You’ve probably heard by now that corporate social responsibility (CSR) is good for business. We live in an era of customers who want to vote with their dollar and hold companies accountable for their broader actions in the world — and companies are responding. These initiatives often include environmental programs (e.g. efforts to reduce the company’s carbon footprint), philanthropic efforts (e.g. a fundraiser or donation for charity), ethical labor practices (e.g. refusal to exploit cheap or free labor), and volunteering programs (e.g. providing employees with paid time to volunteer in the community).
But with all the focus on the benefits of CSR for improving profits and customer perceptions, don’t overlook a goldmine – its benefits to employees.
In a 2012 paper in the “Journal of Management,” industrial-organizational psychologists Herman Aguinis and Ante Glavas provided an extensive review of how CSR affects the employees within an organization, and it looks pretty good for companies that have hopped on the CSR train. As Bob Stiller, founder of Green Mountain Coffee Roasters, has said, “I’ve learned that people are motivated and more willing to go the extra mile to make the company successful when there’s a higher good associated with it. It’s no longer just a job. Work becomes meaningful and this makes us more competitive.”
Here are six ways that CSR programs help employees relations:
1. Increased Organizational Citizenship Behaviors and Improved Employee Relationships
If employees think their employer is “doing the right thing,” it seems they are more likely to “do the right thing” themselves. When organizations implement best practices in CSR, employees are more likely to engage in cooperative behaviors towards their coworkers and the organization, like going out of their way to help their teammate. Similarly, CSR promotes higher-quality and closer relationships between employees.
2. Enhanced Employee Identification with the Organization
When employees feel that their organization is socially responsible, they experience a greater sense of identity with the business they work for. In fact, social responsibility can be more important than financial success in determining how much employees identify with their workplace.
3. Improved Retention and Organizational Commitment
Feeling positively about their organization’s CSR initiative has been shown to increase employee’s intentions to stay with their current employer, and their overall commitment to the organization. Commitment includes a huge range of positive attitudes, including how much employees like their organization, make personal sacrifices for the organization, and see their own future and success tied to the organization’s success.
4. More Attractive Company Culture to Prospective Employees
Along with increasing current employees’ commitment, CSR can also make organizations look more attractive to applicants and prospective employees. In the age when millennials look to work for “high impact” organizations, engaging in CSR may help companies to attract top talent over other organizations. For example, a survey by the non-profit Net Impact found that 72 percent of students about to enter the workforce stated that a job where they can “make an impact” was important for their happiness.
5. Better Employee Engagement and Performance
Employees have also been shown to be more engaged and to perform better when they feel good about their company’s CSR involvement. By making employees aware of the company’s efforts to give back and celebrating these efforts, you can help employees become more actively engaged with their work, and do better work overall.
6. Increased Creativity
Finally, CSR can increase employees’ creative involvement, including generating new but practical ideas, originality, and creative problem-solving. When organizations express their values and passions through CSR, employees may be inspired to develop new and better ways to do their work.
Olivia Vande Griek
Olivia Vande Griek is a Ph.D. student in industrial-organizational psychology at the University of Georgia. She is passionate about strategically developing individuals and organizations into leaders of positive change through their work.