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Does CSR Enhance Employer Attractiveness? The Role of Millennial Job Seekers' Attitudes: CSR-based employer attractiveness and Millennials' attitudes

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Corporate social responsibility (CSR) has become increasingly important in labor market communication. To express organizational identity, reinforcing commitment to sustainable development and stakeholder engagement, organizations report their CSR activities. The impact of a company's employer branding (EB) strategy depends on how information recipients interpret corporate messages. Therefore, we assume that job seekers may show diverse attitudes toward CSR. The extant literature has hardly explored the interplay between CSR, EB, and job seekers' attitudes, so we identify a relevant research gap to be tackled. The aim of this paper is to examine how millennial job seekers' attitudes toward CSR influence perceived CSR-based employer attractiveness (EA). We conducted an empirical study in Poland, collecting data from a sample of Millennials – highly sensitive toward CSR issues. Our results generally confirm that individual attitudes toward CSR play a key role in understanding how job seekers perceive CSR signals and eventually impact CSR-based EA. Copyright © 2017 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd and ERP Environment
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How to cite:
Klimkiewicz, K., and Oltra, V. (2017) Does CSR Enhance Employer Attractiveness? The Role
of Millennial Job Seekers' Attitudes. Corp. Soc. Responsib. Environ. Mgmt., 24: 449463.
doi: 10.1002/csr.1419.
TITLE: DOES CSR ENHANCE EMPLOYER ATTRACTIVENESS? THE ROLE OF
MILLENNIAL JOB-SEEKERS’ ATTITUDES.
Dr Katarzyna Klimkiewicz
Faculty of Management
AGH University of Science and Technology
Gramatyka 10
30-067 Cracow
Poland
Dr Victor Oltra
Faculty of Economics, Department of Business Management
University of Valencia
Av. Tarongers, s/n
46022 Valencia
Spain
2
Title: DOES CSR ENHANCE EMPLOYER ATTRACTIVENESS? THE ROLE OF
MILLENNIAL JOB-SEEKERS’ ATTITUDES.
KEYWORDS
Corporate social responsibility (CSR), employer attractiveness, employer branding, individual
attitudes, Millennials, stakeholder engagement.
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ABSTRACT
Corporate social responsibility (CSR) has become increasingly important in labour market
communication. To express organizational identity, reinforcing commitment to sustainable
development and stakeholder engagement, organizations report their CSR activities. The
impact of a company’s employer branding (EB) strategy depends on how information
recipients interpret corporate messages. Therefore, we assume that job seekers may show
diverse attitudes towards CSR. The extant literature has hardly explored the interplay between
CSR, EB and job seekers’ attitudes, so we identify a relevant research gap to be tackled. The
aim of this paper is to examine how Millennial job seekers’ attitudes towards CSR influence
perceived CSR-based employer attractiveness (EA). We conducted an empirical study in
Poland, collecting data from a sample of Millennials – highly sensitive towards CSR issues.
Our results generally confirm that individual attitudes towards CSR play a key role in
understanding how job seekers perceive CSR signals and eventually impact CSR-based EA.
4
1. INTRODUCTION
Research conducted in a not too far past showed that very little attention was given to
ethics and Corporate Social Performance (CSP) issues in recruitment descriptions (Backhaus,
2004), despite their importance in explaining potential employer attractiveness (EA) to job
seekers (Alniacik et al., 2011). Addressing these concerns, Corporate Social Responsibility
(CSR) has been increasingly becoming a significant element of corporate communication and
employer branding (EB) (Amaladoss and Manohar, 2013; McElhaney, 2008; Ziek, 2009).
In this paper, we deal with the challenge of identifying whether a good CSR image can
attract prospective employees. Moreover, CSR is quite a complex and controversial concept
(Dobers and Springett, 2010), implying both potentially positive or negative connotations
(Crook, 2005; Friedman, 1970; Karnani, 2010; Smith, 2003; Vogel, 1991; Wang and Juslin,
2011). We then need to consider the diversity of impacts that CSR communication might have
on EA from the job seekers’ perspective.
The age group that shows the deepest sensitivity towards ethical and CSR issues is
comprised by young people, born in or after 1982, often recognized as Generation Y or
Millennial Generation (Ciemniewski and Buszko, 2009; Connell et al., 2012; Howe et al.,
2000; Cone Communications, 2006). The so-called Millennials share a widespread belief that
their responsibility is to make the world a better place (Cone and AMP Agency, 2006). They
are also convinced that companies have a responsibility to join them in this effort (Cone
Communications, 2006), so they are more likely to consider CSR while deciding where to
work (Cone Communications, 2015).
Accordingly, the aim of this paper is to examine how Millennial job seekers’ attitudes
impact perceived CSR-based EA. Having these ideas in mind, we pose the following research
question:
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How do Millennial job seekers’ attitudes towards CSR influence CSR-based
EA?
