What impact will Brexit have on attracting talent to the UK’s scaling tech businesses?

While 2020 has been a year that we’d all rather see the end of, January 2021 also means the Brexit deadline. This is something that many business leaders are concerned about and have been for many years. It’s safe to say that whatever size your business or whatever industry you work in, Brexit will mean a degree of uncertainty for leaders and workers.

Firms have already transferred €1.3 trillion in assets and 7,500 jobs to the EU to avoid uncertainty, and this may grow. Leaders that remain in the UK must be prepared for legal and strategic changes. Luckily the tech sector is adaptable and should be able to withstand the storm. The agile nature of tech means it is uniquely placed to drive forward entrepreneurial global Britain, but this doesn’t mean there won’t be some barriers to contend with initially.

To tackle the uncertainties, it’s going to be even more vital that companies have the right culture, talent and skillset on board. However, when it comes to attracting talent, there are going to be many changes that come with the UK leaving the EU. We’ve listed a few of the challenges you can expect to face in the coming months to help you prepare:

Reduced talent pools

Cross border hiring is set to become more of a challenge when the UK leaves the EU. The process of applying for visas may deter some talented people from applying to UK tech businesses and could significantly reduce the pool of talent on offer. With hard to hire roles like developers, data scientists and other tech positions, the option of hiring European talent has often helped tech businesses to scale.

While it’s not impossible and UK companies should still have a wealth of talent at their disposal, Brexit also provides a unique opportunity to promote and nurture developers and data scientists based in the UK. While this is a great opportunity, remember there’s currently a global tech talent shortage, and so finding the right people from the UK could be more challenging than you first imagine. Companies must work harder to stand out in their fields by improving their employer brand and recruitment marketing efforts to ensure they appeal to the best tech talent and become an employer of choice.

Plus, by outsourcing recruitment and utilising the advice of talent experts, scaling companies can have access to slightly bigger talent pools (otherwise known as the recruiter’s network) and expertise that could become invaluable. Recruiters know how to work with talent pools to find the talent to scale your business; they bring new perspectives, know which skills and attitudes could be valuable to you as well as specific roles.

Opportunity for remote working

Since the COVID-19 pandemic, remote working has become the norm. Therefore, this may seem like an obvious solution to getting around Brexit restrictions and hiring European talent. If the only skilled developer you can find to hire is based in Spain, surely they can work remotely if your team has been doing so for the last year, right?

Sadly, although this is possible, it may not be so simple. If a European worker is working for a British corporation remotely, then there could be issues of tax, employment laws, data processing and even pensions that need to be considered. Businesses will need to look at the employment laws of the in questions country and take every remote hire on a case by case basis. Usually, there will be minimal problems so long as the employment contract holds up by UK law and the business is solely UK based, however, it’s certainly better to be safe than sorry. Remember, the shorter time an employee is working abroad, the smaller their risks are expected to be. If this is a permanent solution for your business, there will be research and different complex aspects to consider.

Focus on upskilling

Rather than hiring talent from abroad, at least whilst we all get used to new rules and regulations brought in by Brexit, it may be safer to focus on upskilling. Training your existing team or hiring talent for attitude and upskilling them as they work may help your business to succeed post-Brexit. You can train existing talent in the skills you need, which will reduce recruitment costs. It also means you’ll have access to the skills you need without the complications of recruiting from outside of the UK (if you can’t find homegrown talent). Upskilling also helps to improve your employer brand as it shows you’re committed to your team’s future and want to help them progress so they can contribute to your business positively. Employees think highly of companies which provide them with opportunities to learn, grow and prove themselves; upskilling therefore can have mutual advantages for employee and employer.

Of course, upskilling may not be the solution for every role in a scaling tech business; some of them will be complex and require recruiting experienced and talented individuals. This is where external recruitment partners could become incredibly useful to a company, sourcing for niche and complex roles. However, in the short term as we battle uncertainty upskilling where possible could be a saviour for your business.

Prepare for a greater tech demand

For scaling tech businesses, Brexit could have at least one certainty; we’re all going to be relying on technology even more. If companies with multiple offices overseas wish to continue to work or more organisations have to hire talent to work remotely, technology could be their best friend. For internet and tech startups, this is an excellent opportunity to take advantage of. In the same way that COVID-19 made us all realise the actual value of tech and increased our reliance on apps, websites and other platforms, the impact Brexit will have on travel could force us to use these even more. Expect more Zoom meetings with international clients and reliance on tech for things that once seemed simple; which is good news for the tech companies behind such innovations.

For scaling tech businesses expecting to see a rise in demand, it may be time to plan for growth. Consider the roles you will need to recruit for soon if your business sees success on the back of Brexit so that you can be ready to hire as quickly as you need to. Remember, other companies similar to yours will also be seeing this growth and so demand for tech talent could be on the rise. You need be prepared to compete for top players if you wish to grow your business.

Creating a talent strategy and plan for a new year is always a good idea. For a year which will see such monumental changes and an upsurge of reliance on tech, it could be vital to create a plan now which will aid your future recruitment as you scale. Align it to your business goals and do some talent mapping within your business to identify those who could upskill or become the leaders of tomorrow, cutting your recruitment costs.

Rely on reputation

London has been Europe’s hub for tech businesses (especially Fintech) for years, and Manchester is currently the fastest growing tech hub in Europe. The companies based in the UK are some of the most innovative, creative and exciting in the world, they’re leagues ahead of some of their European counterparts. These UK tech businesses will surely still be able to attract the best tech talent no matter how difficult it becomes to enter the UK. The benefits of working at such great companies will often outweigh the difficulties of getting in. Which is why scaling companies should be prioritising employer branding and building their reputation on an international scale.

To attract talented people that are passionate about your business once the UK leaves the EU, you need to make your goals, missions and USP clear. Promote why you’re a great employer and are worth any complications that Brexit may bring in terms of applying for visas and sponsorship. With the legacy of the UK’s tech companies on your side, it should be easy to position yourself as a great employer to those that matter. Using social media, email marketing and other digital tools you can explain why your people enjoy working for you, show what you can offer candidates and keep your talent pool warm through creative and on-brand communications.

The UK’s tech sector is one of the strongest in the world, with some of the most exciting and pioneering corporations. Provided businesses in the tech sector can adapt to the challenges Brexit will bring and adjust their talent strategy accordingly then they should have no problem attracting tech talent from software developers through to creative thinkers and strategists in leadership roles.

If you have concerns about your recruitment or talent strategy after Brexit, then Talent Works are on hand to help. We’re experts in assisting tech businesses as they scale through employer branding, digital attraction and direct sourcing for even the most complex roles across the globe. Contact our experts to begin a conversation about how we can help you to weather the storm the next few months may bring.