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The day after the Brexit vote employees at Imperial Tobacco – like many others around the UK and Europe - were concerned about what it would mean. As group head of internal communications, Colin Archer says his first job was to reassure them and support confidence while demonstrating commitment to the company’s international workforce.

“People wanted to know ‘What does this mean for me?’,” he says. “We heard questions like ‘I work in Bristol but I’m a French’, or ‘If I’m working in Germany but originally from the UK, what does it mean?’
“Some of the questions have been practical, like if there’s a need to, will Imperial provide support for us to get visas to work in Europe? Or get EU citizens visas to work in the UK? Immediate pragmatic questions.
“Clearly we don’t know what the situation is going to be, so our answer has been that we are an international organisation which works across the globe and we’re very experienced at getting visas around the world.”
The steps to reassure people included an email message to all employees from the CFO and a town hall meeting with the CEO and Executive, where most of the Q&A session was taken up with Brexit issues.
“Effectively, we were saying ‘We don’t know what it means yet; it will take time’. But we stated that we would support any employees who might be affected, even though we don’t know yet what effect that might be.”
Imperial Tobacco operates across 64 countries, but at its Bristol HQ Colin says there was a sense of disbelief and shock at the Brexit result – especially for employees of European origin.
“It’s settled as the political landscape has settled, and our initial reassurance seems to have worked for our people,” he says. “Because we operate globally, we can honestly say to workers that we are experienced in supporting international mobility and we’ll be just as committed to helping EU and UK workers if it comes to that.”
Imperial Tobacco had issued communication before the Brexit vote, stating that the company view was in favour of Remain. 
“Our international operation means the fundamental principles of the EU have been very important to us,”says Colin, who is regional director for IoIC South West, “the freedom of movement of goods and services, capital and labour have given certainty around our planning and a stable business environment.” 
“As Imperial moves forward we’re confident we can succeed because of our unique culture; we support our people in being confident that whatever the environment we can win in it and the overall rise in our share price since the referendum has certainly assisted in sustaining that viewpoint.”
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