In order to explore this question, we intend to examine the impact of job seekers’
attitudes towards CSR on perceived CSR-based EA. More specifically, we aim at exploring
CSR as part of the organizational symbolic attributes of EB, and thus assess the effectiveness
of CSR-based EB by measuring the impact that individual attitudes towards CSR have on
CSR-based EA. We construe individual attitudes as comprised by three dimensions, namely
cognitive, affective and behavioural. The cognitive dimension refers to the individual
perceptions of the organization’s (instrumental vs. normative) commitment to the society
(Basu and Palazzo, 2008; Wiener, 1982) .The affective dimension represents the individual
(positive or negative) assessment of critical CSR characteristics (Davis, 1973; Karnani, 2010;
Smith, 2003). Finally, the behavioural dimension refers to the (high or low) individual
engagement in business ethics or CSR issues (Evans and Davis, 2011; McGlone et al., 2011;
Pérez and Rodríguez del Bosque, 2015).
The Polish job market offers an interesting setting to inquire into our research question
and goals. Difficulties in introducing CSR in Poland may find their origins in the country’s
history, where the idea of building a society based on common good has been missing (Filek,
2008). Also, an unbalance between (rather high) human capital and (rather low) social capital
(Czapiński, 2008) may be an underlying reason for the lack of trust in business and high
scepticism towards CSR. Nevertheless, research conducted in the Polish labour market
reveals that the tendency in EB communication had been changing over the years: while in
2006 only 10% of job offers included information about CSR value, in 2010 this figure
almost doubled (Klimkiewicz, 2012).
With the purpose of examining the linkages between individual attitudes towards CSR
and CSR-based EA, we decided to ask job-seeking Millennials. In order to test our
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hypotheses, survey data were collected from 339 young job seekers during job fairs. A
number of multivariate analyses based on linear regressions were conducted.
The structure of this article is as follows. The two (second and third) next sections
provide the research background on CSR, employer attractiveness, and individual attitudes
towards CSR. The fourth section is devoted to justify and formulate our research hypotheses.
In the fifth section, the methods of the study are explained. In the sixth section our study
results are described, and the seventh section offers a discussion of our findings. The article
ends with a final conclusion and implications section.
2. CSR UNDERSTANDING AND EMPLOYER ATTRACTIVENESS
Extant research points at a positive link between CSR and organizational reputation
(Lin et al., 2016; Melo and Garrido-Morgado, 2012). A range of studies support the idea that
job seekers are more likely to pursue jobs from firms that they consider as socially
responsible than from firms with poor CSP or bad reputation (Alniacik et al., 2011; Backhaus
et al., 2002; Behrend et al., 2009; Greening and Turban, 2000; Tsai et al., 2014).
Research on job seekers’ attraction to CSR concentrates on analyses regarding
personal factors, such as gender, age and knowledge on CSR (Albinger and Freeman, 2000;
Arlow, 1991; Barrena-Martínez et al., 2014; Evans and Davis, 2011; Eweje and Brunton,
2010; Fitzpatrick, 2013; Tormo-Carbó et al., 2016). Barrena-Martínez et al. (2014) conclude,
however, that social integration factors – such as collaboration with NGOs, and prior
awareness of CSR – have a higher influence on the positive assessment of CSR and hence on
the attraction and retention of college graduates than personal factors. Therefore, we assume
that it is not only the specific content of CSR communication that may influence job seekers’
responses, but rather their individual attitudes towards CSR itself.
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In our investigation, we deal with the challenge of using CSR as part of the company’s
EB communication aimed at attracting job seekers. EB can be defined as ‘the process by
which employees internalize the desired brand image and are motivated to project the image
to customers and other organizational constituents’, what shows its contractual character
(Miles and Mangold, 2004, p. 68).
Similar to product or service branding, EB consists of two dimensions, namely
instrumental and symbolic. While instrumental attributes describe factual and objective
organization’s attributes, such as pay, bonuses, benefits, working hours or location, the
second dimension refers to symbolic meanings that may be associated with the employer
(Lievens and Highhouse, 2003). Accordingly, CSR-based EB may be construed in terms of an
employer branding process linked to the employer’s CSR policy and actions aimed at labour
market differentiation. We propose to explore CSR as part of the organizational symbolic
attributes of EB, and assess the impact that individual attitudes towards CSR have on EA. In
this sense, CSR-based EA reflects the perceived importance of CSR shown by potential job
applicants, as a relevant EB attribute which job seekers may consider – among other job
search criteria. It can be used as a measure for effectiveness of CSR-based EB. In order to
explore how individuals may be influenced by CSR-based EB, we reviewed theories such as
sense-making perspective, person-organization (P-O) fit approach, as well as social identity
theory.
