The long list of challenges facing businesses in 2019 may seem overwhelming to many business leaders and their Boards.
Brexit, quite aside from a challenging economic climate, provides a huge amount of uncertainty, creating huge unknowns from trade and customs, people and the movement of labour and governance and reporting to the regulation of goods and innovation and assumed increases in the cost of doing business.
Businesses are doing their best to plan for all scenarios, but there is no model for preparing for such events, especially if the UK leaves the EU with ‘no deal’. Alarmingly, according to the Confederation of British Industry (CBI), only 1 in 5 businesses had implemented contingency plans for this outcome, whether relocating overseas, stockpiling inventory, rearranging supply chains or cutting jobs.
Leaders can only make good decisions if they have the right information and are advised well. But given that the list of potential issues is seemingly never ending, what should you be focusing your attention on?
Corporate and Government Affairs Teams are routinely undervalued, but 2019 is the year they must prove themselves. We’ve come up with four key considerations to guide in-house teams:
Get A Grip On Risk
Despite Brexit fast approaching, a remarkably small proportion of businesses have adequately prepared for Brexit. Is your business in ‘wait and see’ mode? Do you have an international supply chain or client base?
Suggest your Board commissions a survey of all internal departments for Brexit risks / opportunities.
Be Bold And Proactive
In challenging times we crave certainty and leadership. Businesses know this, but can often be caught in a damaging twist of inertia and helplessness, unable to make the right call for fear of failure or backlash. But do the stakes need to be this high? A great deal can be gained from open and transparent communication. Brexit is a good example of this.
Keep your audiences close and instil confidence. Reassure them by building their awareness of your planning. Why not plan coordinated communications that keep your stakeholders aware of this process? It may give you a competitive edge.
Think About Your People First
People should always come first. Brexit presents a unique circumstance for businesses and organisations to deal with. The issues in play are broad and serious, from the rights of workers and increased costs of hiring to skills shortages and the potential for businesses to relocate. These topics are sensitive, and with an exit agreement and future trading relationship with the EU yet to be agreed, change communications will be vital throughout. An informed and supported workforce pays its way every time.
Ensure that communications, government affairs and HR teams are working collaboratively across your business or organisation, coordinating and sequencing external and internal communications.
Begin Planning For The Future
Most public affairs and corporate communicators can’t wait for Brexit to be over. As I write this, it is unclear whether things will get simpler on March 29th or if we’re in for an extended bumpy ride. We are increasingly confident it will be the latter, but this shouldn’t stop teams looking ahead to rosier times. So often in our jobs we are not afforded the time to research and plan.
While the domestic policy agenda stands still, teams should now be thinking about their priorities for a more activity policy environment. What would a Labour government look like for your business? Are you in the line of fire? What policy initiatives could be picked up in your sector?