How to motivate your employees despite Brexit uncertainty

Written by
Dr Kellie Vincent

10 Aug 2016

10 Aug 2016 • by Dr Kellie Vincent

Post Brexit

In the post-Brexit era of uncertainty and market turmoil, short term impacts have already been felt and concern is rife about the longer term implications for organisations. Maintaining a high performing company in these conditions is tough. Now more than ever, leaders need to spend time considering how to keep employees operating at their best during times of real and/or perceived turmoil.

Interestingly in the latest annual global study on assessing organisational risk by British multinational AON, reputational and brand damage was ranked as the biggest risk for organisations, and failure to attract and retain talent was in fifth place.  Both brand management and talent management are key terms which inextricably link both marketing and HR team, but many of us would go further to argue that they should be used by leaders to unite and motivate the entire organisation. Here is the rationale.

In 2013  researcher Marian Thunnissen and colleagues reviewed academic and practitioner studies and summarised that the main purpose of talent management is to ‘attract, develop, motivate and retain talent ’.  At the same time, conventional wisdom drawn from academic studies and practical experience shows that there is a strong relationship between employees being satisfied at work and the overall success of the organisation as depicted in the following diagram. 

implications can be immediately drawn for both HR and marketing teams who clearly have a role to play, but in reality, everyone in the organisation has a role to play; a positive organisational culture is essential for achieving success.

A recently published study by Constantine Kontoghiorghes from the Cyprus Institute of Technology, found that it was critically important that an ethical culture existed within the organisation for effective talent management. By outlining the role of culture and ethical behaviour this study points out very clearly that effective talent management requires practices, systems and skills that go beyond human resource management and affect the whole organisation. As outlined by Kontoghiorghes, “open communications, knowledge management, and support for creativity, in addition to facilitating system adaption, make work more meaningful and autonomous, and thus motivating. It is not by accident, then, that numerous studies have linked these high performing organisational characteristics to employee motivation, satisfaction commitment and retention.”

CEOs need to be stronger

Recent parliamentary enquiries into Sports Direct and BHS demonstrate that in situations where positive ethical values are not clear, and where limited open communication channels exist, this directly impacts working practices within organisations. Time and time again we see evidence of the need for CEOs to emulate strong and ethical values in order for the firm to succeed. On a more positive note, in May we saw UK landmarks and London buildings being decorated with the Union Jack. This was not a Brexit related campaign, but a live demonstration of powerful internal marketing by BHS marketing and creative director Tony Holdway who outlined that the #savebhs campaign was launched  “on behalf of the 11,000 staff at risk and our millions of customers all over the UK who do not want to see another British institution disappear from the high street.”

It appears that BHS will continue to trade during the summer of 2016. Although the campaign ultimately does not appear to have saved BHS - with no one buyer for the whole entity having yet been identified - it does mean that those employees who continue to drive the business during tough times, may not be thanking Dominic Chappell or Philip Green, but they may find it easier to work though challenges ahead in the knowledge that somebody tried to help.

For all of us, whether we have imminent turbulent years ahead or not, the messages are fairly clear. Customer experience and employee engagement are entwined, ethical and adaptive cultures help build stronger brands in times of uncertainty, and the positive behaviours of our leaders is paramount. 


Daft, R. (2012) Organization Theory and Design (11th edition), Mason South Western

Kontoghiorghes, C. (2016) ’Linking high performance organizational culture and talent management: satisfaction/motivation and organizational commitment as mediators’. The International Journal of Human Resource Management. Vol 27, No 16 pp1833-1853

Thunnissen, M. Boselie, P. and Fruytier, B. (2013) ‘A review of Talent Management: infancy or adolescence?’ The International Journal of Human Resource Management,  Vol 27, No 16 pp1833-1853