A sense-making perspective (Fryzeł, 2011; Weick, 1995) enables us to define CSR in
terms of the individual’s understanding. In Basu and Palazzo’s (2008) words, CSR is ‘the
process by which managers within an organization think about and discuss relationships with
stakeholders as well as their roles in relation to the common good, along with their
behavioural disposition with respect to the fulfilment and achievement of these roles and
relationships’ (Basu and Palazzo, 2008, p. 124). In the case of prospective employees, their
8
expectations towards potential employers’ CSR policy might also be determined by their
understanding of the role that businesses play in the society. The P-O fit approach is
especially relevant in this context. This approach suggests that job seekers prefer
organizations with attributes that are aligned with their personal characteristics (Cable and
Judge, 1996; Zhang and Gowan, 2012). While trying to achieve a P-O fit, job seekers make
efforts to become part of the organization that they perceive as sharing similar values and
ideas about what the creation of ‘common good’ is. As argued by Bhattacharya and Sen
(2003), the perceived P-O fit may become a source of self-definition, so that the individuals
are more likely to be attracted by corporate identity ‘when it matches their own sense of who
they are’ (Bhattacharya and Sen, 2003, p. 80). Here social identity theory (Dutton and
Dukerich, 1991; Tajfel and Turner, 1979; Van Dick, 2004) provides a good explanation, as it
suggests that the reason for individual choice of a particular brand might be driven by his or
her self-concept related to their membership to certain social groups. Job seekers take notice
about the organizational values and norms and want to test whether they match their own
beliefs (Chatman, 1989). If prospective employees positively perceive the features of the
brand, they are more likely to identify themselves with the employer, so they will value more
the prospect of becoming part of the organization (Backhaus, 2004). This shows that
recipients who are convinced by CSR-messages may be more likely to identify themselves
with this concept and so get attracted by CSR-based EB. Conversely, those who only accept
the economic character of an organization’s input in the society and are rather sceptic towards
holistic views of CSR, may be discouraged and show low CSR-based EA.
After reviewing the concept of EA and different approaches to CSR understanding, we
would like to explore more deeply the individual attitudes towards CSR.
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3. INDIVIDUAL ATTITUDES TOWARDS CSR
In case of job seekers, who show an intent to pursue a job, we have to consider an
expected psychological contract since an actual one does not (yet) exist. Unlike actual
employees, job seekers cannot comprehensively evaluate the employer’s CSR policies or
programmes. Anyway, applicants can assess the communication on CSR according to their
own positive or negative beliefs and attitudes towards CSR. An attitude is a ‘disposition to
respond with some degree of favourableness or unfavourableness to a psychological object’
(Ajzen and Cote, 2008, p. 289). Therefore, while adopting the job seekers’ perspective, we
need to conceptualize CSR as a psychological object itself. Each attitude would then consist
of three components (i.e., dimensions), namely cognitive, affective and behavioural (Aronson
et al., 2009).
The cognitive dimension is related to the individual perception of the organization’s
commitment to the society. Basu and Palazzo (2008, p. 125) propose, after Wiener (1982),
two types of commitment: instrumental and normative. While the first one is externally
driven, the second one stems from ethical considerations. Instrumental commitment means
that companies consider CSR only in terms of profit maximization, while normative
commitment implies that companies internalize CSR values in terms of obligation and
compliance with social values and norms.
The affective dimension represents the individual (positive or negative) assessment of
critical CSR characteristics. Here we refer to the question of the scope of the organization’s
interest and goals (narrow or broad), such as creating shared value or relations to the state, the
question of ‘profitability’ of CSR, and its impact on competitiveness, trustworthiness of the
CSR image, and general feelings (optimistic vs. sceptic) towards CSR (Davis, 1973; Karnani,
2010; Smith, 2003).
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The behavioural dimension refers to the (high or low) individual interest in business
ethics or CSR issues, and willingness to deepen into the CSR topic (Evans and Davis, 2011;
Kleinrichert et al., 2013), as well as individual customer (e.g., buying ecological or socially
responsible products) and volunteering behaviour (e.g., engagement in NGOs) (McGlone et
al., 2011; Pérez and Rodríguez del Bosque, 2015).
After having outlined the framework for analyzing the contents and dynamics of
individual attitudes towards CSR, we would like now to explore how this phenomenon
interplays with CSR-based EA.
4. LINKING MILLENNIAL JOB SEEKERS’ ATTITUDES TOWARDS CSR WITH
CSR-BASED EMPLOYER ATTRACTIVENESS
In the era of the ‘war for talent’, both practitioners and researchers stress that job
seekers tend to reject employers with bad reputation (Schawbel, 2008). In this context,
younger generations are expected to make employer choices having in mind their ethical and
CSR practice (Deloitte, 2014). As the so-called Millennials comprise the age group that
shows deeper sensitivity towards ethical and CSR Issues (Connell et al., 2012; Howe et al.,
2000; Cone Communications, 2006; Michailides and Lipsett, 2013), we subsequently focus
our analysis on these individuals.
Signalling theory, traditionally used for investigating job seekers’ behaviour, provides
substantial support for exploring the connections between attitudes towards CSR and EA
(Backhaus et al., 2002; Jones et al., 2014; Tsai, et al., 2014). Individuals searching for a job
try to match their expectations towards potential employers with the organizational offer
(Wanous et al., 1992). The organization sends signals about its attributes, such as working
conditions, values and norms (Turban and Greening, 1997), and job seekers use those
attributes as clues: they interpret them as predictors of future employment relations.
11
Therefore, the communication on CSR may make potential employers more attractive towards
prospective employees (Backhaus et al., 2002).
