Brexit: practical questions, philosophical answers

Today’s news came as a surprise. I drifted off to sleep yesterday around midnight with the radio reassuring me that tomorrow would be much like yesterday. I woke this morning to different news. We’d voted to leave the European Union.

As a profession we’re likely to be divided on whether that’s good news or bad. But I suspect that a unifying factor may be the creeping realisation that our busy working lives are about to get busier. We’re likely to be asked by our workforces and colleagues “what does this mean?” And that question has massive scope: What does it mean for EU workers and for team managers of EU workers? Is new employment law pending, and what will that look like? Are jobs secure? Or are the worst case economic scenarios posed by the Remain campaign already starting to come to fruition with a falling pound and global market confusion? What does the referendum outcome mean for cohesion in the workforce after an at best passionate, and at worst divisive, few months of campaigning? You might be concerned that some of the more negative aspects of the Leave campaign’s rhetoric around immigration could tip over into racial discrimination in your workforce. Or that confusion about the future may slow down recruitment or introduce caution into the minds of the best external talent that you’re trying to recruit into your businesses.

So, in short summary, we’re looking into a long tunnel of hard work. Some of it will be difficult, challenging or downright demoralising. But all of it will offer the opportunity to learn, develop and build resilience. I’m determined to face into this leap into the unknown championing the principles that I believe underpin great HR practice.

These principles start with the idea that how work is designed and organised, and the experience that people have at work, have massive economic and societal impacts. And as an HR professional, I’m determined that my impact at work will be underpinned by a strong commitment to ethical practice, to listening to the voice of the people who work here (as well as the rest of the profession of course!) and to ensuring that in this undoubtedly tumultuous time we treat people with the respect and dignity that they deserve. I want to make sure that I support my colleagues in looking to the long term despite shocking news and making sure that any future decisions are backed by considerations of fairness, both in procedure and outcomes. More than anything else, I want to remember that few people have completely separate home lives and working lives. What happens at work affects our home lives and what happens at home affects our working lives.

Putting that final principle into practice today, it’s likely that a significant proportion of your workforce is giddy (or hungover!), excited with the story that’s going to unfold. Another proportion may be bowled over, grieving for an identity that’s been taken away. Either way, eyes are going to be off the ball. I’d say, accept that. And perhaps take everyone off to the British institution that continues to survive both globalisation and localisation, the pub.

From here on in, we’re in this together.

If you’re interested in resources to help prepare you for the hard work that’s coming take a look at our resources on change management

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  • Anonymous

    How are you responding to Brexit?

    The results of the EU referendum last week have shaken politicians, businesses, and the voting public. The CIPD are here to support our members and customers during this complex time, as we all begin to understand the ramifications of this decision. Take this short online survey , which will take 2-3 minutes to complete, to tell us what impact you expect this decision will have on your organisation, and what actions you’re taking now.

    Sinead Burke, Head of Publishing, CIPD