More Questions than Answers on Brexit’s Effect on Supply Chain Talent

Don’t worry – we’re not going to try to convince you to stay or leave Europe. Instead, I wanted to take a look at the impact the upcoming vote may have on the availability of supply chain talent – regardless of the nation’s decision.

I went back and looked through our supply chain placements for the last two years to see where our candidates came from. Here’s what I found:

  • 64% of placed candidates were from the EU
  • 29% were local (British) candidates
  • 7% were from the remaining international community

Since nearly two-thirds of all supply chain vacancies were filled with candidates from the European Union, over 70% when you include the rest of the world, any change affecting the international flow of talent into the UK deserves further investigation into the impact it will have on supply chain staffing and recruiting. Brexit is not the only challenge facing this vertical today; instead it is putting added emphasis on all other talent related trends such as, hiring plans and visa related regulatory requirements.

How could Brexit (stay or leave) effect the flow of future jobs?

The 2015 SCM World Future of Supply Chain Survey found that 40% of the UK based companies they surveyed planned to add to the headcount of their supply chain teams (including manufacturing, logistics, sourcing and planning jobs) in the next three years. Although those growth plans were not contingent on the results of the Brexit decision, they will be affected by its outcome.

A ‘leave’ vote will put immigration into the unknown, no dramatic changes are likely to happen in short term and in the long term it could be better for highly skilled employees from the UK which would be great to see. However, the system at the moment does tend to work well as it is (certainly from a Supply Chain Recruitment perspective) which raises the question:

What job trends do we expect to see in the short to medium term?

One outcome may be that highly skilled workers will be less attracted to come to the UK as changes may mean that they will be limited to work here for a few years (however long their visa’s last) before having to return to their home country.

Looking back to the past 5 years we have seen many global manufacturing businesses moved supply chain functions as per the business needs, for example planning, customer service/order processing functions have relocated from the UK to Europe and vice versa, will a ‘leave’ vote mean the relocation of more supply chain functions internationally and therefore displace the need for supply chain talent in the UK? Certainly another factor in my opinion.

What are the other factors to consider?


Clearly, I’m no expert but everything I’ve read on the impact of a potential Brexit on talent is that no one knows exactly what will happen. For instance, effective April 2016, £35,000 became the minimum annual salary needed to qualify to apply for a permanent residence visa in the UK. Looking through the placements we’ve made in the last 2 years the majority of supply chain placements fall in the £25,000-£40,000 range, and would be affected by this increase in threshold. There have been concerns raised about talent shortages that would be associated with the new salary threshold as well as the changes to immigration that may be driven by Brexit.

If it is so hard to know exactly what will happen after the vote, why should we try to predict the impact of Brexit on something as specific as supply chain talent?


Naturally there will be a delayed response on the impact of Brexit from both Supply Chain candidates and employers who are waiting to see what leaving the EU will actually mean for them. If we take Education for instance, many professionals in the UK ‘fall into’ working in supply chain roles after graduating in other, often unrelated – degrees compared to a high proportion of European candidates. You would expect there to be a period of uncertainty while the UK market up-skills its existing supply chain self-sufficiency if the EU is no longer a viable to source talent.

Quality of talent

As all supply chain professionals know, supply and demand are affected by many forces that ultimately determine price and quality. Talent management is no exception. Having several factors to account for in the availability of high caliber, qualified talent certainly doesn’t reduce the challenge or uncertainty for companies trying to recruit the best talent available on the market.

There is a lot of debate about the impact Brexit will have on employers and their prospective employees; while we’re not in placing ourselves in the ‘stay’ or ‘leave’ camp, we’re definitely asking for companies and candidates to give some extra thought to the impact these changes will have on supply chain recruitment in the years to come.

On a slightly lighter note, I came across this post on social media over the weekend and thought it was amusing analogy:

We have all been on a night out with that mate who when you are in a club says “it’s shit here” let’s go somewhere else. Then when you leave you realise he has no idea where to go and the place you left won’t let you back in. Without a decent follow up plan a leave vote could see the UK standing in a kebab shop arguing about who’s fault it is.

I can see the point and from our perspective, we’d certainly like to know where our next drink is coming before leaving the club!