In order to explain how job seekers become attracted by CSP, Jones at al. (2014)
propose that three signal-based mechanisms affect EA. These mechanisms refer to job
seekers’ ‘anticipated pride from being affiliated with the organization, their perceived value
fit with the organization, and their expectations about how the organization treats its
employees’ (Jones et al., 2014, p. 383). Some young job seekers prefer however challenging
jobs instead of friendly working conditions (People Management, 2006), or are attracted by
corporate values rather than by CSR programmes (Ohlrich, 2015). Understanding CSR as a
sense-making process allows us also to involve the individual’s perspective of how he/she
construes this concept. CSR is not a simple feature, so it is not perceived in the same way by
everyone. Even when Millennials tend to pay attention to corporate ethical issues, the CSR-
based image may not be credible or convincing for them: if it is perceived as dishonest or
merely instrumental, it may even trigger a contrary effect and discourage them from applying
for a job.
We argue, therefore, that CSR signals may positively or negatively influence CSR-
based EA. The question is then what are job seekers’ attitudes towards CSR itself.
Accordingly, we propose the following main hypothesis:
H1. The more favourable the attitude towards CSR from Millennial job seekers, the
higher their perceived CSR-based EA.
We will then analyze this hypothesis having in mind three dimensions of individual
attitudes towards CSR (i.e., cognitive, affective and behavioural), thus further developing
three sub-hypotheses.
According to the cognitive dimension, we differentiate between the instrumental and
normative ways of perceiving companies’ obligations towards society (Donaldson and
12
Preston, 1995; Wiener, 1982). While the instrumental conception of CSR limits the firm’s
societal responsibilities to a narrow scope and accepts CSR rather as a tool for profit
maximization, the normative understanding implies that companies should internalize CSR
values in terms of moral obligations and compliance with social values and norms. Recently,
it has been found that job seekers with strong socio-environmental awareness do not respond
in a very sensitive way to the economic and legal dimensions of CSR, which are perceived as
fundamental and mandatory for all organizations (Tsai et al., 2014). We propose, therefore,
that individuals who set high ethical and social obligations for business operations will be
more attracted by CSR than those who accept only a narrow (profit maximization) scope of
the company’s responsibilities. Hence, we propose the first sub-hypothesis as follows:
H1.1 Millennial job seekers who perceive CSR in a normative way will show a higher
CSR-based EA than those who perceive CSR in an instrumental way.
The affective dimension of individual attitudes towards CSR relates to the (positive or
negative) emotions developed by job seekers. There is a limited number of studies on how
individual emotions are related to CSR perceptions (Onkila, 2015). The relevance of emotions
in this case may be justified by the results from previous studies on customer, company and
product responses. Research has shown that CSR perceptions are positively linked to the
emotions evoked by the company (Pérez and Rodríguez del Bosque, 2014; Vlachos, 2012).
In addition to the role of positive emotions (e.g., pride, loyalty, belonging), the
relevance of negative emotions (e.g., fear, embarrassment) for understanding how CSR is
perceived should also be considered. Developing the idea that multiplicity of CSR meanings
may raise different kinds of emotions (Friedrich and Wüstenhagen, 2015; Onkila, 2015),
Rupp et al. (2013) argue: ‘individuals are likely to react positively to perceptions of an
employer engaging in socially responsible activities (e.g., community involvement, using
environment-friendly or “green” materials in production) and react negatively to a firm whose
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actions are perceived as socially irresponsible’ (Rupp et al., 2013, p. 898). Other studies
reveal that negative perceptions of companies’ motivations also worsen one’s perceptions of
the corporate image and may negatively influence individual behaviour (Becker-Olsen et al.,
2006). Accordingly, job seekers’ positive or negative emotions on how they ‘feel’ about CSR
might influence their decision-making processes concerning the way they respond (i.e., they
are more or less attracted) to CSR signals. Based on the above arguments, we propose the
second sub-hypothesis:
H1.2. Millennial job seekers who positively assess CSR will show a higher CSR-based
EA than those who negatively assess CSR.
In addition, the behavioural dimension of individual attitudes towards CSR must also
be considered for analyzing the impact of job seekers’ CSR attitudes on CSR-based EA.
Research has recently evidenced an important role of socio-environmental consciousness for
understanding job pursuit intention (Tsai et al., 2014). Aspects such as caring about social
issues (e.g., poverty) or environmental problems (e.g., environmental footprint of
manufacturing), have been found to influence individual readiness to work for employers who
show positive CSP (Tsai et al., 2014). The individuals who identify themselves with the core
values of CSR as a part of their own work role definition (Evans and Davis, 2011) seek for an
employer that will match their expectations by reflecting such values in the organizational
culture (Brickson, 2007). Drawing from the above arguments we propose the third sub-
hypothesis:
H1.3. Millennial job seekers who show a high engagement with CSR will show a
higher CSR-based EA than those who show a low engagement with CSR.
