How Corporate Social Performance Attracts Job Seekers

two women business meeting

It is becoming more important for organizations to have a social presence, display their dedication to the community, and adopt positive practices that go beyond the company’s bottom line. This is called corporate social performance, or CSP. A recent study (Jones, Willness, & Madey, 2014) examined several questions in relation to recruiting new talent: Are job seekers more interested in working for organizations that have a greater CSP presence and, if so, which aspects of CSP are they more drawn to?

THE INFLUENCE OF CORPORATE SOCIAL PERFORMANCE

The authors investigated how an organization’s community involvement and pro-environmental efforts influenced job seekers. Community involvement was defined as philanthropic efforts and supporting employees’ efforts for volunteerism, while pro-environmentalism was focused on policies and procedures being enacted to enable a company to become more eco-friendly and sustainable.

To get more specific, the researchers wanted to see how these two factors influenced the applicants’ prospective pride in working with a CSP-conscious company, their perception that the company’s values matched their own due to CSP practices, and their expected treatment as an employee due to the company’s social and communal efforts.

They set out to answer these questions through two separate studies, presenting CSP information to research participants in exactly the same formats most of us would use to gather information when hunting for jobs. This practical approach means that their research can easily translate into real world applications.

RESEARCH STUDY ON CORPORATE SOCIAL PERFORMANCE

The first study’s participants consisted of 180 senior undergraduate students with an average of nearly two years of work experience, each of whom attended two sessions scheduled a week apart.

In Session 1, participants were given a survey with questions focused on political beliefs and values. Embedded within that survey were questions directly related to corporate social performance. In Session 2, participants were asked to look at content from three fictitious companies. The content for two of the companies remained the same for all 180 participants, but the third company’s content had three different versions– one focusing on community involvement, one highlighting pro-environmental practices, and one with no CSP-related content– divided evenly among the participants. They were then asked to rank the companies and give their feedback on each one.

The results showed that participants who received versions focused on community involvement or pro-environmental practices felt that these issues carried significantly more weight in their top company choices. Participants who received a CSP-focused version of the company’s materials were more attracted to that company than participants with the non-CSP version. The results also showed that exposing jobs seekers to CSP-related information increased their anticipated pride in working with the company, as well as the feeling that the company’s values fit their own.

FOLLOW-UP RESEARCH STUDY

In the second study, researchers sought out job seekers at two different job fairs, ultimately finding 171 participants to answer a survey. They also looked at booth setups for the majority of recruiters in order to catalog the amount of corporate social performance content in their materials.

The participants were asked to identify the top companies they were interested in working with, and the survey also contained questions regarding community involvement and pro-environmental practices.

The results of this study found that job seekers had more favorable perceptions of companies that had CSP information. Community involvement had a much stronger influence than the environment when it came to factors like anticipated pride, perceived value fit, and employee treatment.

BIG PICTURE TAKEAWAYS

In order for companies to attract a larger pool of talented job seekers, it may become necessary to include more corporate social performance information on their websites.

The researchers found that many Fortune 500 companies did not have CPS information on their recruitment and job pages. Not having this sort of content could prove to be a missed opportunity for these organizations.

The study found that it is beneficial for companies to have pro-environmental practices, but it is even more important to increase community involvement initiatives, which may be perceived by job seekers as reflective of a more “selfless” organization.

Jones, D. A., Willness, C. R., & Madey, S. (2014). Why Are Job Seekers Attracted by Corporate Social Performance? Experimental and Field Tests of Three Signal-Based Mechanisms. Academy of Management Journal, 57, 383-404.