Fresh Careers Fair: Getting ahead with ways to Brexit-proof your HR and recruitment

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Fresh Careers Fair pic

Availability of labour – or the lack thereof – is shaping up to be the biggest Human Resources (HR) challenge of 2019, as competition for staff heats up across all sectors in a full employment economy. Add to that the unknown impact of Brexit on the free movement of labour from the European Union (EU), and you have the perfect storm for an even more challenging recruitment market this year. PBUK speaks with Angel Human Resources, headquartered in London and an exhibitor at this year's The Fresh Careers Fair 2019 on 13 March, to glean some useful advice for employers.

“We’re hoping for the best, and preparing for the worst,” says Carol Borhani, Director of Angel HR. “Competition for staff is the main challenge…and everyone is struggling.”

Although no-one knows yet how things will pan out with Brexit, Borhani says she is hopeful once the dust settles. 

“People are still coming through the door – there are people who are looking for work,” she points out. “You just have to work much harder to attract them and retain them.” 

Roberta Ciape, Marketing Partner at Angel HR, concurs, adding that alarm bells are not ringing yet. “The majority of [EU] candidates that we speak with are concerned, but they’re not leaving because of Brexit. Most are considering to stay.”

Added to that, Borhani reveals that many EU nationals are still coming to work in the UK. “Those that are here already; many are settled and have had children here. Plus there are new workers coming over at the moment, and EU students are still arriving to work over the summer to improve their English.” 

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Know the deadlines

To ensure businesses are Brexit-ready, Angel HR says employers must take note of the deadlines once the UK’s membership of the EU ends on 29 March 2019, and the ‘implementation period’ begins. 

“Presently, EU nationals can continue to come and work in the UK without any issues until 31 December 2020, but EU nationals who wish to live and work in the UK after that must apply for settled status,” explains Louis Borhani, Head of permanent recruitment at Angel HR.

“The registration scheme should be fully open by 31 March 2019, and the deadline for making settled status applications is currently set for 30 June 2021.” 

On 21 January 2019 the UK government waived the £65.00 fee to register for settled status in order to remove any financial barrier for applicants.

The scheme enables EU nationals to apply to work, live, and gain access to various benefits in the UK for as long as they wish – provided they have lived in the UK for a continuous five-year period.

Those EU citizens who have lived in the UK for less time should be eligible to apply for pre-settled status instead. 

“This means they can stay in the UK for a further five years, then they can apply for settled status,” continues Borhani [Louis].” 

Failure to apply for settled status by the deadline will mean the automatic loss of the right to live and work in the UK. There are potential penalties for employers too.

“As an employer, if you fail to ensure that any of your EU national employees has settled status you will be deemed to have employed illegal workers and could face a fine of up to £20,000 per worker,” warns Borhani [Louis]. 

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Make job ads more attractive 

Alongside ensuring your EU workers are compliant with the new regulations, Angel HR advises businesses to publicise their job opportunities in a way that is contemporary, enticing and fun.

“Keep your ads [job advertisements] fresh,” suggests [Carol] Borhani. “At Angel, we use slightly differently wording than many other recruiters to make our ads more attractive. That keeps people’s interest.” 

“I’d run a ‘Recommend a friend’ bonus with your current staff too. Historically, that was the way recruitment worked in catering and hospitality anyway.”

Be more personal

When you’ve garnered the interest, Ciape says to remember to utilise basic customer service skills when speaking to any potential new recruits. 

“Try to make it personable as possible,” she notes. “Inevitably, jobseekers do send in their CVs, especially via email, but not all employers or recruiters respond. 

“At Angel, we chat to potential candidates, and it means a lot to them. Response is everything – remember that in your daily life if you get a good response from a company over the phone it makes you want to go back.”

Consider job shares

Employers could also advertise some positions as a ‘job share’ to attract the unemployed, older people, mothers of young children and youngsters who need flexibility around studying. 

“I do think employers need to be flexible and look at the way the world is going,” states [Carol] Borhani. “There’s such a mixed workforce out there; mums going back to work, retirees who are still able to work. There are lots of people who would love to have a job share.

“Childcare is such an expense, and if you’ve not worked for a long time it can be daunting returning to the workplace. Also, not everyone can afford to retire or wants to retire from that working routine. 

“You’ve got to look at flexible working in terms of job shares. Be open minded – don’t say we can’t do that.”

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Rethink work experience

Borhani believes it may also be time to take another look at the potential for the younger generation to fill roles, and to start gaining the right skills for work earlier in life. 

“Regulation is so tight around employing young people that many employers are wary because of the legislation. But maybe more employers need to approach colleges and schools, and offer more opportunities such as work experience.” 

Train from scratch

Another option along similar lines is to bring in people to train from scratch. 

“At Angel, we are training from scratch for the social care sector,” [Carol] Borhani explains. “We have the training facilities for that, so we are helping to bring in new people with no prior experience.”

Retrain & up-skill existing workers

Once you’ve employed your new recruits, the best way to maintain your workforce is to retain that workforce.

“Hanging onto employees is one of the biggest issues across all sectors,” notes [Carol] Borhani. 

“Everyone is looking at how they can hold on to staff because it’s not always about money, although that remains a big factor.

“Consider additional benefits for why your employees should want to stay with you. For example, look at who you have, and how you can improve their skills and move them up a notch via re-training and up-skilling.” 

As a case in point, Angel HR has developed the Angel Academy of Excellence to ensure workers are equipped with the latest and most relevant training relating to foodservice, hospitality and social care, as well as ongoing Personal Professional Development in general.

On top of that, Angel HR offers its own staff encouraging incentives such as additional training, certifications, permanent contracts, as well as a little extra pay.

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Offer a work-life balance

Wellbeing is another major concern for HR professionals this year, says [Carol] Borhani. 

“You definitely have to look at the work-life balance,” she urges. “What we’ve done internally is to give an extra day’s holiday for staff birthdays, or a day off for Christmas shopping. Those little things make a big difference to your workers. 

“Outside of work, you can encourage staff to get involved in social activities, to meet up after work and to go to networking meetings.” 

Motivate your staff 

Motivation is also important for worker retention, particularly among the younger generations.

“The newer generations are quite unique with regards to working,” says [Carol] Borhani. “They have a different outlook on life. They’re not too bothered about having 10 jobs in two years, and they all seem to want to travel. 

“They like constant change to keep their attention span, so you have to keep them engaged. If they are doing the same thing day-in, day-out they are going to want to go to the next level. It’s like a computer game! They don’t want to do things that are too repetitive.” 

To engage with young staff members to understand what they need, Borhani suggests providing a mentor or someone to whom staff can go to talk. 

“Choose someone understanding, who’s very aware and perceptive of people’s feelings. This is about empathy. You don’t need to monitor people all the time, but make sure you make time for people. 

“Keep motivating staff and offer achievements and rewards. People aren’t as content as they used to be. And that’s just a fact of life – it’s progress.” 

At the end of the day, [Carol] Borhani says the key is to remember to look outwards in order to move with the times.

“It’s a different world and we have to adapt,” she concludes. “Let’s be positive, move forward and turn any negatives into positives.” 

  • Angel HR will be exhibiting for the third year at The Fresh Careers Fair 2019 (FCF19), the recruitment event for the fresh food and drink industry, which takes place on 13 March in London.
  • At the FCF19, Carol Borhani will join the ‘Foodservice Dragon’ panel, which will invite jobseekers to make an elevator pitch to industry experts in return for honest and constructive feedback on their interview technique and career aspirations.
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