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5. METHODS
5.1. Sample
The data collection process was determined by two assumptions. First, investigating EA
implied to ask job seekers who, at the time of data collection, were actively looking for a job
(Tsai and Yang, 2010), as their answers might be highly consistent with their actual attitudes
and behaviours. Second, individual job experiences might determine the way our respondents
thought about the job search process, as well as the importance of CSR in it. Hence, we
concentrated on Millennials who, representing the Y Generation, are expected to be sensitive
towards ethical issues (Connell et al., 2012; Deloitte, 2014), and are already making their first
decisions related to their work life.
Accordingly, data were collected at job fairs held in Cracow (Poland), and at courses
for young job seekers offered at two universities. Respondents were asked to fill in the
questionnaire on their own. Participation was voluntary and anonymous. 339 valid
questionnaires were obtained.
Table 1 shows the sample characteristics. Respondents were mostly undergraduate or
graduate students. Four-fifths of respondents (79.4%) did not work at the time of data
collection, and 61.7% of them were actively looking for a job.
--- Insert Table 1 here ---
As in the study new scales and measures were proposed, before using the questionnaire
for the main research, it was tested on 60 students, and then improved according to the reliability
of the estimation scales. While analyzing data we used statistical exploration: reliability
analysis for constructed scales (Cronbach’s alpha), Pearson’s correlations, and regression.
15
5.2. Measures
The questionnaire consisted of two sections (see Appendix). The first section of the
questionnaire evaluated Millennial job seekers’ attitudes towards CSR, which were measured
through three self-constructed scales. Each of them derived from each of the three dimensions
of attitudes towards CSR. Normative CSR perception derives from the cognitive dimension of
individual attitudes towards CSR, positive CSR assessment comes from the affective
dimension, and high individual engagement with CSR stems from the behavioural dimension.
The normative CSR perception (CSRNormativ) scale is proposed as a semantic
differential in terms of the individual framework of reference on the meaning of (normative
vs. instrumental) organizational commitment towards CSR. The normative vs. instrumental
commitment dichotomy is based on two different CSR approaches based on, respectively,
normative and instrumental stakeholder theory (Donaldson and Preston, 1995). This scale
evaluates the cognitive aspect of attitudes towards CSR while examining six core
characteristics of CSR: fairness, reliable communication, horizon of profit-making,
compliance with law, integration of social and economic goals, and respect for the
environment (Aiman-Smith et al., 2001; Behrend et al., 2009; Crane et al., 2013; Smith and
Langford, 2011; Tsai and Yang, 2010). Each characteristic was measured through a 5-point
bipolar scale (1 - instrumental perception; 5 - normative perception).
Second, the positive CSR assessment (CSRPositiv) scale refers to the affective
component of CSR attitudes, i.e., individual positive or negative feelings towards CSR. This
construct focuses on the individual assessment of the CSR concept, according to the
perception of the consequences that CSR might have for the organization and its stakeholders.
Especially critical aspects that have motivated discussions around CSR in the literature were
used for assessing affective component; for instance: CSR impact on organizational
competitiveness, profit-making and power, CSR support to fulfil the firm’s core
16
responsibilities, or the boundaries between CSR and state (public administration) activities
(Karnani, 2010; Smith, 2003).
Third, the high individual engagement with CSR (CSREnga) scale assesses the
behavioural component of CSR attitudes. It shows the tendency of individual behaviour
towards CSR, including personal interest for CSR issues, wish of deepening knowledge about
CSR, as well as individual consumer behaviour and citizenship behaviour (e.g., volunteering)
(Cone Communications, 2006; Evans and Davis, 2011; McGlone et al., 2011).
For measuring both of the above affective and behavioural components of attitudes
towards CSR, a 5-point Likert-type scale was used (1 - strongly disagree, 5 - strongly agree).
All scores used for the measures were constructed as means of the factors included.
In the second section of the questionnaire, Millennial job seekers’ perceptions of CSR-
based EA were evaluated through two scales. First, the CSR importance for employer choice
(CSRImportance) describes job pursuit intentions towards those firms that are perceived as
socially responsible. Such intentions are developed throughout the processes of job search,
browsing advertisements, attending recruitment activities, and finally accepting the job offer
(Evans and Davis, 2011; Greening and Turban, 2000; Gully et al., 2013; Judge and Cable,
1997; Ray, 2006).
Second, regarding the tendency to reject a job offer from an employer who does not
fulfil basic CSR requirements (NoCSRReject), the literature offers a broad range of studies
that use organizational descriptions to explore job seekers’ attraction towards organizations
with different CSR orientations (Greening and Turban, 2000; Ray, 2006; Schmidt Albinger
and Freeman, 2000). With this scale, we investigate therefore to what extent job seekers
would be likely to reject a job offer if the company violated CSR values. Respondents were
asked to answer the question on whether they would reject an offer while knowing that the
17
potential employer does not comply with CSR in each of the six CSR core characteristics
proposed for the cognitive component of job seekers’ attitudes towards CSR.
For both CSRImportance and NoCSRReject scales, a 5-point Likert-type scale was used
(1 - strongly disagree, 5 - strongly agree). Here also all scores used for measures were
constructed as means from the factors included.
