We recently launched our Cast Connect lunches, where our valued network can gain practical, actionable insights on how leading logistics and supply chain professionals are tackling current challenges.

Our first Cast Connect focused on strategy and planning in the run-up to Brexit. We were all very excited to welcome Terry Murphy, Director of National Distribution Centre Operations at John Lewis, as our first guest speaker.

Read on to discover the general themes discussed on the day and the practical action points that Terry Murphy provided in how to tackle Brexit.

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General themes

The overarching theme of the day was that it may be difficult to plan for Brexit because there are so many variable outcomes, but businesses should consider what the outcomes could be. An agile strategy will be required.  

Forecasting in the face of such uncertainty was seen as a major challenge for many attendees, with a balance to be made between stockpiling assets and improving liquidity.

One of the most difficult challenges, however, was competing for talent as a result of the skills shortages causes by Brexit. Many strategies were exchanged on how organisations are differentiating themselves to win key talent.

Practical and actionable insights from guest speaker Terry Murphy from John Lewis

Terry Murphy advised that John Lewis have a specialist team to drive Brexit strategy. Many businesses are deferring decisions that need to be made and, in some cases, uncertainty is driving bad decisions such as spending on things that may or may not have been necessary.

It is still unknown how Brexit will affect the retail, logistics or supply chain industry but trying to consider every outcome is expensive and not practical. John Lewis has taken the strategy of preparing for a number of likely scenarios rather than being able to prepare for one likely outcome.

Improve agility by planning and developing strategic partnerships

Organisations should have a contingency plan in place to be able to react – with such reactions being

quick and agile – and keep an open mind to the outcomes. Developing strategic partnerships with other organisations that you will likely need to assist your business was seen as a critical to an agile strategy. Businesses will probably have to look past traditional partnerships and consider innovative ways that they can work together with different organisations.

Businesses are considering moving their warehousing operations to Europe. However, alternative options were discussed, such as expanding into Mexico and the USA, along with tactics that can be used to increase market share in these locations.

Competing for talent

The key takeaway was that companies need to think of new ways to retain and attract labour as a result of Brexit creating skills shortages.

Organisations will need to differentiate themselves as an employer by offering more than just monetary rewards to incentivise staff. 

For example, John Lewis has identified that for migrants providing English lessons and the opportunity to gain an English language certification is highly valuable. The key is to take steps to identify what your workers value.

It was agreed that more must be done to change the perception of the industry as a career path and it is a crucial time to make the industry attractive to new sources of labour (i.e. apprenticeships, young professional, university leavers) by marketing them as ‘expert’ or ‘skilled’ roles.

Interim and contractor solutions for more senior roles were suggested as effective ways to fill talent gaps during times of uncertainty, rather than commit to employing a full-time employee. However, this strategy can also be difficult as more people are looking for job security.

Keeping staff engaged and productive were also seen as imperative. If executed correctly, Brexit could be an amazing opportunity to have an enriched and empowered workforce and to gain better value out of employees.

For more on how to ensure your recruitment and retention strategies are Brexit-ready and to turn a threat into an opportunity to become the employer of choice, download our Brexit Recruitment Checklist.

Understanding Human Psychology

For B2C organisations, the differentiator for success following Brexit will be those that still manage to give the consumer what they want, when they want it and react to their needs.

To do so, understanding the human psychology behind consumer behaviour – and being able to predict how this will be affected in times of uncertainty – is more important than ever.

Final thoughts

Terry Murphy urged attendees to think about the specific opportunities for their business of Brexit going ahead and take advantage of these now. Everyone was encouraged to sign up to the EU Exit Business Readiness Bulletin to keep abreast of developments if they’d not already done so. We’ve also put together a Brexit Recruitment Checklist, to ensure your recruitment and retention strategies are Brexit-ready. 

“I found the event informative, professional and yet informal enough to be able to speak confidently when I believed I had something to add the the debate.  The venue was very good and reasonably easy for me to get to. I also made some excellent new connections as a result of attending. As a ‘first attempt’ I would rate it a total success and look forward to attending further events.”

Nick John – Interim General Manager

Our next Cast Connect lunch will be on the topic of Leadership. If you would like to attend, please get in touch with Suzanne Elsdon on suzanneelsdon@castuk.com.