Jon Addison: Stop planning and start acting on Brexit

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Seismic geopolitical shifts have led talent professionals to focus on contingency planning for the future but they must also focus on the present, according to LinkedIn UK’s Jon Addison

Speaking at the 2019 HRD Summit, the head of talent solutions at LinkedIn UK said that it is impossible to build an effective contingency plan without certainty.

“We have been considering Brexit for the past two-and-a-half years and asked what our position is and how we can help businesses drive insights. We have 50 days to go, and I’m sure if we’re honest with ourselves we can see that there are multiple possible scenarios,” he said.

“If you think about how businesses build contingency plans – they can be so multitudinous that even if you manage to get one right there can be a lot of others left on the cutting room floor. That can be fool’s gold. Why not wait to a point where you have a little bit more certainty? Where you have some insights and you can see what they’ll actually give you?"

While he did not advocate doing nothing to prepare for Brexit, Addison said it’s important to find a middle ground.

“There’s something you can do in the middle that involves being a lot more tactful, if you have the insights you need to pivot, and at the same time always preparing your workforce with the right skills so they know what’s coming,” he said.

Speaking to HR magazine after his talk, Addison pointed out that as UK businesses can no longer rely on accessing an EU workforce they should implement agile working, with an emphasis on skills. “To protect yourself you really need to start thinking about how you can get the skills and talent that these scenarios demand. It’s all about your talent strategy, and we would suggest that is exactly what CEOs are thinking too,” he said.

He cited LinkedIn research in which 77% of CEOs identified gaining access to key skills as critical to their business in future. “We realise that talent and skills need to be recognised as going far higher up the agenda. This is also about insights, and how you use data to drive outcomes,” he said. “It’s about understanding the skills in your workforce – what you have got, and what you haven’t got and need, and using that data to get it.”

There is no longer room for complacency over issues such as pay transparency and flexible working, he added. “The increasing need for flexible working, the amount of thought that is going into soft skills and pay transparency… these are loudly resonating with employee experience expectations. Businesses are still seeing these as a ‘nice to have’ but technology will flush this through. It’s just about employers changing their mindsets, so don’t be a laggard within that context,” he said.

HR should use this time to increase its influence in the business, Addison added: “This time will pass, and there may not be a time where HR partners are quite so important to business. If we can’t find a voice now we might never find it.”

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