The content validity of our measures was ensured throughout our literature review, by
choosing aspects that had been empirically proven in previous studies, or by building upon
highly accepted prior hypotheses related to our constructs (Nunnally, 1978).
6. RESULTS
Hypotheses were tested through a number of mostly self-constructed scales (see
Appendix). These were used to measure Millennial job seekers’ attitudes towards CSR, a
construct that includes the three independent variables, namely CSRNormativ, CSRPositiv and
CSREnga. Each of these scales referred, respectively, to each of the three components of
Millennial job seekers’ attitudes towards CSR: the cognitive aspect implying a normative vs.
instrumental CSR perception (CSRNormativ), the affective aspect referring to a positive vs.
negative assessment of CSR (CSRPositiv), and the behavioural aspect concerning high vs.
low individual engagement with CSR issues, (CSREnga). The dependent variable was
measured through our self-constructed CSR-based EA measurement instrument, which
consisted of the following scales: CSR importance for employer choice (sub-variable
CSRImportance) and tendency to reject a job offer from an employer who does not fulfil basic
CSR requirements (sub-variable NoCSRReject). Table 2 shows the reliability of all new
measures used in the research.
--- Insert Table 2 here ---
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The conceptual model is shown in Figure 1. The model considers CSR-based EA as
the dependent variable. This consist of two dimensions (CSRImportance and NoCSRReject).
We propose that each of these components of CSR-based EA depends on the individual’s
attitude towards CSR, which is measured by three independent variables (CSRNormativ,
CSRPositiv and CSREnga).
--- Insert Figure 1 here ---
Table 3 presents the correlations between all variables included in the hypotheses. We
can observe that almost all items are correlated and pertain to the same trait, what assures the
convergent validity of the measures (Nunnally, 1978). The only exception appears in the
relation between individual engagement and CSR perception. This result, however, justifies
the differentiation into three components of CSR attitude. For instance, we can observe that
people may differ in perceiving CSR (instrumental vs. normative) while having the same
level of individual engagement with CSR.
--- Insert Table 3 here ---
Multivariate analysis was applied to test H1.1, H1.2 and H1.3. Linear regressions were
conducted (see Table 4). Here the influence that Millennial job seekers’ attitudes towards
CSR might have on CSR-based EA was tested.
--- Insert Table 4 here ---
Regarding H1.1, Millennial job seekers with stronger normative perceptions of CSR
are more likely to reject offers from employers who do not comply with basic CSR
requirements. Yet, this cognitive component of Millennial job seekers’ attitudes towards CSR
is not significantly related to the importance of CSR for employer choice. This means that
respondents with strong normative perceptions of CSR, although would eventually reject an
offer from a CSR-noncompliant employer, do not pay more attention to CSR while job
19
searching than job seekers who show less normative (i.e., more instrumental) CSR
perceptions. Therefore, H1.1 is partially accepted.
As for H1.2, connections between positive individual assessments of CSR and both
dimensions of CSR-based EA appear to be significant. Thus, CSR is highly important for
employer choice to respondents who perceive CSR positively, and these respondents are also
more likely to reject a job offer if the employer fails in CSR compliance. Therefore, H1.2 is
fully accepted.
H1.3 provides similarly favourable evidence. Our findings reveal that Millennial job
seekers showing high engagement with CSR are highly likely to both acknowledge CSR
importance during job search, and also reject a job offer if the employer neglects CSR.
Therefore, H1.3 is fully accepted.
7. DISCUSSION
According to our results, Millennial job seekers in our sample seem to be attracted by
the CSR-based employer image. These findings support previous evidence showing that CSR
may attract potential employees (Barrena-Martínez et al., 2014; Evans and Davis, 2011;
Greening and Turban, 2000; Jones et al., 2014; Schmidt Albinger and Freeman, 2000; Tsai et
al., 2014). Our hypotheses are mostly confirmed, generally supporting the idea that positive
attitudes towards CSR enhance Millennial job seekers’ CSR-based EA.
We found that all three components of Millennial job seekers’ attitudes towards CSR
are significant for their tendency to reject employment offers if the employer does not comply
with basic CSR requirements. Recent research has provided results that are consistent with
our findings. Particularly, Rayton et al. (2015) suggest that CSP is part of a psychological
contract, whereby affective commitment is directly related to both external and internal CSP.
In the authors’ words: ‘breach of internal CSP results in a decline in affective commitment’
20
(Rayton et al., 2015, p. 369). Besides, two out of the three components (CSR assessment and
CSR engagement) of CSR-based EA are significantly related to CSR importance in the job-
seeking process.
However, CSR (normative vs. instrumental) perceptions towards CSR do not
influence the role of CSR in the job-seeking process. In other words, understanding CSR just
in terms of normative vs. instrumental CSR perceptions does not provide a satisfactory
answer to individual attitudes towards CSR. A possible explanation can be that, when CSR is
treated as a signal (Jones et al., 2009), it may awake different emotions from job seekers
depending on what their expectations are and what they receive from the employer’s
communication. Linking these findings back to the sense-making literature, we see that
individual understandings of CSR may differ according to different types of organizational
identity orientations and preferred types of psychological contract (Basu and Palazzo, 2008;
Brickson, 2007).
