Last week the press had a field day when Rolls Royce and BMW CEO Torsten Muller-Otvos wrote to his UK employees to warn them of the effect of a Brexit on the manufacturer’s business. The Daily Express accused him of ‘scaremongering’.
Only a few days later, John Longworth, the director general of the British Chamber of Commerce, fell on his sword and resigned for having breached the group’s official position of neutrality having voiced support for staying in the EU. The Daily Mail said he had been ‘knifed’ by the PM.
In a debate that shows no signs of cooling down, I wonder if CEOs are prepared for the heat that is coming their way? Just when they are increasingly in demand for a clear view on Brexit, many Boards are having difficulty articulating one. In some cases, Chairmen and Chief Executives disagree. In others, the Board thinks Brexit will not affect the business, but it might disrupt the share price. Others have yet to reach an informed decision for lack of time or the insights on which to make scientific evaluations.
Public companies have to answer to multiple bosses: their institutional and activist shareholders, government, regulators, customers and employees. None of these stakeholders is more impacted by a Board’s opinion than the employee, and none would be keener to know what that view is.
So why not ask them? Employees’ opinions can level the playing field between opposing voices, inform the corporate view and help management explain it to wider stakeholders and interested parties in government and media. The very act of engaging them in a once in a lifetime decision can only make them feel valued and involved.
Companies should engage their employees on Brexit much as they do on benefit plans, training programmes, opportunities for advancement and work culture, using transparency to build an essential employee asset – trust. They should compare responses across divisions, regions and teams, replacing laborious interviews and interpretation with real time, automated and anonymous analytics.
Giving employees a voice on such a crucial matter is a mark of respect. It is also the most involving and inclusive way to help a Board find a majority view with which to explain to wider audiences exactly where they stand on Brexit.
By: Ian McVey
Ian McVey leads Quatrics’ enterprise team for Northern Europe. He set up the company’s London office in June 2015 and is responsible for driving go to market and sales strategies for Qualtrics in EMEA, Previously, Ian was Director Of Marketing And Business Development, Enterprise And Systems Integrator Segment at Interxion. His responsibilities included developing and driving Interxion’s go-to-market proposition for the enterprise and systems integrator segments, including all aspects of sales and marketing. Ian has over 15 years of industry experience in a variety of strategy, sales and marketing roles at Microsoft, Cable & Wireless and LEK Consulting. Before joining Interxion in 2011 he was Director of Sales and Business Development for the Microsoft Practice at CSC. He holds an MBA from London Business School and a Masters in Engineering from the University of Oxford
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