The European Union (EU)’s non-financial reporting directive (NFRD) law requires that large undertakings including corporations, listed businesses and government entities, among others, to disclose information on the way they operate and manage social and environmental challenges. This helps investors, civil society organisations, consumers, policy makers and other stakeholders to be in a better position to evaluate their non-financial performance (Camilleri, 2015; Camilleri, 2018; EU, 2014).
Recently, the EU (2021) put forward its proposal for a Corporate Sustainability Reporting Directive (CSRD), which would amend the existing reporting requirements of the NFRD. In sum, the proposal extends the audit requirement to large companies and listed businesses in regulated markets (except listed micro-enterprises). They will be expected to introduce more detailed reporting requirements, according to mandatory EU sustainability reporting standards. At the time of writing this contribution, it is envisaged that the first set of standards would be adopted by October 2022 (EU, 2021).
Whilst mass tourism service providers, such as foreign owned properties including international hotel chains are associated with economic leakages (Garrigós et al., 2015), locally-owned, smaller businesses, are usually aligned to economic linkages.
Destinations can use community-based tourism (CBT) approaches to increase linkages by attracting high yield, affluent tourists to locally-owned companies (Butler, 2020; Prasiasa, et al., 2020). From a community-based perspective, the limitation of tourism figures can improve the destinations’ sustainability, whilst limiting the impacts on the natural environment (Saarinen, 2006:1129). Tourism businesses can contribute to reduce their impact on the environment by limiting the number of tourists. They can improve the quality of their services to appeal to high-end segments.
To be successful, the proponents of CBT ought to ensure that they retain specific principles and characteristics. Thus, CBT practitioners could differentiate themselves from other business models by offering authentic, local experiences to their guests. CBT can establish itself as a niche tourism product that appeals to lucrative market segments. Therefore, service providers are expected to deliver on their promises. They have to meet and exceed their customers’ expectations without lowering their standards of service.
CBT operators rely on their community’s local resources including environment/natural resources, heritage, culture as well as on knowledgeable human resources. Their employees should possess customer service skills, and ought to be trained about their local tourism products. Local businesses may usually engage native employees to improve their consumers’ experiences with their CBT product.
However, there may be instances where CBT operators may not find local employees in the labor market. In this case, they have to train their imported employees about local cultures and traditions in order to continue delivering authentic CBT experiences. The following figure presents a model for sustainable CBT that relies on the destinations’ effective management of their carrying capacities.
An ongoing evaluation of the destinations’ infrastructures as well as on their human and natural resources, particularly during their high season, is required to ensure that they do not exceed their specific carrying capacities. While each specific context will have its own specific performance indicators, this contribution suggests that destination marketers ought to consider the following issues:
• The participation of local businesses and individual in CBT. • Local procurement of products (for accommodation establishments, hotels, restaurants, and to other tourism businesses).
It is in the interest of CBT operators to think locally and act globally (Hofstede, 1998). They should consider sourcing their requirements from their local communities, where possible. Hence, tourism planners could utilize local resources to reduce leakages from their economy.
Governments can encourage tourism businesses to support local enterprises, for example, by purchasing local products, and by supporting the local communities. They may also incentivize businesses through financial instruments to pursue laudable activities. They can also provide support to tourism businesses, including small hotels and B&Bs to upgrade their services to attract lucrative tourists in their communities. At the same time, they have to maintain their destinations’ infrastructure and should offer suitable amenities to visitors.
These strategies are meant to foster an environment that promotes sustainable CBT approaches that are intended to increase economic linkages, whilst improving societal and the environmental outcomes in local communities. The following figure clarifies how tourism businesses can optimize the utilization of local resources through sustainable CBT strategies in order to improve their destination’s carrying capacity whilst reducing leakages from their economy.
The effectiveness of this proposed model for sustainable community-based tourism relies on a regular evaluation of the marketing environment. Tourism practitioners are expected to examine and re-examine their CBT strategies to ensure that they are still creating value to their business, to the local community and to the environment at large.
Sustainable CBT approaches can support the local economic development of destinations, however leakages can jeopardize the destinations’ competitiveness and growth prospects. While the degree and types of leakages may vary, according to specific characteristics of certain countries, it can be argued that the proper utilization of local resources can improve the national economies and the quality of life of different communities, including those from emerging economies.
The type of tourism planning and development that is adopted by certain destinations is another factor that can have an effect on their economic leakages or linkages. Based on the above, this contribution puts forward a theoretical model that is intended to address the limitations of the carrying capacities of various destinations. In sum, it suggests that sustainable CBT approaches that rely on the optimal utilization of local resources (including human and natural) may result in economic growth as well as in positive outcomes to local communities and their natural environments. This model is aimed at rebalancing leakages with linkages in the economy, whilst responding to challenges relating to the supply chains of different tourism businesses.