Regardless of the way individuals perceive CSP (i.e., normative vs. instrumental
terms), CSP principles may form a part of their own work role definition (Evans and Davis,
2011). On the one hand, those Millennials who perceive CSR in normative terms may get
attracted to the potential employer because of the anticipated pride of being part of an
organization that is providing additional value to the society (Jones et.al., 2014). On the other
hand, other Millennials may perceive EB-related CSR communication in instrumental terms.
This situation can, in turn, lead to two different responses from job seekers. First, some of
them may interpret CSR signals as indicating good treatment of employees (e.g., development
opportunities), and therefore they will gladly accept CSR-based EB as something positive. In
this case, job seekers’ attitudes would impact favourably on CSR-based EA. Second, a
different response would come from those CSR instrumentally-minded job seekers who
expect from an employer a profit-making focus rather than social engagement and values. In
21
this case, CSR-based EB may awake negative emotions in job seekers, so they may get
discouraged from applying for a job.
8. CONCLUSION AND IMPLICATIONS
Our study contributes to better understanding the influence of Millennial job seekers’
attitudes towards CSR on CSR-based EA. A novel contribution of our study revolves around
the idea that, in addition to the most commonly used approach showing that signals of
prospective employers’ CSP impact job seekers’ intentions, it is also necessary to consider
that the CSR concept itself may provide an essential signal. According to the traditional (CSP
signals) approach, applicants have to recall specific information on CSR policies and
programmes communicated by the employer and evaluate them (Cable and Turban, 2003).
The point is, however, that job seekers might not know the specific details of such CSR
policies and programmes, or might not have enough knowledge to consistently judge actual
CSR practice. Therefore, we show that individual attitudes towards CSR play a key role in
understanding the way applicants perceive CSR signals and eventually influence CSR-based
EA. Results from this study show that the more favourable the CSR attitude by job-seeking
Millennials, the higher their perceived CSR-based EA. In this sense, also the role of emotions
towards CSR requires more attention. Therefore, feelings of negative affectivity (e.g., fear or
embarrassment) may not only encourage individuals to change their behaviour – as it would
be the case of managers who are willing to improve bad CSP (Onkila, 2015). Negative
reactions towards CSR itself may also discourage individuals, as we have discussed above in
the case of Millennial job seekers. Here the distinction between normative and instrumental
CSR perceptions set a novel and helpful context for tackling the question on the impact of
CSR awareness on potential employee attraction (Barrena-Martínez et al., 2014, Evans and
Davis, 2011).
22
Managerial implications can be derived from our study. Following the above
arguments, we would advise companies to develop a consistent communication strategy on
EB, aimed at attracting the right employees who care about the type of (more or less CSR-
influenced) job-related values. As Millennials tend to follow affective argumentation (Cone
Communications, 2015) and want to be involved in CSR (McGlone et al., 2011), engaging via
e.g., social media, CSR events or games may work for attracting Millennials. Employers
should provide clear information showing how their CSR policies interact with EB
communication strategies, and also improve the consistency between CSR and human
resource management communications and practice. They should not only focus on
statements, but rather on concrete information and explanations (e.g., in form of videos or
infographics) on how does the CSR policy contribute to the firm’s strategy (Becker-Olsen et
al., 2006). For example, MNCs are good at communicating CSR issues, but the gap between
external communication and internal implementation (Baumann-Pauly et al., 2013) might
discourage job seekers, especially in the case of Millennials.
Some limitations of our study must be acknowledged, which in turn point at further
research opportunities. First, our investigation concentrated on the psychological aspects of
Millennials’ attitudes towards CSR, and specifically on how CSR-based EB may (or may not)
attract them as potential job applicants. Nevertheless, we did not deepen into the contents of
EB policies. In this sense, it would be very valuable to explore how individual attitudes
towards CSR impact job seekers’ responses to different CSR practices (Barrena-Martínez et
al., 2014) or company motivations for CSR (Windolph et al., 2014). This could provide to
more specific recommendations related to the contents and practices of CSR-based EB – so
these EB policies consistently develop CSR-based EA. Second, we only surveyed
Millennials, who are assumed to be highly sensitive towards CSR issues. Therefore, further
23
research could deepen into the differences in CSR attitudes among respondents of different
ages, in order to better understand the nature of the three components of CSR.
24
APPENDIX. QUESTIONNAIRE ITEMS.
Millennial job seekers’ attitudes towards CSR
CSRNormativ
Instrumental CSR Perception
Normative CSR Perception
N1
Companies do not always have to
conform to the accepted moral
principles, because honesty in
business does not always pay
off.
Companies should always operate in a
fair and moral way.
N2
Companies have the right not to
disclose information that could
harm their image.
Companies should always communicate
in a true and transparent way
about their operations.
N3
Companies’ environment is changing so
fast that they should focus on
short term profits.
Companies should always seek long
term profits.
N4
In some cases you can accept illegal
businesses operations.
Companies should always comply with
the law.
N5
Companies should focus on the main
economic objective, which is to
generate profits.
