Age of uncertainty: UK employees calling out for clarity on employers’ Brexit plans

A new Right Management study, Brexit: Age of Uncertainty, reveals the UK workforce’s anxieties as Brexit negotiations unfold. The study, examining the perspectives of employees across the UK in the run up to Brexit*, found just 11% say their organisation has clearly communicated its Brexit plans to employees.

With little insight over how Brexit might impact individual workers, there’s clear desire for open conversations with management with fears ranging from grinding career progression and sky-rocketing workloads to the very survival of their company.

According to the study, a third (33%) of employees expect a freeze in pay or promotions after the UK leaves the EU, and over half (54%) say Brexit will put extra pressure on the workforce. Furthermore, only 38% are confident their organisation will survive Brexit, and just 21% say their company is ready to make it a success. Importantly, 45% say a ‘no deal’ Brexit will have an adverse impact on their company. 

“It’s important to keep in mind that Brexit is a process, not an event. These might be uncertain times, but the best businesses will use Brexit as an opportunity to examine and reassess talent strategies. This includes ensuring they have the right programmes in place to address skills gaps, build leadership pipelines and foster a culture that invests in employees’ careers,” comments David Duffy, General Manager, Right Management. “Regardless of external market conditions, every employee needs a sense of direction and security.”

Specifically, 42% of UK workers want more clarity on how Brexit will impact their role. Over the course of this year, employers will need to consider how to engage with staff on a more meaningful level, balancing the quarter of workers (26%) who say Brexit is a taboo topic to discuss with management with the half (53%) who believe they should have a say in their company’s stance towards Brexit. Failure to handle this sensitively could have an adverse effect on company culture.

The report recommends 4 key actions for all organisations to take to plan for periods of uncertainty, such as Brexit. These are:

  • Invest in people’s careers – from embedding career conversations into performance management to developing careers maps, take talent to the next level by rethinking career management strategies
  • Develop a coaching culture – identify the right coaching needs to support development planning and business goals simultaneously
  • Assess talent needs – plan to create a career focused culture that sustains success through your employees
  • Turn employees into leaders – use data-driven insight to develop and measure leadership effectiveness and ensure the right people, with the right skills, are in place to lead the organisation through period of uncertainty

David Duffy continues, “An organisation’s success or failure depends on its people. Periods of change, like Brexit, test both company and personal resilience. Rather than inadvertently drive talent elsewhere, management teams need to proactively engage with their workforce to positively align their career and talent strategies with business objectives. Although workers don’t expect management to predict the future political process, they will want to know what plans are in place to navigate these and how their careers might be affected.”

*Right Management worked with leading research agency Censuswide to survey 1,045  UK employees, in companies with a 1000+ headcount, to understand their perspectives on Brexit regarding their career development, what expectations they have of their employer in relation to Brexit, and whether their experiences measure-up. Respondents worked in various sectors including automotive, financial services, professional services, retail, hospitality, and healthcare.

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