Indeed, there is scope for destinations to maximize the use of resources at their disposal (both human and natural). In a similar vein, companies should avail themselves of local resources, competences and capabilities. It is also in their interest to engage in strategic CSR and sustainable tourism practices to support local stakeholders and to safeguard their natural environment.
A sustainable CBT model would require tourism businesses to forge relationships with different stakeholders including with the government and its policymakers, suppliers, creditors, employees and customers, among others. The advancement of CBT would also necessitate that destination marketers and hospitality businesses work together, in tandem to improve their tourism product. Local stakeholders are expected to safeguard their natural environment, culture and traditions for the benefit of their communities, and for their valued tourists and visitors who would probably appreciate authentic destinations that offer unique experiences to them.
The corporate social responsibility (CSR) notion became popularized during the latter part of 20th the century (Carroll, 2021; 1999; Moon, 2007). At the time, businesses were becoming more concerned on how their activities affected legitimate stakeholders and the development of society at large (Phillips, 2003; Freeman & Reed, 1983). Hence, various authors posited that CSR is a fertile ground for theory development and empirical analysis (McWilliams, Siegel & Wright, 2006).
Without doubt, the clarification of the meaning of CSR is a significant strand in the research agenda (Owen, 2005). CSR has developed as a rather vague concept of moral good or normative behaviors (Frederick, 1986). This construct was described as a relativistic measure of ‘the economic, legal, ethical and discretionary expectations that society had of organizations at a given point of time’ (Carroll, 1979). CSR tackled ‘social problem(s)’ to engender positive ‘economic benefit(s)’ to ensure ‘well paid jobs, and … wealth’ (Drucker, 1984).
CSR has continuously been challenged by those who expected businesses to engage in socially responsible behaviors with stakeholders, to adhere to ethical norms in society, and to protect the natural environment (Camilleri, 2015; Lindgreen & Swaen, 2010; Burke & Logsdon, 1996). Previous research reported that CSR practices can result in improved relationships with different stakeholders (Camilleri, 2017a; Moon, 2007; Sen, Bhattacharya & Korschun, 2006).
Various commentators contended that it is in the businesses’ interest to engage in responsible behaviors to forge closer ties with internal and external stakeholders (Ewan & Freeman, 1993; Freeman, 1984). In addition, many researchers reported that there is a causal relationship between the firms’ stakeholder engagement and their financial performance (Henisz, Dorobantu & Nartey, 2014 Pava & Krausz, 1996). This relationship also holds in the tourism and hospitality industry context (Rhou, Singal & Koh, 2016; Camilleri, 2012; Inoue, & Lee, 2011).
Various hotels and restaurants are increasingly communicating about their responsible activities that are having an effect on their stakeholders, including their employees, patrons, guests, suppliers, local communities, the environment, regulatory authorities and the community at large (Camilleri, 2020a). Like other businesses, tourism and hospitality enterprises are always expected to provide decent employment to locals and migrant workers, health and safety in their workplace environments, adequate compensation and recognition of all employees, ongoing training and development opportunities, work-life balance, and the like.
Various studies suggest that, in normal circumstances, when businesses engage in responsible human resources management (HRM), they will boost their employees’ morale, enhance their job satisfaction and reduce the staff turnover (Asimah, 2018). However, an unprecedented COVID-19 and its preventative measures have surely led to a significant reduction in their business activities.
The pandemic has had a devastating effect on the companies’ social metrics, including on their employees’ conditions of employment, financial remuneration and job security, among other issues (Kramer & Kramer, 2020). It has inevitably led to mass redundancies or resulted in the workers’ reduced wages and salaries. On the other hand, this situation has led to a decrease in the companies’ environmental impacts, such as their greenhouse gas emissions and other unwanted externalities.
Several businesses, including hospitality enterprises are becoming more concerned about their impact on the environment (Kim, Lee & Fairhurst, 2017; Elkington, 1998). In many cases, hotels and restaurants strive to reduce their environmental footprint by offering local, fresh, and sustainable food to their patrons. Very often, they are implementing sustainable models including circular economy systems to use and reuse resources, and to minimize their waste, where possible (Camilleri, 2020b). Alternatively, they are decreasing their electricity and water consumption in their properties, by investing in green technologies and renewable energy sources.
