Topic: Employee Identification; Employee Performance

Authors, Title and Publication

Korschun, D., Bhattacharya, C. B., & Swain, S. D. (2014). Corporate social responsibility, customer orientation, and the job performance of frontline employees. Journal of Marketing, 78(3), 20-37.

Summary

In the search for levers to improve job performance, some managers have turned to corporate social responsibility (CSR is defined as discretionary business practices and contributions of corporate resources intended to improve societal well-being). This literature stream suggests that CSR communicates the underlying values of the company, which can lead people to form a strong psychological bond with it (i.e., organizational identification) and thereby trigger company benefiting behaviors. Previous research has demonstrated the positive responses of consumers and non-frontline employees to CSR. However, CSR skeptics argue that it would be injudicious simply to extrapolate prior research findings to the frontline context. Frontline employees are different in that they face a uniquely bifurcated social landscape—the company on one side and customers on the other. This study examines frontline employee responses to corporate social responsibility (CSR) using a multi-sourced data set at a Global 500 financial services company.

The researchers found that frontline employees identify with the organization and with customers as a function to the extent that they perceive management and customers (respectively) to support the company’s CSR activities. However, these respective effects are stronger among employees for whom CSR is already tied to their sense of self (i.e., CSR importance to the employee). In addition, both organizational identification and employee–customer identification are related to supervisor-rated job performance; however, only the effect of employee–customer identification is mediated by customer orientation, suggesting that these two targets of identification manifest through distinct mechanisms. The findings also suggested that frontline employees are sometimes quite attuned to other stakeholders’ support for CSR and use such construals to define themselves in relation to the company and its customers.

Implications for Practice

1) To leverage CSR among frontline employees in a nuanced way, managers must first understand which frontline employees place importance on CSR. 2) To foster organizational and employee–customer identification, managers should implement CSR initiatives that are vetted not only by employees but by key customer segments as well. It’s also important to measure and track both organizational identification and employee– customer identification. 3) To encourage CSR communication within and across traditional stakeholder lines, organizations should first increase awareness of their CSR activities among employees and customers.

Location of Article

The article is available online at: http://journals.ama.org/doi/abs/10.1509/jm.11.0245 (abstract free, purchase full article)

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Heidy Modarelli handles Growth & Marketing for IPR. She has previously written for Entrepreneur, TechCrunch, The Next Web, and VentureBeat.
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