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CSR ‘demonstrably improves’ employee performance

Research finds support by managers at every level of the firm is key 

16 May 2014

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By Manju Manglani, Editor (@ManjuManglani)

Engaging employees in corporate social responsibility (CSR) activities can demonstrably improve job performance.

That's according to a study of more than 200 employees at a Global 500 financial services company. It found that frontline employees feel more connected with their organisation and clients when they engage in CSR activities.

The research also found that, if support for CSR is given at every level of management, employees feel connected to the firm through shared values of caring and altruism, creating highly motivating bonds.

"Employees often feel disconnected from both the company they work for and the customers they are expected to serve," commented CB Bhattacharya, chair of corporate responsibility at ESMT European School of Management and Technology and a co-author of the paper.

"The result of this study is yet more evidence that companies can generate substantial return on their CSR investment if they manage it wisely."

According to the paper, employees identify with their organisation when they perceive management to support CSR. Employees also identify with clients when they perceive clients to support their firm's CSR.

Citing programmes at companies such as Cisco, Starbucks and SAP, the authors recommend two steps that managers can take to engage staff with CSR:

  1. ensure the firm's leaders take a visible role in enacting CSR; and

  2. encourage employees to talk about and develop shared experiences with clients around the firm's CSR activities.

It was also discovered that CSR can act as an effective ice breaker in conversations with clients. Environmental initiatives, charitable giving and ethical business practices can also help to highlight common values between clients and the firm, the researchers found.

The paper 'Corporate Social Responsibility, Customer Orientation, and the Job Performance of Frontline Employees' by CB Bhattacharya of ESMT European School of Management and Technology, Daniel Korschun of Drexel University and Scott D. Swain of Clemson University is published in Vol. 78 Issue 3 of the AMA Journal of Marketing.



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