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Thursday, January 18, 2018

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CSR and Employee Engagement: Does it Matter?
Dr. John Izzo

June, 2011

There is growing evidence consumers care about CSR when it comes to whom they buy from and survey evidence suggests employees like to work for companies that are good citizens. As someone who has spent over 20 years advising companies on their brand image and how to create highly engaged workforces, I am often asked by my clients if CSR really matters to employees. Even though surveys show employees rank it as a high factor for choosing an employer, it is almost never cited as the reason people leave companies, nor is it often cited as a prime reason for taking new employment. It raises an interesting and important question: How important is CSR to workers?

A friend of mine was one of the Enron whistleblowers. After her departure I asked her whether she felt people knew something was unethical about some of Enron’s practices. In essence she told me “people knew something was going on but as long as the stock price was going up, the vast majority of people did not seem to care that much.” So is CSR more of a paper tiger in terms of employee engagement?

To answer that question we can both look at the research as well as some anecdotal evidence. There is a strong body of evidence that suggests a very strong correlation between someone’s pride in working for an organization and their commitment to that workplace. Surely CSR is a part of what creates pride in your employer but it is not the only factor. Factors such as the perception of innovation, service/quality, as well as being on a “winning team” (which includes the stock performance) are also factors.

Gallup has done extensive surveys on employee engagement and identified 12 factors that drive employee engagement. Most of the factors are about the job itself (such as I get to do what I do best every day and I have the tools I need to do my job well) or the relationships I have at work (such as in the last seven days I have been recognized and my supervisor or someone at work cares about me). Only one of the 12 could be construed to relate directly to CSR: “the mission of this organization makes me feel my job is important.” Like the research on pride, this suggests that CSR is only one of many factors that drive engagement.

Anecdotally, I have often heard employees talk about the CSR efforts of their companies. Years ago at a Fairmont hotel, a housekeeper told me how much it meant to her that the hotel chain worked hard to encourage guests to recycle in the days when few hotel chains did so. There is little doubt this contributed to her engagement, but it was balanced with many other factors. Another example came to me from a man who supervised oil rigs for a large multinational oil company. He told me his new employer was much more careful about following environmental regulations and going above and beyond the “regs” than his previous employer who often cut corners. Again, he communicated to me that this was important to him and made him feel good about his employer, but it was not a make or break factor.

In answering this question, however, there is an “x” factor, which companies should consider. Over the last 15 years, social responsibility and being “green” have made the largest gains of any other factors which employees use to determine where they want to work. Although it is still not the prime factor for most employees, its trajectory as a value suggests that in the future it may become much more important than it is now.

Read more of htis interesting article at


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