These sustainability initiatives could result in operational efficiencies and cost savings, higher quality, innovation and competitiveness, in the long term. As a matter of fact, many studies confirmed that there is a business case for CSR, as corporations engage in socially responsible and environmentally sound behaviors, to pursue profit-making activities (Porter & Kramer, 2011; 2019; Camilleri, 2012; Carroll & Shabana, 2010; Weber, 2008). Notwithstanding, CSR and sustainable practices can help businesses to improve their reputation, to enhance their image among external stakeholders and could lead to a favorable climate of trust and cooperation with internal stakeholders (Camilleri, 2019a).
In this light, this research builds on previous theoretical underpinnings that are focused on the CSR agenda and on its related stakeholder theory. However, it differentiates itself from other contributions as it clarifies that stakeholder attributions, as well as the corporations’ ethical responsibility, responsible human resources management and environmental responsibility will add value to society and to the businesses themselves.
This contribution addresses a knowledge gap in academia. For the time being, there is no other study that effects of stakeholders’ attributions on the companies’ strategic attributions, as depicted in Figure 1. In sum, this study clarifies that there is scope for businesses to forge strong relationships with different stakeholders. It clearly indicated that their engagement with stakeholders and their responsible behaviors were leading to strategic outcomes for their business and to society at large.
Figure 1. A research model that sheds light on the factors leading to strategic outcomes of corporate responsible behaviors
Implications to academia
This research model suggests that the businesses’ socially and environmentally responsible behaviors are triggered by different stakeholders. The findings evidenced that stakeholder-driven attributions were encouraging tourism and hospitality companies to engage in responsible behaviors, particularly toward their employees. The results confirmed that stakeholders were expecting these businesses to implement environmentally friendly initiatives, like recycling practices, water and energy conservation, et cetera. The findings revealed that there was a significant relationship between stakeholder attributions and the businesses’ strategic attributions to undertake responsible and sustainable initiatives.
This contribution proves that there is scope for tourism and hospitality firms to forge relationships with various stakeholders. By doing so, they will add value to their businesses, to society and the environment. The respondents clearly indicated that CSR initiatives were having an effect on marketplace stakeholders, by retaining customers and attracting new ones, thereby increasing their companies’ bottom lines.
Previous research has yielded mixed findings on the relationships between corporate social performance and their financial performance (Inoue & Lee, 2011; Kang et al., 2010; Orlitzky, Schmidt, & Rynes, 2003; McWilliams and Siegel 2001). Many contributions reported that companies did well by doing good (Camilleri, 2020a; Falck & Heblich, 2007; Porter & Kramer, 2011). The businesses’ laudable activities can help them build a positive brand image and reputation (Rhou et al., 2016). Hence, there is scope for the businesses to communicate about their CSR behaviors to their stakeholders. Their financial performance relies on the stakeholders’ awareness of their social and environmental responsibility (Camilleri, 2019a).
Arguably, the traditional schools of thought relating to CSR, including the stakeholder theory or even the legitimacy theory had primarily focused on the businesses’ stewardship principles and on their ethical or social responsibilities toward stakeholders in society (Carroll, 1999; Evan & Freeman, 1993; Freeman, 1986). In this case, this study is congruent with more recent contributions that are promoting the business case for CSR and environmentally-sound behaviors (e.g. Dmytriyev et al., 2021; Carroll, 2021; Camilleri, 2012; Carroll & Shabana 2010; Falck & Heblich, 2007).
This latter perspective is synonymous with value-based approaches, including ‘The Virtuous Circles’ (Pava & Krausz 1996), ‘The Triple Bottom Line Approach’ (Elkington 1998), ‘The Supply and Demand Theory of the Firm’ (McWilliams & Siegel 2001), ‘the Win-Win Perspective for CSR practices’ (Falck & Heblich, 2007), ‘Creating Shared Value’ (Porter & Kramer 2011), ‘Value in Business’ (Lindgreen et al., 2012), ‘The Stakeholder Approach to Maximizing Business and Social Value’ (Bhattacharya et al., 2012), ‘Value Creation through Social Strategy’ (Husted et al., 2015) and ‘Corporate Responsibility and Sustainability’ (Camilleri, 2018), among others.
In sum, the proponents of these value-based theories sustain that there is a connection between the businesses’ laudable behaviors and their growth prospects. Currently, there are still a few contributions, albeit a few exceptions, that have focused their attention on the effects of stakeholder attributions on CSR and responsible environmental practices in the tourism and hospitality context.
This research confirmed that the CSR initiatives that are directed at internal stakeholders, like human resources, and/or environmentally friendly behaviors that can affect external stakeholders, including local communities are ultimately creating new markets, improving the companies’ profitability and strengthening their competitive positioning. Therefore, today’s businesses are encouraged to engage with a wide array of stakeholders to identify their demands and expectations. This way, they will be in a position to add value to their business, to society and the environment.
