What impact will the Brexit leave vote have on the L&D industry?

Written by Mary Isokariari on 24 June 2016

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Hilary Cooke

Submitted on 27 June, 2016 - 08:12

Mary - I can't answer this fully without expressions of how I feel about the whole chain of events and don't want this to become a forum of political or personal positions.

In short and in my pessimistic opinion - potentially disastrous, catastrophic, annihilating (for me as an independent with more than 50% of my work in Continental Europe anyway)

I've had my business for 30 years and for the fourth time, I am starting the trimming down process today thinking "hey-ho, here we go again..." Only this time it's different.  

We'll see - maybe other people have a different and more optimistic view? 

I really hope so!




Submitted on 28 June, 2016 - 12:35

Hilary -

No matter what happens over the next 2 - 5 yrs for the UK, you, of all people on this Forum, will work and make a difference in people's lives (and businesses).  That's a guarantee!  As an Irish person, we have no choice but to stay in the EU, it's a no brainer for us as the country is very small (only 4.5 million people) with an open economy. But.. while I wanted the UK to stay in the EU (for purely selfish reasons i.e., open borders and open trade with Britain) I can empathise with those people who voted to leave because while I am pro-EU membership and always have been, part of me fights for freedom and independence e.g., the EU legislation which often clashes with my values as an Irish citizen.  So, without being too political, I think the UK will be fine, it will negotiate its way in the world but of course it will take time and it will not be easy.  If I were living in Scotland, I would have a lot to think about because they voted to stay in the EU (as did N. Ireland) so that's unfair and maybe the repercussions from that will be even more impactful on the UK itself.  Time will tell I suppose but.... YOU Hilary, believe in yourself, you will always have a role and British people will continue to travel, work and influence within Europe, there will be more paperwork and administration and it will be rocky for a while, but we are all in it together and the bonds won't go away.  Anne Marie


Submitted on 27 June, 2016 - 11:59

Will it be easy for all involved in L&D?  Nope,  it never is and the period of uncertainty will make business planning harder.

Having said that I think it's going to act as the catalyst that L&D needs,  to move away from the shopkeeper and solution holder to the internal consultant and business partner that organisations need.  Organisation's will look for people who can offer value, advice, support and ensure that L&D can become an intelligent customer. 

The L&D professional is going to have to have a broader range of skills than ever before. 

Hilary - perhaps there is an opportunity there for you, helping others to develop the skills in trimming down, winning business in new areas, coping with loss of business.   Good luck. 



Submitted on 27 June, 2016 - 20:55

Hilary, I identify with your feelings and without getting political I feel like I am on the change curve and that is okay.  After all, we share that model with clients often enough and say it is okay for people to move through it at different speeds and respond in different ways. 

Blake, I think there might well be opportunities and threats to our businesses. 

I feel it is honestly too early to tell.  That's what makes change on this scale potentially very unsettling.  I hope it's the right move for the majority of the country on a long term basis is my first thought.  I am confident I will survive although it might require me to: flex my skills, develop my business in new and different directions and I will look to the market to see what they seem to need and try and adapt.  At the moment, I think it is time for a deep breath, cool head and a warm heart.


Submitted on 27 June, 2016 - 22:31

Politically, I think the biggest question is whether Brexit will actually go through since it is a non-binding advisory referendum, Westminster is imploding and nobody wants to pick up the baton and invoke Article 50... I'm not sure it will.  Whether it does or not, we are certainly entering a period of uncertainty and maybe even a period which is a game changer.

Today I've had conversations with clients in London and Germany in the banking sector.  Yesterday, with the father of friends, long retired. Said father is of the view that there will be a "fudge" - that Europe needs GB and vv, so we'll have to work it out. London clients pointed to how little the stock-market had dipped. Clients in Germany told me there is no other subject on the news (well, what do you know...).

I think we are already in the business of uncertainty and change in organisations... new ceos, reorganisations, right-sizing and more. Clients in L&D are having to pitch for funding on the basis of sound (or at least compelling and convincing) rationales. By the time funding is granted, they are falling over themselves to do the work yesterday. I live a lot with conversations about work that might happen, maybe in month X, oh, no! We've just made people redundant... not just yet.

I think it will be a test of our nerves (and it's certainly a test of everybody's nerves right now... so much emotion being expressed).  We get to bring all our own learning and wisdom to the situation and also to develop some more.  This is the biggest opportunity I see - we will be in the refiner's fire. And we get to walk this interesting dance of understanding we don't get to control what happens but we still need to take action in the marketplace if we want to have paid work to do or even, in the absence of sufficient stream of well-paid work, to generate income elsewhere. 

