Behind Closed Doors: Understanding How Canadian Companies Utilize Internal Communication to Engage Employees in Corporate Social Responsibility
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Doyle, Kathryn Alexis
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Engaging employees in CSR programs contributes to the overall success and progress of these sustainability initiatives, while simultaneously increasing employee job satisfaction by adding meaning and purpose within the workplace. However, ineffective CSR communication may hinder employee engagement. Considering the reciprocal benefit and challenge of communicating CSR to employees, this study aims to understand how internal communication can support organizational efforts to encourage employee participation in CSR by answering three research questions: (1) how is internal communication used to communicate sustainability initiatives within a workplace?; (2) how does communicating sustainability initiatives contribute to employee engagement?; and (3) what are the best approaches to communicating sustainability initiatives to employees? Using a qualitative exploratory research methodology, thematic analysis of nine interviews with sustainability and communication managers from Canadian companies revealed several overarching themes: adopting a wide array of communication methods and engaging in two-way communication can reach a wider audience and accommodate individual needs; message co-creation that allows employees the opportunity to voice their own ideas and have message ownership may contribute to increased engagement and reputational risk mitigation and collaboration between sustainability managers and communication teams or cross-functional teams supports information dissemination across an organization. Findings also revealed that fragmenting the meaning of sustainability may contribute to the issue of tangibility and the continued challenge of effectively evaluating employee engagement beyond quantitative data.