As details of the proposed Brexit deal get (a bit) clearer, companies need to work hard to alleviate fear and uncertainty in the workforce.
After close to 20 months of fraught negotiations, a draft agreement has finally been shared, ready for the UK’s exit from the EU.
It’s a major milestone in what’s been an unprecedented time of change, with key political figures resigning from their posts following the referendum results, a new Prime Minister, and plenty of conflicting reports on Brexit negotiations and the impact expected.
With trade deals under negotiation and workers’ rights in question, unsurprisingly some employees have questions about how Brexit might impact them, the organisation, client relationships and most importantly, their futures. Without a clear strategy, organisations could easily see morale and engagement affected.
It starts at the top
As with all internal comms strategies, effective comms must start with leaders. Leadership’s primary role is to reassure employees and to show strength and confidence that the company is ready for the changes that lie ahead.
If your company is going to be impacted in a large way by Brexit reform, try and find ways to make your leadership team visible to everyone. Hold an event, create video updates, or try holding an Ask Me Anything (AMA) on your Enterprise Social Network (ESN).
How to communicate with employees
The most important consideration is line managers’ ability to directly answer any questions employees have about Brexit. How will it impact them? How will it impact the business? How will it impact client relationships? Ultimately, are their jobs safe?
Make sure that your managers are constantly empowered with the information they need to alleviate any concerns employees have. Hold briefings with your managerial team, send them regular updates and provide them with the support they need to keep your workforce positive and informed.
We find that employee ambassadors – employees who help embed new initiatives or become a go-to source of information for their peers – work extremely well for change campaigns. Maybe this could work well for your Brexit comms?
Admit you don’t know everything
Although we’re closer now than ever before to understanding how Brexit will impact the UK, questions are still unanswered and the exit deal is far from final. Everyone is in the same boat – so if you don’t know something, admit it. Being transparent, and showing that you understand people’s concerns and are working on it, helps build trust during tricky times.
Be sensitive to opinions
Brexit quite literally divided the nation. People have different opinions and for some, Brexit can still be a very sensitive topic. It is important to remain impartial in any communications with employees and focus on facts and not opinions. Aim for tolerance and inclusivity, always.
Have a long-term game plan
Although we’re officially leaving the EU on 29th March 2019, meaning the UK is no longer involved in EU decision making, the actual transition will take much longer.
According to the draft agreement, the UK will stay inside the single market and remain subject to EU laws and regulations until the end of December 2020. That transition period can also be extended if trade agreements still haven’t been mutually agreed upon.
Armed with this information, companies need to have a long-term comms plan in place. Because unfortunately, the uncertainty is far from over.