Is your company Brexit ready? How to prepare for the ultimate uncertainty

Paul Connor

By Paul Connor

28 Dec 2018

As the time for the UK to leave Europe draws ever closer, almost daily changes in political status mean that little can be predicted about Brexit. As a result, companies are no clearer on whether a deal will even be agreed before we exit on the 29th March 2019.

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Whilst opinions on Brexit outcomes vary widely, the element of certainty for everyone is uncertainty.

This is the first in a new series of articles from Connor on the potential impacts of Brexit on people and organisations. Over the series we will guide you through:

  • the complexities of Brexit
  • how to assess the potential impact on your organisation
  • key focus areas to help you prepare for the challenge.

The economic environment is currently changing at a pace never seen before affecting all businesses and organisations across the UK.

The VUCA (Volatile, Uncertain, Complex and Ambiguous) model below summarises how our leaders are being asked to make decisions in an environment where so many unknowns make predicting the outcomes of actions difficult:


How prepared are you?

We want to support you in getting planning underway. Many larger businesses and organisations in the UK have been creating and implementing high level Brexit plans over the past two years. However, having spoken to many leaders across multiple sectors, the constant uncertainty caused by the daily changing political landscape, means leaders are often left feeling frozen and bemused in determining the real, practical and pragmatic challenges ahead of them, from a people and organisation perspective.  

We have identified three ‘states’ that companies are falling into at this stage of their planning, diagnosis and strategy:

1. Consciously planned: have developed contingency plans based on a number of different possible end scenarios and associated solutions for each

2. Consciously unplanned: are aware they need to start diagnosing and planning but haven’t yet started, and / or don’t know where to start

3. Unaware: don’t think Brexit will impact them at all

Where are you? The reality is that whatever the outcome, and whichever commercial, public or third sector you operate in, your organisation will be impacted by Brexit either directly or indirectly.

Knowing how is absolutely essential for leaders so you can articulate and provide the Vision, Understanding, Clarity & Agility for your people and organisation.

And of course, ‘with challenge comes opportunity’. It is clear that leaders who anticipate the potential impacts and prepare to mitigate them are in the front seat, else ‘failing to plan is without doubt planning to fail’.

No matter what state your company is at, at Connor, we are uniquely positioned to support you.


Breaking it down 

The key to making Brexit planning and execution manageable is to break it into ‘bite size’ chunks. From a people and organisation perspective, we recommend four key areas that most organisations need to consider.

1. Governance, decision making and communication

The first critical step is to create governance for the responsibility of Brexit impact and mitigation planning. Once plans have been identified, those responsible need to consider and plan the human capital resource impacts. Not only this but uncertainty breeds anxiety which in turn affects performance. Communication and engagement with your people is critical at this time.

2. Operating model and organisational design

Whilst much may be unknown about changes required as a result of Brexit, all organisations operating in a VUCA environment are best set up for success when they are consciously and intentionally designed and built on clear operating principles and agile structures.

You need to understand your current operating model and organisational design, and in turn determine the most likely areas that could be impacted and therefore changed. This is an essential step in the planning process and requires skill. We are anticipating that the need to focus on this aspect of organisational performance is one of the biggest and most common impacts of Brexit, regardless of how it all plays out.

3. Understanding the HR implications of European and/or single entity creation & site closures

Organisations are considering both their legal and operational bases. Companies are consolidating, moving to new legal jurisdictions and moving their centres of operations to mitigate Brexit risks.

These changes can have a real and immediate effect on people from contractual changes through to redundancies and site closures. Rolling out change programmes such as these can present an operational and legal minefield and can take up a significant amount of time and resources.

4. Workforce Planning

Another very clear impact of Brexit is workforce planning with many companies already acutely aware of skills shortages. In a number of industries, the critical dependency on European labor represents significant risk to their operations. Companies need to assess how many EU and non-EU employees are employed, and how Brexit might impact their ability to deliver products and services. Visa requirements and changes to immigration will all need to be considered and companies will need to adapt their talent attraction and engagement strategies.

The Connor Brexit series

Over the coming months we will be publishing a number of articles and blogs, & running networking seminars to facilitate dialogue, provide support, ideas and solutions for leaders who want to prepare for Brexit.

If you would like to know more about how to assess the impact of Brexit on your organisation or need support with planning, contact our Brexit ‘expert’ Sharon Platts on 01491 414 010 | 07739 978 492 or via her LinkedIn.

Connor are people and change experts with over 25 years’ experience supporting organisations to architect successful change.


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