Brexit demands a new approach to internal comms and engagement for UK PLC

Throughout the build-up to the referendum, 'take back control' was a beguiling refrain from those who suggested that we were, or soon would be, 'out of control' if we voted to 'remain'.

Those who take the time to listen to their employees will benefit, argues Ian McVey
Those who take the time to listen to their employees will benefit, argues Ian McVey
The referendum wrong-footed all concerned. It was especially hard to predict because businesses, economists, fishermen, farmers and politicians within the right and the left all disagreed, between themselves and with one another. 

It cut across every single societal metric, dividing age groups, professions, political persuasions, regions and ideologies. 

The role of traditional polling came into question, once again, as people pivoted at the last minute and made their decision on emotional, rather than scientific, grounds.

Today, the electorate is either angry or triumphant, disaffected or defiant, delighted or disillusioned. It follows that employees will be just as divided, and even more concerned. 

Brexit, however, is less like a disposal, and more like a management buy-out.  

It is the perfect opportunity for management to open up about strategy and direction and galvanise employees to play their part in the new structure. 

All concerned have to realise that they are in it to win it – together.

Motivating the workforce starts with lending an ear to its concerns. Some employers will find their staff to be optimists. 

Talent-hungry tech firms do not recognise borders; they know their growth is due to the free flow of ideas. President Obama hailed their ‘hope, opportunity and optimism’.  

Less hopeful will be those stepping out of the single framework for regulation, in pharmaceuticals and finance, those fearful of reduced access to the Single Market, or those who rely on international supply chains, for instance in manufacturing.

Before crafting messages of reassurance or motivation, therefore, employers should poll their employees to spotlight specific concerns. 

Now is the perfect time to do so – to draw a line in the sand between ‘business as usual’ and ‘business post-Brexit’. 

Different messages will bounce off workers in different ways. 

Tech firms will be desperate to retain talent, as politicians debate the future for UK-domiciled European citizens and foreign rivals circle overhead looking to pick off the best and brightest. 

Manufacturing firms in search of new markets might task employees to contribute ideas, innovations and suggestions for training, tackling disaffection by reaching out with inclusivity and momentum. 

Whatever the sector, the best starting point is to employ a scientific approach to employee engagement, to data gathering, its analysis and context, replacing guesswork with real-time insight. 

Only then can management decide how best to align its people to the new reality and unleash their inner entrepreneurism at a time when it has never been more necessary. 

The risks of Brexit are starting to crystallise for both the wider economy and for individual employers faced with change. 

There is no ‘undo’ button; the only future lies in planning for what comes next.  

Those who take the time to listen to and understand their employees will be the first to take back control.

Ian McVey is UK manager of Qualtrics

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