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Retain Top Employees Through CSR Programs

Managers should co-create CSR strategies with employees and encourage identification with the company.

This study investigates how, when and why employees react to CSR initiatives. Few companies seem to understand how to leverage CSR to create employee engagement. Businesses should market their CSR programs internally to help acquire and retain top employees. To ensure success, managers should co-create CSR strategies with employees, inform employees about CSR initiatives, satisfy their needs, and encourage identification with the company.


  • CSR initiatives humanize companies, reveal good values, and convey contribution to society.

  • Many companies, including Cisco Systems, GE and IBM view employee engagement in CSR as a crucial strategy for attracting and retaining good talent.


  • Companies do not communicate the details and extent of CSR initiatives clearly and consistently; only 37 percent of employees surveyed were even aware of their company’s CSR programs.

  • Success in marketing CSR relies on satisfying employee needs, such as: linking work and personal life through CSR, feeling connected to the company, and taking opportunities for self-enhancement.

  • Fulfilling employee needs benefits the company by increasing loyalty, productivity and commitment.

  • While 71 percent of companies surveyed indicated CSR practices are developed and managed at the CEO level, employees want greater roles in creating CSR value.

Implications for Managers

1) Increase employee proximity to CSR.Inform employees consistently, concretely, and coherently about CSR initiatives, including program specifics, rationales and successes. 2) Model how CSR can benefit companies through employees. Examine CSR activities, how they fit within the company, and how they can fulfill employee needs. Metrics should be used to measure how CSR activities impact employees’ company commitment, absenteeism, productivity and identification. 3) Understand and fulfill employee needs. Target specific CSR programs to meet the needs of employees segments with the greatest value. 4) Strengthen employee identification. Measure how employees identify with the company by informally monitoring how often they use the term “we” to describe the organization. 5) Involve employees in co-creating CSR value. Include employees as participants in the planning, design and implementation of CSR initiatives.

Implications for Managers

Future research can examine how to best identify segments of employee needs.


A two part study examined employee reactions to CSR. The first phase used in-depth interviews and employee focus groups with participants from major consumer-goods companies. This was followed by a global employee survey with over 10,000 respondents. The second phase used interviews followed by two online surveys with 481 respondents from companies in manufacturing, retail, and service.

Bhattacharya, C.B., Sen, S. & Korschun D. 2008. Using Corporate Social Responsibility to Win the War for Talent. MIT Sloan Management Review, 49, 2: 37-44.

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