Whichever way you voted in the EU referendum, the result shook British politics to its core. In the wake of a majority vote to leave the EU, the PM resigned from office, leadership battles ensued and markets lay shell-shocked. All within a week.
One month on, we’re in unchartered waters and no one’s quite sure of our destination. And just when you think things are settling down, the headlines erupt again.
All this uncertainty doesn’t just affect the markets. It’s fertile ground for fears about job security and the cost of living. As nervous staff watch projects and investment go on hold, they take their eye off the ball – standards slip and performance suffers.
So what can you do to boost your prospects against this backdrop of economic uncertainty?
Jenny Lunt, Tribe’s expert on resilience and well-being, examines the aftermath of Brexit and suggests what you can do next to keep people safe and motivated.
If you were in charge of safety and well-being at a UK company with European links what would be your first, practical response to the Brexit outcome?
“Obviously it’s different for every sector but first I’d be thinking about legal requirements. I’d be looking for some clarification on what all this means for compliance and what I might have to do post-Brexit. IOSH Magazine ran some useful articles about this.
“I’d be trying to set-up partnerships with colleagues in other related businesses as well. I think working together to find the answers is really important given the situation we’re in.
“If you’re a director or leader with some influence on the board you should really be thinking about representing the views of your workers in any decisions that get made. The worst thing than can happen now is a knee-jerk decision for cutbacks, without considering the knock on effects on sustainability.
“I’d be trying to encourage decision-makers to take a longer, sustainable view. You represent the health and well-being of your workforce so you’ve got to make sure their concerns are heard in the boardroom.
“You’ve also got to make sure people are kept in the loop.. Comms might not be your job but you’ve got to make sure it’s still happening, even if it’s not all good news. Be as honest and transparent as you can.”
It’s been a tough decade for business already. People are used to uncertainty and a less-than-positive outlook. Will Brexit really affect behaviour and morale all that much?
“It’s not more of the same. I don’t think the workplace is ever going to be like it was back in 2008, pre-recession – we aren’t going to have that level of certainty again, at least not for a long time. So people are going to have to get used to the idea of more uncertain work environments, different working conditions and get used to temporary working practices.
“This trend has been happening for a while, and it might actually create opportunities for some groups like freelancers and knowledge-based workers, Brexit is just accelerating something that was already happening.
“People and organisations are going to have to be more flexible and have different expectations. There’s no such thing as a job for life any more. That’s not necessarily a bad thing though – it just means learning new skills, working with different teams and developing new ideas in different places. It’s a change in mindset.”
Is there still a place for engagement-led culture change programmes in this economic climate? Shouldn’t leaders just focus on the bottom-line and keeping their businesses afloat?
“Is there still a place for engagement? Absolutely. It goes without question, in fact it’s even more important now – the case for engagement has increased.
“If you look at all the research on high-achieving, agile organisations – to stay competitive you need a workforce that’s willing to give a bit more, be innovative, be creative, be flexible in their skillset, and work for different people at different times. And for an organisation like that to survive it needs a highly motivated and engaged workforce that can respond quickly to external changes.
“An engaged, participating workforce also helps your organisation stay in touch with it’s market and stay ahead – because it’s your workforce who really know what’s going on at the sharp end.
“For that reason it’s absolutely crucial that you keep your workforce engaged, that people are recognised, rewarded, empowered and given more autonomy to achieve their goals. Targets might be given to them, but it’s up to your workforce how they get there.
“To do that, organisations will have to be more sensitive to what’s going on at the front-line and regard workers as experts – the best people to help them do what needs to be done.
“Reputation matters so much more now. Big multi-national organisations compete on how they’re perceived by the public. Being a moral, ethical employer with social responsibility sells more than it used to, so organisations can’t afford to have double standards anymore. Just look at what happened to Starbuck’s fortunes after the tax scandal.
“So doing the right thing by your employees and your business now has a direct impact on your bottom-line.”
So, what’s the first step a leader can take after reading this article?
“Get out there and make sure your decision-makers take a longer-term view. Make sure they don’t make cutbacks without thinking about the effect they’ll have on staff morale, and their ability to contribute and keep your business sustainable.
“Staff have got to be involved in those discussions so it’s not dominated by profit and loss and reducing overheads in the short-term. It’s about staying competitive in the long-term by looking after your workforce.”