The strategic attributions of responsible corporate behaviors focus on exploiting opportunities that reconcile differing stakeholder demands. This study demonstrated that tourism and hospitality employers were connecting with multiple stakeholders. The respondents confirmed that they felt that their employers’ CSR and environmentally responsible practices were resulting in shared value opportunities for society and for the businesses themselves, as they led to an increased financial performance, in the long run.
In the past, CSR was associated with corporate philanthropy, contributions-in-kind toward social and environmental causes, environmental protection, employees’ engagement in community works, volunteerism and pro-bono service among other responsible initiatives. However, in this day and age, many companies are increasingly recognizing that there is a business case for CSR. Although, discretionary spending in CSR is usually driven by different stakeholders, businesses are realizing that there are strategic attributions, in addition to stakeholder attributions, to invest in CSR and environmental management practices (Camilleri, 2017a).
This contribution confirmed that stakeholder pressures were having direct and indirect effects on the businesses’ strategic outcomes. This research clearly indicated that both internal and external stakeholders were encouraging the tourism business to invest in environmentally friendly initiatives. This finding is consistent with other theoretical underpinnings (He, He & Xu, 2018; Graci & Dodds, 2008).
Recently, more hotels and restaurants are stepping in with their commitment for sustainability issues as they comply with non-governmental organizations’ regulatory tools such as process and performance-oriented standards relating to environmental protection, corporate governance, and the like (Camilleri, 2015).
Many governments are reinforcing their rules of law and directing businesses to follow their regulations as well as ethical principles of intergovernmental institutions. Yet, certain hospitality enterprises are still not always offering appropriate conditions of employment to their workers (Camilleri, 2021; Asimah, 2018; Janta et al., 2011; Poultson, 2009). The tourism industry is characterized by its seasonality issues and its low entry, insecure jobs.
Several hotels and restaurants would usually offer short-term employment prospects to newcomers to the labor market, including school leavers, individuals with poor qualifications and immigrants, among others (Harkinson et al., 2011). Typically, they recruit employees on a part-time basis and in temporary positions to economize on their wages. Very often, their low-level workers are not affiliated with trade unions. Therefore, they are not covered by collective agreements. As a result, hotel employees may be vulnerable to modern slavery conditions, as they are expected to work for longer than usual, in unsocial hours, during late evenings, night shifts, and in the weekends.
In this case, this research proved that tourism and hospitality employees appreciated their employers’ responsible HRM initiatives including the provision of training and development opportunities, the promotion of equal opportunities when hiring and promoting employees and suitable arrangements for their health and safety. Their employers’ responsible behaviors was having a significant effect on the strategic attributions to their business.
Hence, there is more to CSR than ‘doing well by doing good’. The respondents believed that businesses could increase their profits by engaging in responsible HRM and in ethical behaviors. They indicated that their employer was successful in attracting and retaining customers. This finding suggests that the company they worked for, had high credentials among their employees. The firms’ engagement with different stakeholders can result in an improved reputation and image. They will be in a better position to create economic value for their business if they meet and exceed their stakeholders’ expectations.
In sum, the objectives of this research were threefold. Firstly, the literature review has given an insight into mainstream responsible HRM initiatives, ethical principles and environmentally friendly investments. Secondly, its empirical research has contributed to knowledge by adding a tourism industry perspective in the existing theoretical underpinnings that are focused on strategic attributions and outcomes of corporate responsibility behaviors. Thirdly, it has outlined a model which clearly evidences how different stakeholder demands and expectations are having an effect on the businesses’ responsible activities.
On a lighter note, it suggests that Adam Smith’s ‘invisible hand’ is triggering businesses to create value to society whilst pursuing their own interest. Hence, corporate social and environmental practices can generate a virtuous circle of positive multiplier effects.
Therefore, there is scope for the businesses, including tourism and hospitality enterprises to communicate about their CSR and environmental initiatives through different marketing communications channels via traditional and interactive media. Ultimately, it is in their interest to promote their responsible behaviors through relevant messages that are clearly understood by different stakeholders.
Limitations and future research
This contribution raises awareness about the strategic attributions of CSR in the tourism and hospitality industry sectors. It clarified that CSR behaviors including ethical responsibility, responsible human resources management and environmental responsibility resulted in substantial benefits to a wide array of stakeholders and to the firm itself. Therefore, there is scope for other researchers to replicate this study in different contexts.
