Don’t lose sight of your biggest asset during Brexit

Amongst the general confusion that is Brexit, Vicky Glynn, product manager at Brightsolid reminds us not to lose sight of what really makes this industry tick – the people.

The data centre industry has been resilient to outside forces in the last decade – the 2008 crash, 2014 Scottish Independence Referendum and 2016 Brexit Referendum are just a few. But we are now at a very different crossroads; one where we will exit the EU with either a Deal or No Deal. No matter the outcome, there will be significant repercussions either way.While the sector has been fortunate enough to hold steady in bumpier economic times, there is no certainty that this will continue – and as an industry we shouldn’t rest on our laurels just because it’s not entirely clear how it will impact ‘me’ (i.e. my company).

Indeed, some of the detail of true impact that Brexit will have is hard to see, as much of it is precautionary and seems particularly skewed towards regulatory and taxation protection. Equally, for us as a business based in Scotland, it is proving tricky to consider this impact too as a lot of the companies which may be hit hardest don’t have a massive impact on our hosting market as they either don’t host here or have their own data centres or host in the cloud. This was reflected in research by Thomson Reuters who spoke with CFOs and found that technology was a low priority in looking at the wider impact that Brexit will have.

However, whether a technology, retail or financial organisation; Brexit is coming, and everyone needs to be prepared. While businesses across the UK look to predict the possible outcomes; from how regulated industries might be impacted by an EU exit, to protecting the business in case of an economic nosedive; it’s important not to lose sight of the biggest asset that a business has – its people.

From my experience of working in the data centre industry, growth relies more on our ability to create relationships with our customers through our employees and build experiences of trust, along with having a compelling offering that brings true value. But while it is all too easy to get caught up in the weeds of Brexit, what can we do to encourage and continue to support teams to be as successful as possible when faced with Brexit and a need to keep the lights in the business on?

Encourage the new

No matter the external pressures, it is vital that we, as data centre operators and employers, consider how to attract the best and brightest to our industry in the first place. One of the key ways to change this is to encourage more young people into the industry.

I am part of a group from the company to have visited 5thYear students through a series of career events. From my conversations, it’s clear that students are most confident and enthusiastic about vocations when making their career plans.

Vets, lawyers and doctors all came out as the most popular likely career paths; working in technology wasn’t high on their agenda. This is a shame given that it is estimated that 85% of the jobs of 2030 haven’t been created yet. As such, now is the time to start thinking about whether tech could be part of their future and it is the job of businesses like ours to figure out how best to do that.

We, as an industry, need to make more noise about what we can do and the impact we can have not only on our clients, but the wider world. Just as professions like medicine and law can work for good; so, can the tech industry. As such, it’s clear that we must create working environments that people want to be in to encourage new people to come into the industry. Part of that is through the benefits packages which are made available.

Incentivise the current

While clearly an appeal to the new, a company’s benefits programme must also recognise those individuals who currently work there.

It’s no secret that Brexit will cause disruption and uncertainty for businesses, but it is going to hit people just as hard. It’s important that business leaders remain steady and support staff by rewarding the loyalty, enthusiasm and persistence that exists within the organisation.

This can be all the way from recognising excellence in the organisation in the format of a company meeting, to considering the financial renumeration of the company’s people. One of the certainties with Brexit is that the Bank of England rate of inflation will increase, and everyone will feel more strain on purse strings.

While wage rises might not be possible as businesses tighten belts, an alternative is to consider whether introducing new ways of working might be the answer. Giving staff an option to upskill or work more flexibly could be the answer and appeal to both employees and owners to take some of the sting away from Brexit. With 67% of employees wishing they were offered the chance to work flexibly, now could be the time to offer this to benefit you and your employees.

Encourage engagement

Outside of incentives, encouraging community within the company is as valuable. According to Globoforce, more than a third (36%) of businesses see employee engagement as a top challenge.

While to managers and leaders, it might seem to distract staff from the task at hand, employee engagement could have the opposite effect given that The Engagement Institute has identified that disengaged employees can cost the business world anything from $450-$550bn every year.

Given that we spend a significant part of our lives at work, anything that can be done to make it a more enjoyable experience must be a positive. From offering pizza at company meetings to encouraging shared interests (company Bake Off competition anyone?); what may seem as small could prove significant in increasing team cohesion and engagement. Indeed, creating value for our employees through engagement, training and development while also balancing that with value for our businesses is huge.

Taking these steps against what is currently an unknown future, will help organisations both in and out of the data centre industry to not forget about the value of people within the business. Afterall, by taking care of them, we will see the benefits not only from a productivity and reputational perspective, but it might even help the bottom line out a little too.