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From social responsibility to employee engagement: evidence from the public sector

Abstract

This quantitative study investigated the effects of a city’s social responsibility activities on public employees’ organizational identity and engagement to determine if the effects are similar to those found for employees working in the private sector. Research has consistently shown the positive effects of corporate social responsibility efforts on private sector employees’ attitudes and behaviors; however, researchers warn against applying theories developed in the private sector to the public sector without acknowledging the unique motives that attract individuals to the public sector. For example, studies show individuals with higher public service motivation (PSM) are attracted to the public sector because they identify with those in need and prefer helping others through their jobs. Although PSM and social responsibility are distinct, and even seemingly divergent constructs, both constructs offer explanations for how employees’ prosocial activities may be related through the lens of organizational identity, yet studies to-date have not examined the impact of organizational social responsibility (OSR) activities on public sector employees’ attitudes. Our findings revealed employee perceptions of the city’s social responsibility efforts predict employees’ organizational identity and organizational identity fully mediates the relationship between perceptions of social responsibility and employee engagement, suggesting organizational identity develops before employee engagement and could be considered an antecedent of engagement. These results imply that a public agency’s social responsibility initiatives may provide a mechanism for increasing employee engagement. Implications for public managers and theory are discussed.

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Correspondence to Shelia D. Hammon.

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Hammon, S.D., Gillis, W.E. & Icenogle, M.L. From social responsibility to employee engagement: evidence from the public sector. J Manag Gov (2022). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10997-022-09648-3

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Keywords

  • Organizational social responsibility
  • Organizational identity
  • Employee engagement
  • Public employee
  • Public sector social responsibility