Beyond Brexit: How employers can attract and retain top young talent

All businesses will be aware of the detrimental impact Brexit uncertainty is already having on the UK economy. Many companies are delaying investment or warning of a threat to investment, among them Jaguar LandRover. Meanwhile, Bank of England governor, Mark Carney, cited concerns over business investment in the UK as one of the main reasons for delaying the much-hyped interest rate hike earlier in the year.

But while there are legitimate business concerns around investing during the current Brexit uncertainty, particularly for small to medium sized businesses who are perhaps more vulnerable than large corporations, there is a balance to be struck. Turn the taps off completely and British companies risk their employees interpreting such caution as a lack of confidence in the future, inadvertently driving them to look for employment elsewhere. With recruiting and retaining top talent one of the most important issues for businesses today, this is not a mistake SMEs and business leaders will want to make.

This is the issue explored by new research from workplace consultants, Peldon Rose[1], which reveals that employers must continue to invest in the work environment to attract and retain top young talent.  The survey reveals that more than a quarter of British workers (27%) say Brexit has already had a negative impact on their company.  One in six (16%) claim Brexit uncertainty has seen their company reduce its investment in the workplace and of these, a third (32%) state company perks have or will be cut and a quarter (23%) say their company has or will postpone an office refurbishment to save money.

The survey suggests employers who value retaining the best young employees should be cautious about such ‘Brexit budgeting’ as investment in the workplace is particularly important for young workers; two-fifths (39%) of Millennials and Generation Xs (aged 35-54) and a third (33%) of Generation Zs (aged 18-24) claim they’ll consider changing jobs if workplace spending is cut – vs only a fifth (20%) of Baby Boomers, (aged 55+). 

Conversely, employers who maintain and improve the office environment will be rewarded with the loyalty of their employees; two-thirds (66%) of Millennials say they will be more loyal to companies that invest in the office, a high figure reflected across the generations with over half of all employees agreeing that companies that improve the workplace will gain their loyalty (53%). 

The research concludes that British employers need to ensure that they are sending out the right, positive messages to their employees – particularly at a time of such uncertainty.  Retaining top talent is critical to any organisation’s success and smart businesses all now acknowledge that a great office environment is not a nice-to-have, it is a key employee retention and engagement tool. 

In the current Brexit climate it is understandable that companies will want and need cost effective investment in the office environment.  The following simple-to-implement, budget-friendly steps will help SMEs and business leaders make the right, positive changes to the workplace to keep employees engaged and motivated:

Workplace evaluation

If your company is one of the 38% that hasn’t consulted its workers about the office or analysed how it is used, now is the right time to conduct a workplace evaluation.  Even a short audit of employees and observation study will help companies to see if the office environment is working well for staff and discover what they value the most.  This helps companies ensure that they are not wasting money on things that staff don’t want or need. The evaluation will also uncover how efficiently businesses are using their space and if there are potential savings to be made.

Retain company perks

Wherever possible, retain company perks.  Economising in this way feels personal to staff and sends out the message that staff wellbeing is not a priority.  It also represents a false economy. Removing a coffee machine could save a few hundreds of pounds a year, whereas discovering that you can release underutilised office space could save tens of thousands of pounds a year.

Refurb or relocate
If your company has decided against an office relocation for the time-being, don’t abandon all plans to improve the office – analyse how you use your office space and consider refurbishing it instead.  Can you use your space more efficiently or more effectively? If you need more space, investigate whether you could you sublet adjacent space, or redesign existing office space through smart working to accommodate more employees without the need for a move or more space.

Jitesh Patel is CEO of Peldon Rose, a leader in office interior design and fit out and a specialist in workplace innovation.  The company has been creating award-winning offices in London since 1987 and has delivered projects for a range of clients including The White Company, Pret A Manger, Heineken and JustGiving.

[1] Peldon Rose Brexit Business Survey of over 600 people was undertaken online in June 2018 by respondents throughout the UK, across a variety of industries