Dear Employers, can you attract and retain EU staff?

EU nationals have been a staple in the UK workforce and play an important role in our society. However with Brexit negotiations leaving them uncertain about their futures, they are beginning to look elsewhere. But with the right motivations, they'll stay.

Of those 2.9 million EU nationals living in the UK, about 2.15 million are in employment, many of whom play important roles in our society – look at the NHS. Yet there remains much uncertainty around their future in the UK while Brexit negotiations continue. A weaker Sterling (down over 20% since November 2015) also means cheaper relative wages for EU workers.

So how can we continue to attract and retain this workforce? Have we taken a step back? Are British workers either numerous enough or willing to take on the seasonal work such as fruit picking or filling the resource gaps in the NHS? UK unemployment just dropped to its lowest level in 40 years, suggesting we don’t have a lot of extra capacity at home. At the same time, EU net migration to the UK has hit a 4-year low and fewer people are coming to the UK looking for work. 

There’s no doubt Britain has received some negative press in Europe in recent months, which undoubtedly plays a role in people’s decision to come here for work. Who wants to go somewhere they’re not welcome? So instead of trying to work out who is to blame, let’s look at what we can do to improve the situation.   

So dear employers, here are a few suggestions that will help you attract and retain that European workforce you need.   

Explicit reassurance that you want and need your EU employees
Write your clear commitment to them and the importance they have for your business. Share it. Keep it simple, personal, and relatable.

Show you understand and are thinking about how Brexit will affect them
Make it a project for one of your staff. Subscribe to the Home Office newsletter for any updates that will affect your EU Staff and be the first to notify people about it. This will show them that you care.

Look for alternative channels for attracting them 
You may already be in touch with a number of agencies, who have been struggling just like you. Online platforms such as WorkGaps have been set up as a marketplace where businesses can share their needs and be introduced to the right people.  

Introduce better ways of communicating and engaging
How do you stay in touch with the people you’ve worked with? Especially when they’re part-time or on short-term contracts? How are you engaging the people in your business right now? There are much better options than emails, phone calls or texts. Using software such as WorkGaps allows you to share news or work opportunities with any group of people at any time and track responses. You don’t need to worry about their contact details or availability. They do that for you. With the ability to stay connected or post your jobs for a small fraction of an agency cost, why haven’t you switched already? Promote your business, connect with people, and retain the staff you want to keep.

Make a big deal of Eurovision
This one might be a stretch, but we all make sacrifices for the people we care about. Remember that terrible movie you sat through because your partner thought it was the best thing ever? Eurovision is like that. Europeans love Eurovision (they really do) and if even don`t want to make a big deal of it like dressing in country colours, how about a sweepstake to get everybody involved and laughing?

Get to know your EU employees – understand their ways and background.
Last, but not leastbe curious. Get to know them. We all carry stereotypes, but Eastern Europeans are not a single group. Each country has a rich history, traditions and diverse food. Food? How about a national bake off? You might learn something new.

Good luck finding and keeping hold of the people you need to make your business a success!

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