For some, the Tory leadership contest may have provided a welcome break from relentless Brexit reporting. But the issue of what happens when we leave the European Union isn’t going away.
Organisations we speak to are still keenly feeling the need to plan for various outcomes – no deal, Norway plus, even no Brexit. But some are struggling to make those plans because they feel they lack specialist knowledge in areas such as tariffs, employment law, and tax. The question is: where to find expert guidance on these areas?
Speaking at our Evolve and Thrive event back in May Ian Mace, Brexit Lead for ABF Foods, told an interesting story. In their organisation, it turned out that they had expertise on all these issues that they could leverage to plan for Brexit already in the organisation.
That expertise was found not at the top of the organisation, but dispersed across different business units, among employees who were at the coalface in the areas the organisation was focusing on.
So before you go and hire in specialist legal and tax consultants, ask yourself – how much do the people in your organisation already know that can help you?
Ian admitted that ABF discovered its experts through a mixture of serendipity and managers knowing their people – and of course, ensuring that your line managers are fully aware of the skills and experience of the people they manage is an essential part of the puzzle. But if organisations can find a way to identify expertise more reliably, they’ll be able to respond faster not only to Brexit, but to any changes that they need to plan for.
Ideally, organisations should be building a database of what expertise and talent they possess in their organisations – and in which individuals that expertise resides.
It’s all well and good to know who the Brexit experts are in your organisation – but often it’s another thing entirely to effectively leverage that expertise. In Ian’s experience he highlighted how, in order to get expert advice into the hands of the right people, relatively junior employees would suddenly find themselves in meetings with some of the most senior people in their organisations – an intimidating prospect for anyone. Ian and his team found that they needed to actively support and coach their subject matter experts on how best to communicate with those senior business leaders, to keep the conversation flowing effectively. Depending on who your experts are, you may need to do the same.
It’s also important to consider how best to protect the expertise that you have in your organisation. After all, if those experts you do have leave your organisation, you could be right back at square one. Take some time to work out for each individual what you can do as an organisation to keep them with you – or to reduce the risk of that person leaving – and at the same time, try to codify what experience they have so that, if they do leave, you can look to replicate that experience when hiring a replacement.
If all of what we’ve just discussed sounds like it might be easier said than done, then you’re not alone. Many organisations we speak to struggle to find the bandwidth to focus on the important tasks of uncovering Brexit experts among their own employees.
If that sounds like you, then you may well benefit from a conversation with Connor. We’ve worked with some of the biggest names across the public and private sectors to support strategic HR and change initiatives, drawing on more than 25 years’ experience in all aspects of organisational change. We’re offering organisations like yours a free, no-obligation ‘Brexfit’ consultation to help you refine and build on your plans for Brexit. If you’re interested, fill out the form on our Brexfit page – or give us a call on +44 (0)1491 414010.