Peter Cheese, CEO of the CIPD, says:
“Now, more than ever, we need Government and businesses to put people and skills development at the heart of their thinking.”
There’s so much at stake, so many opportunities and so many risks if we get it wrong – everything is at stake from our future trade systems to basic workplace rights for our workers. Many British employees feel less secure in their jobs and pessimistic about the future.
Our employment law is a complex mix of EU and UK-based legislation and as well as workforce issues directly related to Brexit, we urgently need to address the issues of employment rights for the growing number of self-employed and contract workers. The workplace is changing fast but Brexit won’t have any real impact on employment law in the immediate future.
In British boardrooms the issues exercising business leaders are by large centred on the uncertainty arising from Brexit, be they social, economic or financial issues. That uncertainty is not likely to disappear any time soon. In reality, at the moment it is a bit of phony war, nothing is going to change much over the next two years or so, but we can equip ourselves to cope with likely developments.
We live with uncertainty in the natural course of events, nothing is certain but death and taxes. A more positive view says that where there is change there is opportunity, it’s a question of finding how to best exploit the change to your advantage. The possibilities are endless in a landscape so changeable and volatile.
In addition, the pace of technological change means that the workplace and the workforce are in a state of flux, so the scope for innovative and creative thinking is significant. We need to be forward-looking and encourage employees to look beyond the immediate situation to make the most of future opportunities.
Focus on the positive
In an uncertain environment, there is a good chance that employee engagement will suffer, and that will impact on the organisation in terms of productivity. There are things that HR can do to mitigate the impact of uncertainty:
- Communicate – employees want to be kept informed, and to feel confident that they understand the organisational direction and their role in meeting objectives and controlling their own future. We are already seeing the impact of Brexit as companies say they cannot afford to wait for the negotiations to conclude and so are making plans to move offices to Europe, and individuals are acquiring second passports if they have the right to do so, it pays to be prepared.
- Plan – look to the future and where the organisation wants to be. Present this vision in an attractive way that enables staff to move forward with their own goals and aspirations aligned to corporate values and standards. Reassure staff by exploring possible scenarios and the impact on the business, focus on the positives and possibilities, and ensure you have a culture and structure that allows people to raise their concerns and make themselves heard.
- Prepare – encourage staff to engage with learning and development needs, the need to up-skill is imperative and the benefits in terms of resilience accrue to both individual and organisation. You can’t save your way out of a crisis, you need to be proactive and invest for the future and Brexit may act as a wake-up call to ensure that we make serious efforts to up-skill staff for the challenges ahead.
We need to accept where we are, deal with the reality of the situation and encourage and support the workforce as we march towards a bright, new future. Positivity has to be key to retaining and motivating good employees. A focus on engagement should help to mitigate the negative impact of the current uncertainty and insecurity.