Uncertainty Becomes the New Normal


September 11, 2016

THE CONTEXT

Following the surprise vote to leave the EU on 23rd June 2016, the UK has been thrust into unknown territory.

No one quite knows what the future holds, and many of the UK’s top businesses are unprepared.

In today’s workplace, employees already face a fast pace of change. Many employers already recognise the value of engaged employees to their business and have started building their capability to prepare people for change.

Brexit presents a different type of change, its potential effects aren’t confined to one organisation or even industry but the whole country and life as people know it. At this time your people will be looking for reassurance, presenting further opportunity to build a case for investing in your people to show how much you value them.

We can’t be sure what the effects of Brexit will be, however we can be sure of these 3 things:

1. This uncertainty is predicted to last for at least the next 2 years which will create distraction and ambiguity

2. Your people will be impacted in a way that is unpredictable, significant and personal

3. Your leaders will need to be strong in order to guide your people through the uncertainty and keep pace with business needs against changing market conditions

Mind-sets will need to shift, it’s time to think about change, your employees and their engagement differently.

1. YOU CANNOT ASSUME YOU KNOW WHO WILL BE IMPACTED AND HOW

Take stock which of your employees are personally affected by the result, be it directly or indirectly and understand their worries and concerns. Remember, this transcends organisational hierarchy, your leaders are not immune from the impact.

Action: Carry out a review to understand who the EU nationals are in your organisation. Managers should also speak to each of their staff members about Brexit to understand if they are also affected for example through a spouse or partner who is an EU national.

2. DON’T LET “BREXIT” GO UNDERGROUND

Lay the ground work now to deal with the ebbs and flows of Brexit over the coming months and years. It is something that will keep coming up at unpredictable times.

Action: Identify who will lead on Brexit related activities in your organisation and how.

Organise your communications; develop a strategy and set out a plan for activities to come.

3. WATCH OUT FOR STAGNATION

Due to the uncertainty, there may be a reduction in staff turnover and less inclination to  take risks or innovate.

Action: Get your people excited again! Invest in them and look for internal talent to respond  to the slowdown in recruitment.  Build capability through invigorated L&D programmes, coaching and mentoring and consider  how you shift skills and capability internally to support your changing business.  Promote innovation e.g. through internal competitions to generate business ideas and  provide the means for your people to help shape your changing business.

4. ENGAGEMENT IS A TWO-WAY STREET

Engagement shouldn’t be just to convey information to your people, enter into dialogue with  them about their thoughts and feelings on Brexit. Don’t run away from the emotion that may  arise from these conversations, appreciate how personal this could be.

Action: Drop the surveys, limit the emails and put a face on things. Set up channels, all employee sessions or smaller group forums for messages to be shared and for your people to ask questions  and discuss their thoughts and concerns.  Whatever you choose to do, remember preparation and the execution will be key to ensuring  your people are engaged and feel reassured against this backdrop of uncertainty.


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