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How are your employees reacting to Brexit?

March 29, 2017

No matter what the long term outcome of Brexit is, the aftermath of an unexpected referendum result brings concern and angst.

 

It isn’t possible yet to answer everybody’s questions. But employers who fail to unite their colleagues around a positive message risk losing good staff, never mind attracting great new ones.  

 

As organisations turn to HR professionals to lead the way in handling this, who are the employees to look out for in your workforce? We have identified five types:

 

The Dismayed Millennial:  twenty something ambitious graduate; already embedded in their training but with less loyalty than you would hope. Solely focused on their own future. Above all, concerned that their career will stall as their contemporaries in other sectors move forward. On the plus side, a rung on the housing ladder may now be in reach….

 

The Sandwiched Professional:  combining a successful career with raising a family and responsibilities for older relatives. Strategic decisions to relocate will impact immensely on their life. Feels unable to relocate abroad.  But if you move, so will all your competitors, so they can’t imagine there will be much in the way of career opportunities if they stay.

 

The European High Flier: some of the rising stars in your workplace, these people had expected to put down roots in the UK.  Except now they’re having second thoughts. What certainty is there that they’ll be allowed to stay here anyway? Is London becoming Tumbleweed Town? Without the reassurance they need, what is the risk they never arrive?

 

The Brexiteer in the Room:  after weeks of telling colleagues they were voting Out, they sense the fingers pointing whenever the conversation gets round to the future.  People used to be discreet about their political views at work, but with social media that taboo has been broken. Unifying employees with wildly different world views is a pressing challenge, especially in the wake of Brexit. 

 

The Invisible:  the cleaner, caterer, security guard or temp –  never included in all staff communications and often outsourced contractors.  Some are British, some just want to be. Now everything seems at risk – work, freedom to stay here, ability to study. Invisible to most but vital to the running of your business.  Who is taking the time to offer them reassurance and support?

 

The Soon-To-Retire:  having adjusted to the new landscape on savings and pensions, the new instability from Brexit is worrying – not least about fulfilling that dream of a place in the sun. Is retirement still the right choice?

 

With this in mind, here are three things that every CEO could usefully do before heading off to the beach for a spot of R&R and a G&T that now costs twice the number of our fine British pounds. 

 

1.  Devise a communication plan addressing all employees' concerns as honestly as possible.  This might mean tailored messages to some or all of the types listed above. Show you've got your finger right on the pulse; that you understand what is going on inside their heads. In the absence of short-term certainty, empathy and regular updates will be the order of the day.

 

2.  Unite and activate all employees around one central message of opportunity. Treat your audience as if they were your customers.  With respect, transparency and storytelling.  Now's the time to invest in some creativity to maintain productivity levels and boost team spirit - even it is the spirit of the bunker.

 

3. Be emotive. These are emotional times and the last thing your people will want is bland doublespeak. What kind of emotive is up to you. If you're an exporter with a cheerily cheap pound to exploit, you can indulge in a bit of a Henry V- style rallying cry. Alternatively, you could be more conventionally British about it.  Use a bit of wit.  Be self deprecating.  But above all, be real and human.

 

Implement this plan and at the very least, you will have done something no politician has done in this country for quite a while.  Answer the questions that need answering.

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