Doing Good while Playing: The Effect of Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) Gamification on Chinese Employee Response

Project: Research project

Project Details


In recent decades, corporate social responsibility (CSR) has become a part of business strategy because it drives corporate performance desired by stakeholders. CSR researchers and practitioners have expanded their focus from CSR effects on external publics (e.g., consumers) to its effects on internal publics, particularly employees. They have argued that motivation-driven employee participation in CSR, which inspires a connection between people and community, can result in job enrichment, employee-organization identification, employee-organization relationships (satisfaction, trust, and emotional commitment), and employee retention. However, previous research focused more on the effect of employee CSR participation than on the mobilization of the motivation-driven participation, especially when the cause is appropriate, but the initiative is effort-taking and routine. For example, employee volunteering (EV) in which employees actively give their time and/or skills to serve the community is a type of CSR in this category. EV has become one of the fundamental CSR activities worldwide and motivation-driven EV is a challenge for management to continuously work on. Compared with their counterparts in North America, managers in Hong Kong face employees who struggle with a work-life balance and those in mainland China deal with employees who are relatively new to the concept.

Because of the rapid development of information communication technologies (ICTs), companies have increasingly introduced gamification to drive motivation-driven employee CSR participations (Burke, 2014; Zichermann & Linder, 2013). Gamified CSR refers to the use of game design techniques and elements in the CSR context (Deterding, Dixon, Rilla, & Lennart, 2011). As explained by self-determination theory, goal-setting theory, cognitive evaluation theory, and behavioral economics, gamified CSR initiatives can sustain employee engagement in CSR when the gameful design and elements provide motivational affordances (intrinsic, extrinsic, and content) to the employee (Nicholson, 2015; Tondello et al., 2016).

Utilizing an online experiment, the proposed research examines how Chinese employees react to gamified CSR initiatives (i.e., gamified EV; GEV). It hypothesizes that GEV, which taps into the employee’s intrinsic, extrinsic and content motivations, will have a positive effect on employee cognition of a GEV initiative (i.e., CSR initiative knowledge, perceived CSR motive of the company, and perceived CSR-fit) and attitude toward the initiative by its affordances that aim at satisfying the employee’s intrinsic and extrinsic needs and providing feedbacks through a unique CSR experience. Employee cognition of and attitude toward GEV further drive employee intention to participate in GEV, promote GEV and the company to others, and stay with the company.

For academia, this is the first study to extend the gamification literature on CSR by explicating the mechanisms and impacts of GEV on Chinese employees in Hong Kong and mainland China. For industry, the study will inform managerial decisions on CSR gamification and suggest the effective gameful design for GEV.
Effective start/end date1/01/1931/12/21


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