Brexit skills shortage could accelerate job automation in the UK

The potential for robots stealing jobs has been grabbing headlines for years now, and yet British businesses have long lagged behind other industrialised nations on automation, thanks in part to a seemingly inexhaustible pool of workers from Europe. However, a new study from the HR solutions firm, The Adecco Group suggests this is all about to change as the flow of low-cost labour from Europe is disrupted by Brexit.

According to Adecco’s research, Brexit: retaining talent through change, the majority (71%) of managers surveyed believe Brexit will make skills harder to acquire for organisations operating in Britain. A third (34%) think this regardless of the outcome of Brexit. At the same time, Brexit is serving as a catalyst for automation — 34% of UK managers (44% in London) say that their organisation has considered automating elements of their business in order to tackle the potential skills shortage.

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Alongside introducing technology, those organisations that are considering different strategies to manage potential skills shortages are thinking about upskilling existing staff (35%) and increasing talent retention (25%).

Alex Fleming, Country Head and President of Staffing and Solutions, the Adecco Group UK and Ireland, said: “In order to not just succeed but thrive once the UK leaves the EU, every employer needs to have a plan for how they will address current and potential future talent challenges.

“Looking to other countries and how they have dealt with labour shortages can help. In Singapore, for example, organisations are being encouraged to create opportunities for older workers, and think about how they can design jobs to help extend their working lives. Alongside making better use of your existing workforce and improving your retention rates, thinking about how to attract potentially untapped sources of talent can help futureproof your organisation in the face of any skills gaps – Brexit related or not.”

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Interestingly, the study also found that one in five UK managers do not plan to employ any strategy to tackle skills shortages related to Brexit.

Dan Lucy, Principal Research Fellow at the Institute for Employment Studies, said: “Perhaps the key thing for employers to realise is that there are lots of things they can do now to address current and avoid future talent shortages. Many of the actions employers can take will also enhance employer brand and reputation in the jobs market, creating a virtuous circle and helping position those who take action as employers of choice.”

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Andrew Ross

As a reporter with Information Age, Andrew Ross writes articles for technology leaders; helping them manage business critical issues both for today and in the future