How can businesses retain talent in a post-Brexit and COVID-19 landscape?

Written by Astriid Volunteer Sabeeha Kassam.

The Confederation of British Industry (CBI) is a non-profit organisation that seeks to promote the interests of businesses. The organisation has highlighted a big efflux from the UK labour market of half a million people since 2020. Job vacancies are now at 1.3 million which is a consistent high record.1 This mass acceleration is due to the impact of both Brexit-related changes to immigration rules and COVID-19. Unfortunately, this crunch has come at a time of long-standing skills gap creating a perfect storm of efflux of talent and a demand for rapid growth.

What can businesses do if this backdrop is unlikely to resolve itself? The CBI has suggested improvements in four key areas1 for companies to attract, retain and enhance the productivity of the talent it needs to grow:

  • maximising talent pools
  • investing in leadership and management capability
  • investing in training
  • and adopting and diffusing technology

Maximising talent pools

In 2022, 87% of CBI members report planning to hire to fill permanent roles while 75% agree talent shortages are a direct threat to UK labour market competitiveness.2

1. Rethinking priorities to attract and keep talented staff 

New and retained talent will be evaluating your Employee Value Proposition at all stages from recruitment to progression including

  • Pay and benefits
  • Career development and progression
  • Company culture and values
  • Diversity and inclusion- this is at the heart of attractiveness and allows companies to reach untapped labour cohorts

2. Improve recruitment to align with diversity and inclusion strategy2

Ensure your recruitment and training process has diversity and inclusion at the forefront. Have a diverse interview panel, consider using a specialist recruitment agency and a CV-less application process. The latter aids managers to focus on allocating candidates to roles that match their key attributes.

3. Support employees staying or coming back to work2

  • Returnships for employees returning from parental leave
  • Apprenticeships to diversify younger talent
  • Phased retirement to retain older talent

Qumodo2 is a perfect case study example of a small business implementing the following non-wage benefits to attract and retain talent. Fortnightly development2 days were introduced and used for talent to spend time on tasks they do not usually get to do in their day job, like learning. This modification increased productivity and improved well-being. Unlimited holiday,2 ultimately at the discretion of the company, was introduced to foster trust due to increased autonomy and to promote physical and mental well-being. Flexibility 2 was increased by allowing talent to work in small teams to garner trust as an ethos within the organisation.

Technology Adoption

70% of firms say new technology improves business resilience and 9% of firms plan to invest in technology as a way of addressing skills or labour shortages.3

  1. Diagnose areas at risk due to a gap in talent rather than technology.3
  2. Engage suppliers as many will offer advice and training for your company, as they are at the forefront of technology adaptation and development.3
  3.  Clearly communicating that technology and people are not an either/or but a partnership will reduce the tension of job security amongst talent.3

UK Greetings, a greeting cards company, increased automation and advanced data modelling within their organisation and within the short space of six months twenty employees upskilled via online resources. The company also noted significant improvements in productivity and retail sales.

Leadership and management

Half of UK workers say that a poor manager is a primary reason why they are disenfranchised by their role.4

1. Communicate a shared company purpose to attract, motivate and engage talent4

A company that has a clear vision and purpose will be able to attract talent who wish to work for a company that is established in the community and contributes to social causes.

2. Make people management a shared organisational priority4

Change cannot happen unless it’s implemented top down. Making people a priority creates a culture where managers know as part of their role they are expected to and will be recognised for how they engage and provide opportunities for talent.

3. Tools to allow hybrid working 4

Hybrid working is here to stay. Managers should be required to build team environments that communicate inclusively, openly and regularly in a virtual environment involving both on site and remote talent.5

Skills Investment

Investing in training can lead to 6-12% increase in productivity, it also means you then do not need to recruit those skills later often at higher cost.6

  1. Identify skill gaps in the organisation that you are struggling to recruit for and pre-empt how this will change in five years’ time.
  2. Build a lifelong learning culture to encourage training at every level. Nissan demonstrated neatly how effective this can be, they opened a battery plant that was first of its kind in the UK. There were few engineers locally that had the specific manufacturing skills required. To fix that Nissan offered training and upskilling to all their own staff regardless of age and experience.
  3. Consider working with training providers to deliver flexible courses.

In conclusion, the CBI recommend working on the above detailed four core areas to help UK businesses beat the war on talent, alongside imperative government support with an immigration and skills system to help correct the systemic skills and labour shortages.

Written by Astriid Volunteer Sabeeha Kassam.


  1. CBI. 2022. Helping businesses navigate recruitment and retention challenges | CBI. [online] Available at: <> [Accessed 1 June 2022].
  2. CBI. 2022. Maximise talent pools to attract and retain a steady pipeline of talent | CBI. [online] Available at: <> [Accessed 1 June 2022].
  3. CBI. 2022. Adopt technology to optimise productivity and tackle business disruption | CBI. [online] Available at: <> [Accessed 1 June 2022].
  4. CBI. 2022. How investing in leadership and management can boost attraction, retention and productivity | CBI. [online] Available at: <> [Accessed 1 June 2022].
  5. CBI. 2022. Developing skills for hybrid working. The skills businesses need to consider when making a shift to hybrid working. November 2021. A practical guide exclusively for members. | CBI. [online] Available at: <> [Accessed 1 June 2022].
  6. CBI. 2022. Invest more in training to help fill long-term skill and labour shortages | CBI. [online] Available at: <> [Accessed 1 June 2022].