Is Remote Work the Answer to Brexit?

U.K. businesses need access to the best talent to grow, enter new markets and sustain their competitive advantage.

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By Lilia Stoyanov • Jan 21, 2019

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Being the CEO of a U.K.-based recruitment platform, I constantly hear the question "What is the impact of Brexit on the recruiting industry?"

It is not surprising that both recruiters and businesses are worried about the potential shortage of talent post-Brexit. CIPD and The Adecco Group recently surveyed 2001 employers. The quarterly Labour Market Outlook sheds some light on the "'Brexit Effect'' on the recruiting industry. The number of applicants coming from E.U. countries has decreased, resulting in lower quality and higher pay rate expectations of the new starters. Key staff and highly skilled workers are likely to receive a pay rise above the 2 percent average set for the wider workforce.

So, what are the options available to the UK-based businesses?

E.U. headquarters

Some businesses, predominantly in the financial services industry, have already opted for E.U. headquarters in an attempt to address both the changing regulatory requirements and the talent shortage. However, this decision comes at a cost that not all businesses can afford, neither it is the right decision in all cases. There is no guarantee that talent will be in abundance. Actually, the opposite is more likely as most companies are considering moving to the same cities in the E.U.

Moving Transformify outside of the UK has never been on my "'to do'' list as the cost will substantially exceed the potential benefits.

Remote teams

Since the very beginning, we relied on a remote team of freelancers working around the world. Taping into the global talent pool has many advantages, especially when entering new markets, as the team is not only highly skilled but also familiar with the local culture. Each job listing receives 200+ highly-skilled applicants on average as the search is not limited to a particular location. Add to this the much lower office costs as everyone works from the closest WeWork, one of our global partners.

There is a growing number of remote companies worldwide including Automatic, HotJar, Zapier, TimeDoctor, etc. However, managing a fully remote team is not a good fit for every business model. Production companies, research & development centers, etc. need at least some of their staff working on the same premises.

Distributed teams

A hybrid between a remote team and a traditional in-office team, distributed teams are a viable option that fits most business models and industries. Having a distributed team in the U.K. means that a London-based business may hire skilled workers in Birmingham and have them work as a team in a coworking office. The distributed team is on-shore, there is a dedicated team manager reporting to the HQ in London, but the office costs are lower and the company has access to a completely different talent pool.

The high-unemployment rate areas in the U.K. are often neglected but having a distributed team there is good for the business and the U.K. economy. Since we introduced the Market Entry Pack, it quickly became the most popular service of Transformify. After all, it is a win-win -- the businesses make an informed decision about the best location based on information about the skills and desired pay rates of the job seekers living in that area and consolidate a team in a coworking office, thus optimizing the costs. Instead of moving to London or another big city, the job seekers enjoy career growth opportunities, a better work-life balance and bigger purchasing power where they are.

Of course, a distributed team can be consolidated abroad as well. Sometimes, there is a concentration of highly-skilled workers living in university cities, close to abandoned production plants, etc.


What if there is no location flexibility at all?

Post-Brexit, it will not be easy to relocate candidates in the U.K. The process is time-consuming, substantial cost is involved, and it may happen that the candidate is not the best fit or decides to leave after a couple of months. Spending a few months sourcing and relocating talent impacts productivity as the business is understaffed and the situation becomes worse if the candidate decides to leave during the trial period. As many of Transformify's clients have already been through the cycle of sourcing and replacing talent, it was obvious that the option to test a candidate on the job prior to engaging with work permit and relocation is much needed.

Test-and-hire allows you to source highly-skilled candidates regardless of their location and initially hire them via an umbrella company. The candidates are entitled to all employee benefits and work out of the local office of the umbrella company during the trial period. This allows to test the candidates on the job, let them interact with the team, etc. After the trial period, the employer has an option to either engage with work permit and relocation or to hire someone else who is likely to be a better fit.

There are a number of umbrella companies having subsidiaries worldwide that can help U.K. businesses to test-and-hire non-U.K. residents, including Generate, Contractor Taxation, ShieldGeo, etc.

U.K. businesses need access to the best talent to grow, enter new markets and sustain their competitive advantage. With all the uncertainty surrounding Brexit, remote work may not be the first solution that comes to mind. However, it is a viable option allowing to source, test, hire and relocate talent while optimizing the costs and mitigating the risks for the U.K.-based businesses.

Lilia Stoyanov

Entrepreneur Leadership Network VIP

CEO and Angel Investor at Transformify. Fintech Expert.Professor.

Lilia Stoyanov is a chief executive officer and angel investor at Transformify. A fintech and digital transformation expert, she is also a professor at Zigurat Business School and expert evaluator Horizon 2020 at the European Commission.

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