The first model for assessing the compatibility between employer and employee social responsibility within individual organisations could reshape the way CSR is understood and measured.
The “CSR-ESR Congruence Model”, created by Debbie Haski-Leventhal, Lonneke Roza and Lucas Meijs, shows that positive workplace outcomes are achieved when both employers and employees share high levels of social responsibility.
“We always say that CSR can achieve some good outcomes, but how come it’s working for some employers and employees but not for others? It’s because some employees care more deeply about these issues,” Haski-Leventhal, Leader of the MGSM CSR Partnership Network, said.
Previous research focussed on CSR or ESR (Employee Social Responsibility) separately, and this single-level analysis has limits in practical application, according to Haski-Leventhal.
“Our model is quite applicable for companies, they will be able to know for the first time how their employees position them, how their employees perceive their CSR, and how important it is for their employees that they are a socially responsible company,” Haski-Leventhal said.
“So they would be able to say, ok are we happy with our CSR engagement pattern that our employees perceive us to be in, or do we want to change that, do we want to inform our employees better, letting them know more about what we do in this area, or do we actually want to change our actions and behaviour so the actual CSR engagement pattern will be different.”
An article presenting the CSR Congruence Model, published in the Journal of Business Ethics, said the Model will allow businesses to define their goals for future development.
“The model can be used to assist employers and employees achieve their high CSR potential and affect each other in order to achieve high ESR-CSR congruence, with the ultimate goal of realising positive organisational outcomes,” the report said.
Part of the Model’s assessment includes mapping out a diverse range of factors that influence a company’s CSR position.
“It would allow companies to also understand the various factors that can affect the CSR engagement pattern of a company, including the CEO of the company or the leadership,” Haski-Leventhal said.
“It could also be the employees. Generation Y care more about issues of social responsibility, so if you have a younger workforce it is possible that your employees would signal to you that it is important to them for you to be more socially responsible.
“There are external factors as well, stakeholders that can push companies to be more socially responsible, there is legislation and so on.”
Haski-Leventhal, Roza and Meijs also separate socially responsible identity and socially responsible behaviour, creating four CSR engagement patterns:
-Low Social Responsibility: Low levels of social responsibility identity and behaviour, employees are indifferent to social issues in their workplace and corporations concentrate exclusively on maximising shareholder value
-Identity-Based Social Responsibility: Organisations and employees perceive and project themselves as socially responsible, while taking little or no action to support this
-Behaviour-Based Social Responsibility: High levels of involvement in socially responsible behaviour without adopting the corresponding identity
-Entwined Social Responsibility: Identities and behaviours are aligned, social responsibility is part of who individuals and organisations are and what they do
Haski-Leventhal said Entwined Social Responsibility is all about “walking the talk” and generates the most positive workplace outcomes.
“If you have very strong values and mission statement that you want to be more sustainable but you don’t do anything about it, it could be problematic. On the other hand if you have great philanthropy but your core business and your mission and your strategy is not aligned with that it’s also not going to be the most effective way of doing social responsibility,” she said.
“If you align your values and your behaviours to both be very socially responsible, then you’re going to be more effective with your CSR, and if your employees are in the CSR engagement pattern as well, that’s where you achieve the best workplace outcomes.”
The article said that in these workplaces, “Employees are more likely to remain within the organisation and to report higher levels of job satisfaction and organisational commitment.”
However, employers should note that the positions are easily subject to change.
“Companies cannot rest on their laurels, believing that they have achieved the highest level of CSR and related congruence,” the article said.
“Ongoing efforts are needed to maintain this pattern of engagement in social responsibility, possibly by exploring new directions in CSR.”
Interestingly, the article shows that while CSR-ESR congruence can be achieved at the Low Social Responsibility level, one of the potential outcomes are disengaged employees.
“To achieve employee engagement, companies might need to exert additional effort, in terms of salary, holidays, brand loyalty and interest in the product, as social responsibility plays in these companies no part in establishing congruence between employees and their companies,” the article said.
“A lack of congruence at any level is likely to result in employees responding to the company with indifference, resentment or disengagement.”