Employee Engagement and Brexit

Employee Engagement and Brexit
Multiple exposure shot of colleagues in a meeting superimposed over an industrial background

We always knew that Britain’s momentous vote to leave the European Union would have widespread consequences for businesses up and down the U.K., but what about the people who are the life-blood of these organisations? In times of instability and uncertainty, it’s natural for businesses to consider the most obvious implications for them – paying new business tariffs, negotiating trade deals, navigating any new approach to employee visas. But beyond these initial high-level concerns lays another vital set of questions that require well-informed, consistent and effective responses: what does Brexit mean for employees – and how do I best communicate this?

A Brexit, by its very nature, is uncharted territory for businesses across Britain. Indeed, whilst the electorate was provided with a variety of alternative visions for the future by various Brexit campaigners over the course of the referendum, none were set in stone. Now, it is up to Theresa May to begin negotiations, but we’re unsure of what exactly will be demanded, and when these demands will made. This period of uncertainty will be felt by employees of varying levels of seniority; and considered internal communications will play an integral part in providing reassurance to these concerns.

Only the most naïve employees will not envisage the storm ahead. As the business landscape shifts dramatically as a result of Britain’s changing role in the world economy, business leaders will have to make tough decisions – of which relocation, restructuring or even redundancy are all potential consequences. Nonetheless, even the toughest storms can be weathered less traumatically if every stakeholder is aware of what is happening, why it is happening and what it means to them. Tough decisions that are executed without context or justification mostly land terribly; regardless of Brexit, your employees are your most important advocate – and they must be able to buy into the vision that you are articulating for the future. It would also be remiss to view Brexit entirely through the negative lens. After all for many companies, Britain’s leaving the EU means less regulatory red tape and more opportunities to expand into non-EU territories.

Nonetheless, the current socio-economic and political climate is entirely unprecedented, and organisations must not claim to know all the answers. The truth will eventually emerge, but not before a series of long and frank discussions are held as Britain establishes its new role within the global community.

Finally, it is vitally important to remember that a clear majority of voters in Britain voted for Brexit. For many, this is a renaissance – an exciting time in which Britain’s role in the world can begin to change for the better. It is, of course, difficult to deny that Brexit will have at least some severe consequences for British business – but communities up and down Britain voted decisively for Britain to leave the E.U; any attempt to sneer or criticise their decision should be offered at the author’s risk.

We can’t know for sure what will happen in the coming weeks and months. What we do know, however, is that consistency is key. Establish your message amongst the uncertainty – and stick to it. An effective internal communications message that provides a clear plan for the future can provide employees with a strong sense of stability amongst the uncertainty.

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