Why Brexit uncertainty means trouble for L&D

By John Helmer

Man with umbrella in waist-deep water in the rain to illustrate Brexit uncertaintyHR’s recent drive to develop ‘VUCA’ leadership turns out to have been timely: the situation created by Brexit is volatile, uncertain, complex and ambiguous. And of the four letters making up that acronym it is the ‘U’ – uncertainty – that is currently causing most concern for the People function.

On a webinar given by Lumesse partners IEDP I learned that HR people are ‘hungry for certainty’ over Brexit. With the March 2019 deadline set by the UK government’s triggering of Article 50 beginning to loom unpleasantly, we find ourselves 25% of the way through the process but with no clarity at all about which of the various possible leaving scenarios will prevail.

IEDP’s Roddy Millar asked guest presenter Michael Skapinker (Executive Editor Financial Times / IE Business School Corporate Learning Alliance) whether he was seeing any specific solutions or approaches that HR departments were putting in place to prepare themselves for leaving: ‘How can one prepare oneself for something that one doesn’t know?’ replied Skapinker; ‘we don’t know what the situation will be.’

At time of writing, everything still seems to be in play; meaning anything from a Norway-style scenario where the UK retains some access to the single market, through a transitional period of as-yet-undetermined length which might smooth out the lumps and bumps, to a so-called ‘train-crash’ Brexit where Britain leaves without a trade deal and operates under WTO rules.

Whether you’re a beleaver or a remoaner – whether or not you think suffering the pain of divorce is worth the eventual rewards we might reap from leaving the EU – it is hard to deny that there will be pain.

So where are the problem areas for L&D?

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