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Brexit: Prepare to be Prepared – Communication Mobilizes Mobility Managers

Sandglass near European and British flags

Brexit is all around us and, like it or not, touches both our professional and personal lives. However, so much still obviously remains unclear. This represents a huge challenge to organizations in many ways; but one area that is often overlooked is communication with colleagues on what Brexit may mean for them.

There’s no doubt the current confusion is particularly challenging for Mobility managers. Recent and ongoing developments in Parliament have only demonstrated that the situation will remain unclear for a good while yet.

We have been pointing out these talent mobility challenges to Government. In the summer last year I had the opportunity to outline them to the Brexit Minister, Lord Callanan, along with more than 120 other Mobility professionals.

Nevertheless, as with every challenge there is opportunity. And ambiguity is no excuse for inaction.

We are all constantly reminded that the Brexit clock is ticking, and that ticking should act as a reminder to prepare for what you can.

Positioning Mobility to Act Swiftly

Perhaps the biggest hurdle that many Mobility managers will face, and the most important first step, is to ensure that they’re at the ‘top table.’ Companies will be battling with what Brexit, and the form it takes, will mean for important issues such as their ability to trade, logistics, and manufacturing processes, etc. What they must also urgently consider though is what this means for the wellbeing of their staff, their ability to attract talent now and in the future; and what the immediate impact may have on their workforce here and abroad (and their families too).

Unlike many change management programs companies undertake, the impact of Brexit is happening to them rather than being led by them. But that does not mean Mobility practitioners cannot prepare for and lead that change where it can. Below I’ll explore three key steps that you may want to consider.

  1. Identifying What You Know and What You Can Control

Despite the many unknowns of the months ahead, there are a number of important relevant areas that we can all be quite clear on and therefore prepare for.

In December the UK Government released its immigration white paper. A clear area of concern for many EU nationals is what Brexit may mean for residency and right to work for them as individuals and/or their families.

Mobility managers have a vital role in providing clarity and reassurance where possible. Though the terms of the UK’s departure from the EU is still blurred, there is significant clarity on what the country’s residency and right to work procedures will be in the event of a deal or indeed ‘no deal’.

Now is the time to reach out to your workforces and provide information that may help in setting minds at ease. Uncertainty is of course a huge driver of fear, a fear of the unknown. And you can take steps and deploy strategies that ensure your people, at all levels, are clear on what they can actually do. Fundamentally, now is the time to create a dialogue.

  1. Engaging With The Right Stakeholders

Like with any stakeholder engagement plan, the normal rules apply. First, establish who you need to communicate with:

  • Who is affected by the issue (in this case, Brexit) in some way?
  • Who has influence or power over internal developments?
  • Who has interest in its success or failure?

The impact of the UK’s departure from the EU is broad in every sense. Therefore, you will need to consider a broad range of internal and external stakeholders.

No doubt your legal departments, risk/compliance colleagues or government relations teams (if you have them) will have been the linchpins of your organization’s Brexit planning to date. Make sure you’re in close contact with them, and ensure they’re considering the Mobility challenges ahead too. This liaison is vital, for the changes ahead are more than technical.

The added emotional dimension of Brexit-related concerns may be new to your organization and requires an approach that demonstrates both understanding and compassion. You will need to be connected to many of the individuals and departments that interface directly with staff; from HR and talent management, to payroll, finance and third-party providers, so that everyone is informed with the appropriate level of information.

As you develop a communications plan, consider these impacts of the change on your colleagues:

  • How are they affected?
  • What will be different for them and their families?
  • What potential concerns (real or perceived) might they have?
  1. Determining How and What to Communicate

Now is the time to get on the front foot and start letting your people know what changes are coming and what they may need to do. There are of course a number of channels you can open up to do this – from email bulletins and intranet messages to face-to-face Q&A sessions and internal webinars.

Taking the case of residency as an example, here’s what we know – and what your colleagues need to understand:

  • The UK Government have launched the EU Settlement Scheme, which will go live 30 March 2019. The deadline for applying will be 30 June 2021.
  • This will also apply for those EU nationals who move to the UK between 30 March 2019 and 30 June 2021.
  • In the event of no deal, the same process will apply – but the deadline would be brought forward to December 2020.
  • As of March 2019, EU countries will begin to publish their plans for UK citizens in EU countries, though many (such as France and Germany) have already said they will reflect the UK’s system.

This is important information that is in the public domain, but may be buried in the cluster of news. Dedicate a few hours to properly craft a communications plan that incorporates this information. Then, proactively share it, and make yourself and/or your relocation management company colleagues available to help answer questions. This is a relevant way to reach out to your employees while providing compassionate advice and reassurance that you are following developments and are conscious of the impact it may have on them.

Here’s a quick checklist to ensure you are prepared:

  1. Set aside time to research and create your communication action plan
  2. Identify key stakeholders
  3. Proactively share your plan and get feedback and buy-in
  4. Become visible as an available as a resource
  5. Connect with affected employees to ensure communications are clear and timely
  6. Revise the action plan if required
  7. Continue to communicate at relevant intervals

You Don’t Have To Manage Brexit Alone

We are helping many of our clients draft internal communications and action plans regarding Brexit using our Graebel Mobility PathBuilderSM Stakeholder Engagement tool. It is a proven method that is simple and effective.

Contact me if you are interested in conducting a work session.


About the Author

Beverly King is Vice President of Business Development. Beverly brought 15 years of extensive in-house expatriate management, international reward, HRIS and project management experience to Graebel when she joined the London team in 2018. Her career has spanned senior HR, Reward & Mobility roles across multiple industries within global multinationals including Thales, Toshiba, Panasonic and most recently Liberty Mutual Insurance where she managed Global Reward Governance and other key global compensation, benefit and mobility projects. In addition to her client development responsibilities across EMEA & APAC, Beverly is also a key member of the Graebel Mobility Strategy consulting team, supporting the EMEA region. Beverly has lived in both France and Germany and worked extensively with and across Europe, Asia and the Americas. Her Bachelor's degree is in French and she also speaks German and her native English.

Profile Photo of Beverly King