Which shape Brexit will take is not for us to decide – that’s the Prime Minister’s job. The only certainty for the time being is that Britain is scheduled to leave the European Union on the 29th March 2019.
To date, Brexit projects are the focus of only very highly regulated industries. Our Global Financial Services Lead, Jill Jacques, has already highlighted the potential impact of Brexit on the Financial Services industry in a previous blog . For organisations in these industries, the focus so far has been on supply chain, regulatory, and customs implications. The weight of uncertainty, and its impact on employees, is often overlooked and underestimated. Managing uncertainty supports cost avoidance, attraction of talent and IP. Building and solidifying a loyal community are the biggest benefits of getting this right.
Now is the time to address this uncertainty before feelings of insecurity, reduced motivation, and decreased productivity are triggered. Job insecurity leads to an increase in absenteeism and turnover, with decreased productivity and lower levels of trust in employers. An analysis by a performance and talent management consultancy demonstrated that retention is even more vital than attraction as a driver of good people management. For instance, in the hospitality sector, turnover at an average rate of 30% per annum was said to cost the sector £274 million. And the uncertainty caused by Brexit is already taking effect. The CIPD Autumn 2016 and Winter 2016-17 Labour Market Outlook reported that 27% of EU nationals considered leaving their organisations or the UK in 2017.
We don’t know which type of Brexit is coming, but we do know that employees will want to know how their employers are preparing for it. However, this isn’t being talked about enough. Employees need high levels of engagement for Brexit. We see two areas as critical for effective Brexit Employee Engagement:
- Engage your workforce and choose your own Brexit narrative
When it comes to adapting to the possible outcomes of Brexit, developing a strong HR strategy supported by Change Management best practices is the answer to navigating your way through the Brexit hurdles. Industry-wide research shows that ‘Best Workplaces’ largely outperform the UK average workplace in terms of employees’ perceptions of two-way communications. The key ingredient? Management keeping employees informed about important issues. Focusing on honest and open communication will not just help insecure employees, but will also be central to the business’ success. For this reason, your comms and engagement strategy, the story you’re telling your employees, should be at the core of your Brexit employee strategy.
- Take control of the change
Manage readiness and awareness of the upcoming change by building Brexit-tailored approaches that fit your people. Dig down into the root of who your people are, by creating personas and tracking their RAG status allowing you to use the data in order to get a deeper understanding of how they are likely to be impacted and measure the success of communication over time. By taking early control of the change, you will be ahead of the curve when it comes to responding with agility.
Do not wait until the risk becomes a reality by ignoring how your people are experiencing Brexit until it’s too late. Instead, focus your efforts on managing the impact of Brexit to your organisation, by taking control of the change, and minimize the impact to your people by prioritising engagement. Brexit has introduced uncertainty in many respects, but rather than watching and waiting, organisations have an opportunity to get in early by taking the initiative to make workforce planning a priority, ensuring that their businesses have the resources they need to successfully negotiate the coming changes.
Let’s have further conversations about Brexit. Tell us what bothers you most, and let’s see what we can do to help you through this period of inevitable uncertainty. Check out Part 2 in this Brexit blog series here.
This piece was co-authored by Natalia Molina Harno
Natalia is a Management Consultant at North Highland with a passion for thinking about the cross-section between politics and business. She has worked across Retail, Telco and Financial Services in corporate and creative communications projects with a focus on effective communications tailored to people.