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What can Google teach us about being good corporate citizens?

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What can Google teach us about being good corporate citizens?

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Over the past few years a number of things have given rise to organisations, and by proxy their employees, seeking purpose in what they do.  The Corporate Social Responsibility movement prompted organisations to be better corporate citizens, with an increase in emphasis on how they did things rather than purely on what they did.

This led inexorably to a rise in employees seeking work with a real purpose.  This was a natural part of the exchange undertaken when companies began utilising mobile and social technologies to blur the boundaries between work and leisure time.  In return, employees sought out work that fully represented their personalities and principles.

Employers were of course quite happy to support this shift because they rightly assumed that happy and engaged employees would be effective ones.  This would come as no surprise to the Organisational Citizenship Behaviour (OCB) movement, which linked job satisfaction to performance metrics back in the 70′s and 80′s.

A new study has attempted to bring OCB into the 21st century to see if it still has any relevance to modern work.  Whilst most employee engagement research looked at its impact upon obligatory activies, the OCB philosophy looked instead at the impact on additional tasks.  The kind of things we do outside of our day job.  The kind of thing that sits at the heart of social business.

OCB generally speaking consists of five main components:

  • altruism
  • conscientiousness
  • sportsmanship
  • courtesy
  • civic virtue

Here’s the thing though.  With things like collaboration increasingly sought after in the workplace, what might once have been discretionary is increasingly a core behaviour.  To delve deeper into this, they conducted a range of focus groups involving employees at Google.

The employees were asked to rate the five behaviours mentioned above in terms of how useful they were perceived to be by colleagues, and whether they were voluntary or not.  The study found that the behaviours were increasingly viewed as core, and therefore expected.

The groups were then asked to brainstorm behaviours that they did see as discretionary yet valuable to their company, with the resulting suggestions then filtered down into four new OCB behaviours to go with the original list:

  • Help (which maps to altruism from the original list)
  • Employee Sustainability (ie health and wellbeing of yourself and colleaues)
  • Administrative Behaviour (doing the boring tasks that need doing)
  • Knowledge Sharing
  • Social Participation

The researchers are at pains to point out that they’re not intending a substantial re-write of OCB, nor that the current behaviours are no longer relevant, but they do state the importance of understanding the context in which it is employed.

The team have developed the new components into a new measure of OCB, one that may be more valuable in examining discretionary acts in a knowledge-work environment. If OCB is something that matters to the cultural aspects of your business, then this should be something to keep an eye out for.

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