Doctoral thesis

Corporate social responsibility and employer attractiveness : three essays on its role in international recruitment for multinational enterprises


  • Fribourg (Switzerland), 2023

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Thèse: Université de Fribourg (Suisse), 2023

English Recruitment is a key strategic domain in today’s global war for talent, prompting both
academics and practitioners to undertake an endless quest for knowledge about the factors that influence applicant attraction to organizations and their employment-related intentions and behaviors. It is well known that job and organizational characteristics, like pay, work climate, and career opportunities, influence recruitment outcomes. Nevertheless, these characteristics have become less useful as ways for firms to distinguish themselves due to the interchangeability of jobs and company profiles within the same industry. In the light of this view, corporate social responsibility (CSR) has emerged as a reputational asset that helps firms distinguish themselves from their rivals and gain an advantage in the talent war. The link between CSR and recruitment is currently particularly relevant due to numerous corporate scandals and heightened public awareness of socio-environmental issues and business ethics. While CSR is at the forefront of the global corporate agenda in today’s socially-conscious market environment, the extant literature lacks an international perspective. Most research has been conducted in the domestic context and in developed countries, creating a gap regarding how multinational enterprises (MNEs) from different countries of origin can leverage CSR and develop optimal international recruiting strategies, not only in developed but also in emerging countries. This thesis therefore contributes to addressing this gap through three studies. Study 1 employs a web-based experiment using realistic interactive recruitment webpages and involving 490 potential applicants from Germany, Switzerland and Austria. This approach advances previous studies in which researchers used printouts of websites and provided information on firms’ CSR activities directly. However, only real, interactive websites allow respondents’ behaviors to be tracked and applicants’ willingness to search for information about a firm’s CSR, which is a determinant of their awareness of the firm’s CSR activities, to be explored. The study reveals that emerging market MNEs (EMNEs) suffer from a double disadvantage: it is difficult for companies which are not only based in a foreign country but in an emerging market to hire local talent in developed host countries. As a result, fewer applicants pursue jobs in EMNEs than developed market MNEs (DMNEs). Nevertheless, good CSR helps mitigate this negative effect. We also find, however, evidence that applicants have a low level of willingness to search for information on CSR, which presents a serious challenge to firms’attempts to maximize the benefits of CSR engagement. Study 1 shows that CSR is relevant to applicants in developed countries, but that is not surprising. There are two more important and practically relevant questions: what the relative importance of CSR to applicants is compared to other instrumental factors (e.g., salary, career opportunities, work climate, etc.), and whether applicants from emerging markets care about CSR. Therefore, Study 2 applies a cross-national choice-based conjoint analysis technique which uses a decompositional approach to calibrate the relative importance of an MNE’s country of origin (developed vs. emerging) and three CSR dimensions (economic, social and environmental responsibilities – the three defining pillars of the triple bottom line concept) as compared to more traditional instrumental attributes in job choice decisions of young applicants in an emerging country (Vietnam) and a developed country (the US). The results confirm the importance of an MNE’s country of origin and CSR to a sample of 1,023 Vietnamese and US undergraduate students. Specifically, EMNEs are confronted with a significant human resources challenge when attracting talent, not only in developed markets but also in emerging countries. Unlike Study 1, which focuses on CSR’s overall effects, Study 2 goes further and examines the three different dimensions of CSR. Each of the three CSR dimensions has specific importance. Furthermore, the national context moderates the importance of CSR: applicants from emerging markets attach more value to the economic dimension of CSR, but less value to the social and environmental dimensions of CSR. Despite these differences, the overall influential structure of job choice remains largely similar across countries, opening up opportunities for global employer branding strategies. Although it is apparent from Studies 1 and 2 that CSR exerts a positive effect on recruitment outcomes, there is still considerable ambiguity about the mechanism through which different CSR dimensions influence applicants. Study 3 examines the underlying mechanisms through which different CSR dimensions influence applicants’ job-pursuit intentions, and more pertinently, proposes the optimal CSR configurations for attracting job applicants according to the origins of MNEs. Two experiments were conducted using realistic social media job posts and a sample of graduates from India and Vietnam. Experiment 1 (n = 350) draws causal inferences and tests the underlying mechanisms for each CSR dimension via two fundamental dimensions of social perception—warmth and competence—by using regression-based conditional process analysis. Embracing the inherently complex and multilevel nature of international recruitment, Experiment 2 (n = 621) adds information on MNEs’ countries of origin and examines the inter-relationships between multiple CSR signals and perceptions of
firms’ countries of origin using the fuzzy-set qualitative comparative analysis (fsQCA)
technique. fsQCA complements regression-based conditional process analysis by providing more nuanced coverage of all the possible combinations of all the three CSR dimensions and country-of-origin perception in a more configural manner than the conventional “net effect” symmetrical explanation, thereby uncovering multiple configurations of causal pathways that can lead to high job-pursuit intention. The results show that applicants combine meso-level (the firm’s CSR) and macro-level (the firm’s country of origin) factors in a configurational manner, such that no factors at any single level of analysis are sufficient, in isolation, to shape microlevel applicants’ outcomes in international recruitment. Finally, the conclusion of this thesis highlights the limitations of the studies and opportunities for future research by drawing on insights from the three studies and building a synthesis from their results.
Faculté des sciences économiques et sociales et du management
  • English
  • Bibliographie
Open access status
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