2017’ release from the Office for National Statistics (ONS), shows that net migration into the UK between 2015-2016 has dropped by an estimated 43,000. Will the UK tech sector suffer in the face of this slowdown?
 
If the right plans are in place then, happily, the answer should be ‘no’. Forward leaning businesses will always prepare, as best they can, for times of uncertainty with HR and Learning and Development functions engaged in contingency planning for any shortfall in talent. In the already competitive tech sector, retaining talent throughout Brexit will be key. Having a good succession plan in place should encourage staff loyalty and help to avoid a last minute need to fill roles. Putting programmes into place such as management or leadership development, aimed at your future managers or leaders, will support both your business and your employees. Never underestimate the appeal of development opportunities where your employees are concerned. They provide a compelling incentive to stay loyal to your business. 
 
To further minimise turnover, a strong recruitment programme should be put in place now. Ensuring that you recruit for skills, attitude and cultural fit is key to ensuring you get the right individual for the role and the business. To further enhance your ‘stickiness’, being competitive through innovation and reward can also increase staff retention. This does not necessarily mean a high salary and benefits that are expensive to manage, but creative, and relatively inexpensive, solutions that satisfy the needs of the workforce to ensure they feel valued. Methods of incentivising staff to stay and grow with your business can vary from company and include performance related bonus’ schemes to Long Term Incentive Plans (LTIP) or offering share options, more on which can be found here.
 
Where budgets can’t accommodate such schemes, cost efficient offerings such as free Friday breakfast or flexible working, whether varying standard working hours or allowing staff to work from home, provided you have suitable technology in place, can engage and motivate the workforce without it having too much of a significant impact on your bottom line. Keep the lines of communication open with your workforce, understand their needs and determine what is affordable within your budget to find a solution that suits you all. 
 
While you can plan ahead, there will inevitably be some amount of natural attrition and these roles can be more difficult to fill especially if niche. 
 
One way to prepare for this eventuality is to set the business up to sponsor employees. According to the ONS, for the year ending March 2017, the top 3 sectors sponsoring applicants through skilled work visas were the tech sector with 42%, professional, scientific and technical sectors with 18% and financial (including insurance) with 12%.
 
Such global mobility programmes allow those who are skilled, motivated and interested in international development to build on their experience while continuing to keep them engaged through offering exciting new opportunities. When sponsoring new talent from overseas a number of global mobility principles should be considered to help ease your new recruit in. Relocation and diversity training are particularly helpful. It is important to ensure your staff are fully prepared and understand what the move means and the impact it will have on them and their family physically, psychologically and culturally. Global mobility coaching can really provide the tailored support that the individual and their family needs. A GM coach will work with the individual and family to support and help them understand life in the new country and what to expect when they eventually return home. 
 
Investment in the UK tech sector is not slowing down and the number of tech visas applied for and granted to workers from abroad has been steadily increasing. A focus on retaining, developing and incentivising talent should ensure that the future is bright for the sector.
 
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