How to boost organizational citizenship behavior for a committed and productive workforce

By Annie Ko | Friday, 23 Nov 2018

Employees’ behavior is contagious. It happens at any times either formally or informally, explicitly or implicitly at any workplace, thereby creating a positive or negative impact on peers, work teams or the organization as a whole.

Bad behavior at work is very costly to the management. Common examples include taking a sick day without being sick, gossiping in work hours or lying to a superior, just to name a few. In any organization, it is easy to identify these employees behaviors that cause team dysfunction or low productivity. Yet it may not be too difficult to find employees that possess contrasting behaviors. There are employees who are good corporate citizens that communicate timely within the work group. They display extra-role behavior when help is needed by their co-workers. They work diligently to seek better ways of doing things. They possess good sportsmanship to minimize work-related problems. They are loyal and willing to spend their personal time and make extra efforts to protect and promote the organizational image to outsiders. These behaviors are collectively termed as organizational citizenship behaviors (OCBs) by Dennis Organ to describe employees who go above and beyond the call of duty on a voluntary basis. Therefore, OCBs are extremely valuable for improving work efficiency and overall organizational effectiveness. More importantly, a workforce with a high OCB level will be a distinctive capability for a firm to respond quickly to changes and achieve high performance, and in turn, enhance strategic goals and sustainable competitive advantage. Sadly speaking, some of these behaviors are so trivial that most of the time management just takes it for granted or in some cases, firms just do not have the knowledge to recognize these behaviors of employees. Despite the importance of OCBs and if human behavior can be managed in the workplace, how can we possibly engender this positive and contagious behavior from existing employees so that they can influence others?

Although OCBs have developed for more than three decades, it is still a management concept that is widely studied in organizational behavior and the modern workplace. According to recent research conducted by me on 732 employees working at 18 upscale hotels in Hong Kong, employees’ OCB level will be higher if their perception of their firm’s corporate social responsibility (CSR) identity is higher. This is because employees tend to identify themselves with social groups or organizations that they feel proud of. These employees want to stay and exert OCBs in order to maintain equity in a mutually beneficial relationship. Therefore, if a firm wants to reduce unnecessary turnover and resignations of good staff or increase OCBs level, there are a few tips to consider.

First, HR should co-create or review their CSR identity, mission statement and its associated programs. Collect ideas and suggestions from employees in terms of the meaning and focus of CSR. In this way, employees will be more engaged in their company’s CSR direction and feel valued by the organization. All in all, management needs wholehearted employees to carry out the CSR activities together.

Second, increase the intensity of CSR communication with employees and keep them in the loop. Most often, firms put too much effort into external communication about their CSR programs and overlook the impact on shaping employees’ perception from an internal stakeholders’ point of view.

Third, HR should embrace the concept of OCBs and extend it with a meaningful sense in the organizational culture to improve team dynamics. There are many more examples of OCBs that will provide you with valuable insights.

Fourth, it is imperative to value employees with high OCBs so that they will not be demotivated but rather continue to exhibit positive thoughts and behaviors persistently and influence others for the better. Linking such behaviors to reward and appreciative management should be the way forward.

Finally, some job applicants perform higher OCBs than others. Like personality tests, HR can integrate an OCB survey in the recruitment and selection process to identify and hire those with potentials from the talent pool.

Discovering opportunities needs enlightenment. So start using a new lens and take immediate action to take good care of employees who exhibit high OCBs, as they will be the lever for change of a loyal, committed and productive workforce to meet future challenges.

Annie Ko

Teaching Fellow, Department of Management and Marketing, Faculty of Business, The Hong Kong Polytechnic University

Corporate Social Responsibility employee performance Organizational citizenship behavior

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