By Julie Provino, Founder, VeryHR
The UK is about to enter a significant phase of political and socio-economic uncertainty – the extent of which, perhaps, no other western country has experienced in a very long time.
With an uncomfortable few weeks to go until Brexit, many people have a bleak perspective of what’s to come. This is hardly surprising considering the negative reports being issued by the press and media, which are alarming the population with emotive issues like rising taxes, high inflation, mass redundancies and suchlike.
As employers, it’s our responsibility to prepare for the potential challenges of Brexit on a commercial front. Moreover, we must also start to prioritise our own staff and consider how we can manage our people to maintain performance and productivity levels, while ensuring the highest possible level of engagement with our employees throughout the Brexit journey.
Without doubt, your employees are your biggest asset. During difficult times, you need to know you can trust them to continue bringing their A-game to your business – day in, day out. So how do you boost workplace morale in such an uncertain environment? It’s time to focus on the human factor within your organisation and maximise those people skills to ensure resilience and engagement throughout these potentially turbulent times.
You cannot communicate enough, especially during times of unrest. All your communication channels will constantly be monitored by people waiting to hear the latest rumour or tip that will spark everyone’s curiosity. That’s why your internal communications need to be regular, appropriate and clear, while covering the following areas:
- Your organisation’s strategic view of Brexit – how you plan to compete after 31st October
- Staff updates – an open discussion on who may be affected by Brexit and what can currently be done to ensure they remain in the UK. What travel policies will be in place during or post Brexit?
- HR updates – on all areas covering HR matters affected, which should be clearly communicated as decisions are made. For instance, how personal data will be handled if it’s processed outside the UK, how client information will be handled if hosted or processed outside the UK, where payroll will be processed, Social Media policies, expense policies and so forth.
Look after affected employees
It’s estimated that more than half the EU population working in the UK is yet to apply for the settlement scheme. The deadline to apply for settlement is two years away, but informing people now will ensure that all affected employees can take the necessary steps. Ultimately, this will avoid a long period of anxiety and stress at home as well as at work. Many clients that I’ve reached out to on this topic have put this reminder at the bottom of their Brexit to-do list. But this is generally because they’re failing to recognise the impact the currently uncertain situation poses in terms of stress to an employee and his/her family. Openly and genuinely taking care of your affected employees will go a long way towards increasing trust and loyalty throughout the Brexit process. Communicate early. If your employees see you as a point of support and guidance, this will ultimately boost staff morale and increase their loyalty to your organisation.
Review your pay and benefits schemes
It has been reported that since the announcement of Brexit, UK immigration rates from EU countries have decreased by more than 95% with over 43% of employers now struggling to recruit (and retain) skilled staff. More than ever, employers need to think about their brand and how they can attract the top skills that will make a difference for them in the long run. Many employers are already offering support with legal services to help affected employees gain British nationality or settlement status. They’re also providing employee financial wellbeing plans, enhanced medical schemes that include family members, and pension schemes. Although benefits schemes have never been a true deal breaker in deciding whether to stay at a company versus jumping ship, they play a significant role in terms of building a stronger employer/employee relationship.
Be a leader
During periods of uncertainty, people tend to look to their leader – the person who will demonstrate resilience, courage, empathy and trust. Failure to lead and communicate clearly will result in your employees believing rumours and gossip. This isn’t good for business. It creates unease and a downward spiral of negativity. That’s why businesses really need to support their leaders, so that they can help others to weather the tumultuous months to come.