When the citizens of the United Kingdom voted to leave the European Union on June 23, it took everyone by surprise. The media and economic indicators seemed to be sure that the UK would remain in the EU, and that we didn’t need to think about what would happen if Brexit succeeded.

So when the votes were tallied and proved we were wrong, chaos hit. Britain’s currency fell to its lowest value in 30 years. Financial markets all over the world went haywire, including here in the U.S. where the Dow Jones Industrial Average fell over 600 points the day after the vote. Economically, we’ll be hearing about and dealing with the aftermath for months to come.

At this point, you may be thinking, “What does Brexit have to do with employee benefits and communications?”

The lesson here is in not making assumptions. Most clients tell me they know how their employees think or feel about their benefit offerings. Meanwhile, I know they’re not actually asking. They’re assuming based on the information that’s easily available to them: mostly, enrollment data and the questions that come into HR. It’s not that this information is inaccurate, but it doesn’t tell the full story.

While it doesn’t happen all the time, I have seen clients make changes to their benefits based on those assumptions, and then scramble when employees unexpectedly react negatively.

We all like to hear what we want to hear and ignore the things that make us uncomfortable. The things that make our jobs harder, or that make us have to look at things through a completely different lens. However, when we don’t put in the effort to consider the true picture, we can be caught completely off guard.

To put it in the terms of my 9th grade English teacher, ASSUME = ASS+U+ME. That is, “When you assume, you make an ass out of you and me.”

Brexit polling actually showed that it was a very close race throughout, and for the month leading up to the vote, more people were actually leaning toward leaving. But pundits and analysts made assumptions about what undecided voters would do and convinced themselves that the status quo would prevail.

Don’t fall into the assumption trap. How? Focus groups are an excellent way to discover what your employees really think about your benefits, and how they’ll feel about possible changes. But if that’s more than you can handle, a simple employee survey can give you some reliable data. Just ask your questions wisely so that you’re sure you’re getting a clear snapshot of your how your population feels. There are plenty of great resources online to help you, and you can always call on the Trion Communications Team if you need more support!

Written by Jill Diffendal

Trion Communications jill.diffendal@trion-mma.com