Time to read Who Moved My Cheese again, perhaps ;-)




Submitted on 28 June, 2016 - 10:51

Yes as a European I am dismayed by the result.Common bonds of humanity are just as important as the boundaries of a sovereign state. And that,coupled with the economic, environmental cultural and peace considerations ,which I don't need to rehearse here ,just lay open a potential barren wasteland. BUT

It is an extraordinary paradox that the very thing I voted against (BREXIT) is going to bring me (and others here too) more L/D and policy consultancy work. On Friday and Saturday with a towel wrapped around my head and fortified by good French wine, I drafted what is now a 14 page A4 booklet setting out 17 areas for change once Article 50 is activated COUPLED with an indication to clients how my own technical and some soft skill courses will change- with breaking news and crystal ball gazing for the impact on corporate employment & service delivery policies. Very happy to send anyone here a copy if you want to try a similar exercise.My own clients are responding well and I am sure yours will too. qedworks@hotmail.co.uk


Submitted on 28 June, 2016 - 11:05

Whilst it may not be what many of us wanted, I do know that, as L & D specialists, we are used to hovering above our clients' worries and concerns and working with them to find solutions.  I'm sure it won't be easy in the short term but let's approach this with a cool head and an optimistic mindset. This is another change (one of many we've seen over our careers) which I'm sure we CAN make a difference in.  It's people we are talking about - and that's what we specialise in.

Feeling cup half full today....:)


Submitted on 28 June, 2016 - 18:24

Well, for those involved in short term projects with Euro based companies, provided that you invoice in sterling this is good news.  You have enhanced competitive advantage (though quality should always trump price), and if the project is short term it will be over before any article 50 is invoked, let alone reached its conclusion.

For those of us who invoice our clients in Euros, we will receive more UK sterling now in our bank accounts due to the change in exchange rate.  More good news!

For those of us who've been involved in RFP processes for long-term pan-European projects, are competing with EU suppliers, and are awaiting a final decision after a process that's whittled many potential suppliers down to just three, the environment is not quite as rosy.  Looking at it from an EU persepective, why select a UK supplier when you don't know if there are going to be tariffs or trade wars?  I don't think there will be - but why take the risk? 

If there are or are not going to be tariffs on services, then in the future we we continue to sell at the same price and are less competitive, or cut price and take the hit on margin.  

Not clear on how book sales on Amazon have the potential to be impacted.  Maybe someone can comment on that?

ChrisScott (not verified)

Submitted on 2 July, 2016 - 11:04

Well I can only speak from my view point (and not a political one, Hilary is absolutely right this is not a political forum!). I have already lost one contract but that was down to uncertainty. We were only at tender stage so that could have happened anyway.

Equally, I've seen a big increase in the number of enquiries coming through for change management workshops and even a company wide change management programme - loosely based on the potential need to relocate an office to mainland Europe. 

Exchange rate wise, yes billing in sterling is a distinct advantage for Euro countries, although many of my European clients prefer to bill in Euros - and for them the business is protected as the quote was committed in Euros and so they will see no difference in price, although a potential hit there for me. 

For the original point of how it will impact L&D - I am sure that most companies will be true to form and cut spending in that area, so the pool of available work for us all will shrink. However, with good strategies and strong relationships I am confident that it is "weatherable" and hopefully only short (ish) term. I think the next few years will teach us all alot about business whether we like it or not and we will all see a very different business model at the end of it. 



Submitted on 3 July, 2016 - 13:47

Hi guys

Had to stop myself contributing to this thread for a while as was feeling somewhat militant. Having now taken myself in hand, I believe that when times are uncertain and unstable, for any reason, Learning & Development does unfortunately end up on the 'back burner'. This means that our clients are likely to hold off on projects until things are more predictable causing a dip in work. When the banks crashed in 2007, perhaps ironically, I managed to keep my business going by offering some EU funded leadership porgrammes for CEOs of small and medium sized companies, many of who then brought me bigger projects when times were better. Wonder what brainwaves I will have this time...?

Shirley x


Submitted on 3 July, 2016 - 16:39

Just a note that I hear two questions being answered here and note how each question has a different impact on my inner state:

The first, original question, is asking "what impact will the Brexit leave vote have on the L&D industry? Like Shirley, my first instinct is that the uncertainty caused is likely to cause delays to work that was in the planning stages. This and other thoughts leave me feeling a bit down. I want to add that I can see some members of the Forum are pointing to additional implications that are more positive in their impact on L&D. 

In addition, I see the creativity of Forum members being applied to a second question; how can we identify and make the best of whatever opportunities are there for us? I feel better as I think about this question because it points me to those things I can think about and do that will bring benefits to my clients and sustain me in uncertain times.




Submitted on 12 July, 2016 - 15:24

Thanks for the comments. 

ChrisScott (not verified)

Submitted on 8 October, 2016 - 14:21

I thought I would revisit this now the dust seems to have settled... to see if my thoughts had changed at all.. 

My over excitement was short lived.. I have now settled into the fact that nothing will be really evident until Brexit finally starts/finishes. My business has remained strong and we have even welcomed some new clients. 

The biggest change for me (on reflection) is that I have started to invest in real sales and marketing opportunities to make sure that, as a business, I am best placed to whether any potential storm. I've even dived headfirst into rebranding the business to bring it bang up to date (the creative agency had to drag the pink logo out of my hands. There were tears..) and I've invested in a strategy for various exhibitions, so for the first time ever we will be at World of Learning and also the CIPD L&D show. Hopefully that will then also allow us to recruit a sales resource in the Spring of 2017 - so I guess it has focused me on growing my business to be able to to thrive in whatever environment Brexit throws up.

There is an argument to say that I should have done all that anyway - but to be honest I was very happy doing something I love every day. Now I'm looking at the longer term - and I'm growing to love that too!