100 days to Brexit and counting...

19 December 2018 -

BrexitCMI’s head of policy looks at how managers can prepare for the future

Rob Wall

With just 100 days to go before the UK is scheduled to leave the EU – and the prospect of a no-deal Brexit looming ever larger – what should managers and leaders be doing now to prepare for the future?

These were the very questions discussed by Ann Francke, the chief executive of the Chartered Management Institute (CMI), and Dr Adam Marshall, the Director General of the British Chambers of Commerce (BCC), at a recent CMI event. BCC research discussed at the event suggested that the majority of companies in the UK have carried out little or no Brexit planning which will make the impact of a no deal Brexit much deeper and more negative.

But there are actions that managers and leaders can still take to prepare for a post-Brexit world.

3 actions senior leaders should take now

Firstly, senior leaders need to distinguish “the signal from the noise”. This means focusing on the fundamentals of their business. They should ask themselves: what are the core functions or core services that are most at risk from Brexit, and where will any disruption have the greatest impact?

Secondly, senior leaders should be undertaking risk assessments with their boards and senior teams. This will help identify the opportunities or threats arising from Brexit. The best leaders will engage senior managers and others in this process, as they understand that engaging and listening to employees delivers better business decisions and increases the likelihood of employee “buy-in” to any subsequent actions. However, CMI research suggests that only around 50% of managers believe that their leadership teams make communication with managers a priority.

And thirdly, now more than ever, senior leaders need to invest in their people. CMI analysis of ONS statistics suggests that there are around 150,000 EU managers in the UK. This means senior leaders need to assess the impact of Brexit on their workforce and develop plans to mitigate the impact of any future recruitment and retention challenges.

3 actions managers should take now

Firstly, managers need to understand and communicate any points of potential disruption in their value chains, whether with suppliers or customers. Managers will typically have a better understanding of the complexities of value chains (or at least of their part of the value chain) than senior leaders. This reinforces the importance of engaging managers in Brexit planning.

Secondly, managers have a major role to play in supporting EU workers through a time of major uncertainty. Recent ONS statistics show that migration from the EU has slowed, so the role of line managers in motivating teams through a period of huge transition will be critical. Line managers will also be key in helping to identify and upskill the next generation of managers and leaders.

And thirdly, managers need to ensure that they and their teams have the skills they need to manage the future. A key skill set is managing change; organisational change has long been recognised as key to maintaining competitive advantage, and change is now the norm in most businesses. However, CMI research shows that managing change is difficult, with only 28% of managers reporting that change in their organisations is managed well. This is likely to become an even more critical issue for all managers post-Brexit.

Rob Wall is Head of Policy at the Chartered Management Institute

Image: Shutterstock

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