UK organizations are steeled toward change. Its frequency has created a workplace culture that feels, all at once, capable of handling change and wary of disruption. A recent Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD) study has discovered that—at the same time that 73% of organizations experience change very or quite frequently—over 80% of HR departments remain confident in their organizations’ abilities to handle that change effectively. On the other hand, employees’ top-ranked concerns were job security and economic instability, indicating a guarded attitude toward a tumultuous workplace.
Brexit adds another layer of complication to a workplace in constant flux. The same CIPD study revealed that only 9% of HR professionals have made plans for the changes wrought by the UK’s departure from the EU, while nearly 75% of their organisations are equally unprepared. Does this lack of preparation demonstrate oversight and vulnerability, or a culture steeped in change that accepts Brexit as just another major shift?
Part of the problem involves the difficulty in determining just what precisely Brexit will alter with regard to employee concerns and practices in the UK. Everything from the 48-hour work week to the status of temporary agency workers has been cited as potentially susceptible to change after March 2017. As organisations develop strategies in response to Brexit, they may realize, for example, that maintaining ease of access to the EU labour pool is important, in spite of the spirit of isolation that partly inspired the Brexit vote. In some cases, status quo may unexpectedly rule the day.
HR professionals in the UK face a unique challenge: helping their organisations stay focused and engaged through ambiguous times, while potentially preparing for major changes in workplace standards. Change leadership is one of the core competencies of any capable HR organisation. Now more than ever, this skill will be needed to help private and public sector organisations navigate the transition ahead, with the support and commitment of their members of staff. Given employees’ concerns about stability, clear channels of communication between leadership and team members will be more important than ever. HR must continually develop reciprocity and positive feedback loops that increase engagement and placate uncertainty.
‘How Are Organisations Preparing for Brexit?’ Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development. http://www.pmindustryinsight.com/View/16851. Accessed 1 December 2016
Written by: Thomas Giles