Author(s), Title and Publication
Opaku-Dakwa, A., Chen C., & Rupp, D. (2018). CSR initiative characteristics and employee engagement: An impact-based perspective. Journal of Organizational Behavior, 39, 580-593, DOI 10.1002/job2281.

In the workplace, a holistic understanding of corporate social responsibility initiatives (CSRIs), specifically when and why CSRIs would be engaging to employees is critical in creating meaningful organizational and employee outcomes, such as employee engagement, and the success of the initiative as a whole. The authors suggest a theoretical model focusing on three distinct purposes CSRIs serve: to develop employees, to increase organizational competitiveness, and to address social, humanitarian, or environmental issues. These three purposes reflect the fact that CSRIs can serve the interests of multiple stakeholders—specifically, the interests of employees, the firm undertaking the CSRI (i.e., the employer), and the external beneficiaries of the CSRI (i.e., the community or general public).

Employee-focused CSRIs are any CSRI that utilizes or develops employees’ knowledge, skills, and relationships to address a humanitarian or environmental challenge that has some degree of employee focus. Focus shifts to the employer when a humanitarian or environmental issue becomes linked to the continued success of the organization, which, in addition to promising competitive benefits, may reinforce organizational identity, promote organizational image and reputation, and incite cognitive and emotional investment for employees. And when CSRIs address issues that transcend the organization and its members and primarily affect external stakeholders, an external focus is realized. In this case, the CSRI provides employees with an opportunity for public service, to feel that that they can make a difference regarding issues they care about, and to uphold their principles and values.

CSRI distinctiveness, or anticipation of outcomes, secondarily determines employee engagement and CSRI success. As a result of CSRI participation, employees may seek to meet personal needs for competence, relatedness, and autonomy, whereas the CSRI employer focus suggests potential positive impact on the organization’s competitiveness, legitimacy, or morale; and the CSRI external focus suggests potential positive CSRI impact on the wellbeing of external stakeholders (e.g., local communities, the public, and the natural environment.) Social and personal identity further impacts employee engagement and CSRI success, in that to the degree employees identify with the organization, the initiative, the beneficiaries, and the communication as a collective, employees’ may feel compelled to participate morally, and by offering their own competencies toward the success of the initiative.

Implications for Practice
Organizations should (1) provide opportunities that are strategically anticipated to impact the welfare of stakeholders, i.e., employees, the organization, and/or external stakeholders to promote employees’ CSRI engagement and CSRI success, 2) clearly communicate CSRI strategy, goals and objectives so employees, and (3) create a strategic CSR communication plan that connects stakeholders, CSRI characteristics, and CSRI distinctiveness with the organization’s overall mission and goals.

Location of 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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