Companies should always seek
synergies between economic and
society goals.
N6
Companies pay taxes, so they are not
obliged to pay extra charges for
the environment.
Companies should always seek to
minimalize their negative
environmental influence.
25
CSRPositiv
P1
Socially responsible companies operate both in their own interest and in the
interest of the whole society.
P2
CSR brings profits for organizations.
P3
I am sceptical towards organizations that define themselves as socially
responsible.*
P4
If there were more socially responsible firms people would live better.
P5
Companies should not engage in solving social problems, as it is a state matter.*
P6
Including social and environmental issues in corporate policies enhances company
competitiveness.
* Reversed scale.
CSREnga
E1
I am interested in business ethics issues.
E2
Talking to my friends about work I often go into ethical issues (e.g., regarding co-
workers’ or managers’ unethical behaviour).
E3
When a company fails in ethical issues, I stop to buy its products or resign from its
services.
E4
I am an active volunteer.
E5
While shopping, I pay attention to the way the product was manufactured and
transported.
26
E6
I would like to know more about CSR.
CSR-Based Employer Attractiveness
CSRImportance
I1
It is important for me to find a job in a company that I consider as socially
responsible.
I2
While reviewing job offers, I pay attention to whether the company is socially
responsible.
I3
When I want to get some more information about a concrete employer, it happens
that I read social reports or analyze CSR rankings.
I4
Generally, socially responsible companies, compared to other employers, offer
more attractive working conditions.
I5
Socially responsible companies, in comparison with other firms, are more reliable
employers.
I6
When firm B is socially responsible are you more inclined to:
a) follow the job offers from B than from other employers.
b) take part in the recruitment process of B than of other firms.
c) accept the job offer from B than from other firms.
I7
When firm B is socially responsible, but offers 5% lower salary then other firms,
you more inclined to:
a) follow the job offers from B than from other employers.
27
b) take part in the recruitment process of B than of other firms.
c) accept the job offer from B than from other firms.
NoCSRReject
I would rather reject a job offering while knowing that the company:
R1
Provides unfair business.
R2
Provides unreliable communication.
R3
Is focused on short-term rather than long-term profits.
R4
Does not comply with the law.
R5
Seeks only to realize economic objectives at the expense of social good.
R6
Operates without respect for the environment.
28
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Figure 1. Job seekers’ attitudes towards CSR and CSR-based EA
36
Table 1. Sample characteristics
Male
150
44.3%
Female
189
55.7%
Under 18
1
0.3%
18-25
311
91.7%
Over 25
27
8.0%
High school
26
7.7%
Post-secondary school
15
4.4%
Undergraduate Studies
150
44.2%
Bachelor/ Engineering Degree
54
15.9%
Graduate Studies
62
18.3%
Master Degree
32
9.4%
N: 339.
37
Table 2. Cronbach’s alpha for self-constructed measures
Measure
Cronbach’s alpha
CSRNormativ
0.773
CSRPositiv
0.602
CSREnga
0.621
CSR-based EA:
0.886
CSRImportance
0.861
NoCSRReject
0.863
38
*p< 0.05 , ** p < 0.01, N = 339, χ2 Pearson’s Corellation, p-value bilateral significance; I indicator receives
values from 1 (instrumental commitment) to 5 (normative commitment), II indicator receives values from 1
(negative attitudes towards object) to 5 (positive attitudes towards object).
Table 3. Pearson’s χ2 correlation matrix
CSR
Normativ
CSR
Positiv
CSREnga
CSR
Importance
NoCSR
Reject
Normative individual perception of
CSRI (CSRNormativ)
χ2
1
N
339
Positive individual assessment of
CSRII (CSRPositiv)
χ2
.369**
1
N
336
336
High individual engagement with
CSRII (CSREnga)
χ2
.092
.257**
1
N
337
336
337
(High) CSR importance for employer
choice II (CSRImportance)
χ2
.204**
.344**
.496**
1
N
336
336
337
338
(High) tendency to reject a job offer
from an employer who does not
comply with basic CSR
requirementsII (NoCSRReject)
χ2
.218**
.256**
.331**
.437**
1
N
336
335
336
336
336
39
Table 4. Multiple regression for Millennial job seekers’ attitudes towards CSR and
CSR-based EA
Constant
CSRNormativI
CSRPositivII
CSREngaII
CSRImportance II: (High) CSR importance for employer choice (n= 339, R2=0.299,
*p<0.05, ** p<0.01)
B
1.098
.065
.233
.407
SBE1
.263
.041
.059
.045
b2
.079
.203**
.434**
NoCSRReject II: Tendency to reject job offer from an employer who does not comply
with basic CSR requirements (n= 339, R2=0.157, *p<0.05, ** p<0.01)
B
1.430
.154
.201
.351
SBE1
.384
.059
.085
.065
b2
.141*
.132*
.282**
1 B Standard Error; 2 Standard B; I indicator receives values from 1 (instrumental commitment) to 5 (normative
commitment), II indicator receives values from 1 (negative attitudes towards CSR) to 5 (positive attitudes
towards CSR).
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