The Brexit vote happened almost three months ago, and besides a settling of the dust on who the key players will be, the uncertainty and ambiguity seem no less subsided. The business world is a flurry of thought leadership being birthed to help decision makers rebuild in this new economy, which is now expected to initiate the two year process come 2017. And, while these strategies should be considered and in many cases acted upon, those plans and tactics are misguided without the most critical element of post-Brexit success: the human experience.
Humans are the known factor in whatever is to come as a result of Brexit. Humans will be the ones executing on these grand plans and strategies, and the ones consuming the strategies and approaches in order to achieve business stabilisation. In skipping the human component, we run the risk of ignoring the greatest business asset that will ensure our future success.
Regardless of how people voted, most people both in the UK and elsewhere are concerned and anxious about what it all means. Trust is at an all-time low and transparency even within the government is not a goal, according to David Davis, Secretary of State for Exiting the European Union. Until we allow time and facilitate processes for people to work out what this decision means for them personally, they cannot shift their focus to enable strategies or care about what happens to businesses and economies. Companies that are going to come out of Brexit stronger than ever will first realise and address the human component.
So, here is how to shift your thinking and approach to leverage Brexit so your organisation can thrive, differentiate and create raving fans:
Shift from: Reacting fearfully to bottom line impacts.
To: Developing relevant responses to the very human, emotional climate that shows a connection to your corporate purpose.
Show empathy to your employees and customers by acknowledging this is a significant event (and soon to be process) regardless of how individuals voted. People want to know that organisations care for and are participating in this moment in time as everyone anticipates what’s to come. Craft messages that are connected to people’s current state of mind and emotions – show that the organisational purpose can still be a core anchor for forthcoming strategies, initiatives, and efforts. Businesses should also facilitate opportunities for people to process together. Create customer forums for community building and sharing around the topic. Set aside time for employee teams to discuss where they are in the process.
Shift from: Clinging to what you used to know about your customers and employees.
To: Understanding if and how the needs and priorities of your customers and employees are changing so you can create informed, relevant strategies, services and perhaps even products in response.
Supercharge your data gathering and analysis. Make sure you are checking in with your customers more than you previously did and ask them specifically to identify their known shifts in behaviours, perceptions and priorities. Leverage your futurists to identify these unspoken needs.
Shift from: Adapting to unknown factors and moving targets out of your scope of influence.
To: Caring for assets that you can protect and impact like employee experience and brand.
Take stock of how other companies are branding themselves in the Brexit context and look to differentiate. There is likely to be a reinvigoration of what it means to be British taking shape in brand messages. Whatever the pivot, make sure you are doing something that shows you think differently than the average organisation.
At the same time, focus on your employee experience. Demonstrate how your organisation will care for the full human needs that go beyond what they do at work, but include who they are and the communities they belong to. Ensure that employees feel like they are in a reciprocal, trusting relationship with your organisation and you will take care of each other.
Shift from: Passively observing the cultural and social ramifications of this occurrence.
To: Taking a leadership role in removing barriers that match your corporate purpose and drive positive forward movement.
Disruptors and differentiators are often identified by leading something – and often leading something means not being held back by the fears of the status quo. Up your corporate social responsibility profile in a meaningful way. Find and increase your investment in organisations that connect with the shared meaning of your organisation. Roll up sleeves and make a difference. Organisations that can demonstrate how they are leading the way to break down cultural barriers and provide help to those who are most impacted by the implications of Brexit are going to generate customer and employee loyalty in unprecedented ways.
Focusing on the human element may be the best place to start any efforts as the realities of Brexit are further articulated. Organisations need to consider how they are now, in the post-Brexit economy, adapting to a changing customer and employee landscape which will bring about new needs. We must re-examine our purpose and brand in the new economy and how we will forge connections between our organisations and the people who live in and around it. We will be challenged to carefully collect and analyse data and learn the new behaviours of our customers, employees and markets in order to create meaningful responses to them. Now, more than ever, is the time to focus on the human imperative and trust that when we do, business outcomes follow with exponential force.