Employee engagement in corporate social responsibility (CSR) activities can demonstrably improve job performance, new research from ESMT European School of Management and Technology shows.
The study, published in the American Marketing Association's Journal of Marketing, found employees feel more connected with companies and customers when they engage in CSR activities.
Environmental initiatives, charitable giving, and ethical business practices can all help employees by highlighting common values with both customers and the company, researchers found.
For example, it was discovered that CSR can act as an effective ice-breaker in conversations with customers and, if support for CSR comes from every level of management, the employee senses that the company shares values like caring and altruism – these bonds are highly motivating.
Citing programmes at companies such as CISCO, Starbucks and SAP, the authors recommend two simple steps that managers can take to engage staff with CSR:
- Encourage employees to talk about and develop shared experiences with customers around the company’s CSR activities.
- Make sure that company leaders take a visible role in enacting CSR.
CB Bhattacharya, dean of international relations at ESMT European School of Management and Technology, and E.ON chair in corporate responsibility said: “Companies rely on frontline employees − salespeople, customer service representatives, wait staff, account managers, and the like − to serve customers profitably. Yet, these employees often feel disconnected from both the company they work for and the customers they are expected to serve.
“The result of this study is yet more evidence that companies can generate substantial return on their CSR investment if they manage it wisely.”
More than 200 employees at a Global 500 financial services company took part in the study authored by Bhattacharya, Daniel Korschun of Drexel University and Scott D Swain of Clemson University.