Future studies can incorporate other measures relating to the stakeholder theory. Alternatively, they can utilize other measures that may be drawn from the resource-based view theory, legitimacy theory or institutional theory, among others. Perhaps, further research may use qualitative research methods to delve into the individuals’ opinions and beliefs on strategic attributions of CSR and on environmentally-sound investments, including circular economy systems and renewable technologies.
A free-prepublication version of this paper is available (in its entirety) through ResearchGate.
Hospitality businesses can implement a number of responsible practices. The very first step for them is to develop ‘sustainable’ menus. The restaurants’ menus can offer a choice of different portion sizes to satisfy the requirements of different customers. They may feature fewer items in their menus to operate their business with a reduced inventory of food products to decrease storage costs, minimize waste and spoilage. It is in the interest of restaurant owner-managers to procure fresh ingredients from local businesses including farmers, bakers, butchers, et cetera, to ensure that they are preparing good food for their valued customers. Local products including organic items like fruit and vegetables, will have a longer shelf life than imported ones.
The hospitality businesses ought to forge close relationships with dependable, local suppliers to implement just-in-time purchasing systems (Camilleri, 2015a; Camilleri, 2017a). There is scope for them to purchase regularly and in smaller quantities to reduce the probabilities of food spoilage and dehydration. They are expected to continuously monitor the expiration dates of their food items and ingredients to minimize waste and to respect relevant hygienic standards. Owner-managers may apply the first expired first out (FEFO) principles in their kitchens, to avoid any stock-outs. Moreover, they can use food tracking devices to identify the types of food waste they are generating.
Their monitoring and control of food waste should be carried out on a day-to-day basis, as it can lead to significant operational efficiencies and cost savings. Practitioners may keep a track record of their waste in a spreadsheet. They can measure the quantity of organic waste that is generated from their premises. They may include details like the dates (and times of events), which ingredients or recipes were wasted, the name of the employee(s) who was (or were) responsible for the waste, et cetera. Furthermore, practitioners can estimate the composition of their organic waste and identify whether it is derived from vegetables, bread/pasta, specific meats, etc. This will allow them to make adjustments in their food menus (if possible).
Such food trackers may also help the hospitality business to detect irresponsible behaviors in their kitchens and to minimize food waste from their properties. It may indicate that certain employees are not engaging in responsible food preparation behaviors. There is scope for hospitality businesses to train their human resources, at all levels, particularly new employees, on circular economy approaches [Camilleri, 2014). This way, they will be in a better position to improve their efficiencies in terms of reducing, reusing and recycling resources, and responsible waste disposal practices (Camilleri, 2019a; Camilleri, 2020). They have to be supported and educated on the best practices to ensure that they are improving the (economic) sustainability of their businesses’ food and beverage operations whilst minimizing their impact on the natural environment (Camilleri, 2015b; Camilleri, 2016a; Camilleri, 2017). Table 1 illustrates the responsible behaviors that can be implemented by hospitality businesses to reduce food loss and the generation of waste from their premises:
This research shed light on a number of laudable circular economy initiatives that were drawn from the hospitality industry. It also made reference to a sustainable enterprise that utilizes a sharing economy platform that links consumers with hospitality service providers. Mobile users can purchase surplus food from hotels, restaurants and cafes at a discount. At the same time, the app enables the businesses to make revenue out of their perishable food and to minimize their environmental footprint by reducing their waste. Moreover, it reported that businesses can benefit from tax deductions and credit systems, in different contexts, if they donate surplus (edible) food to charities and food banks. Alternatively, if the food is contaminated or decayed it may be accumulated and turned it into animal feed, compost or transformed into energy through methanation processes. The case studies indicated that the re-utilization of non-edible leftovers may be monetized if they are used for such secondary purposes.
The implementation and execution of the circular economy’s closed loop systems ought to be promoted through different marketing channels. Hotels and restaurants can use marketing communications through different media to raise awareness on how they are capable of generating less waste (Camilleri, 2016b). They should promote sustainable production and consumption behaviors through different media outlets, including traditional and digital channels (Camilleri & Costa, 2018; Camilleri, 2018a; 2018b; 2018c).
The hospitality businesses responsible initiatives can raise their profile among different stakeholders, including customers and suppliers, among others (Camilleri, 2015; 2018d). The customers will probably appreciate the hospitality businesses’ efforts to reduce their impact to the natural environment. Some of their sustainability measures are dependent on the active commitment of hotel clients and restaurant patrons. Therefore, it is very important for them to raise awareness about their waste prevention campaigns and on their environmental achievements so that they may feel part of the responsible initiatives. This way, they become key participants in the reduction of generated waste. Hence, businesses can educate customers about responsible consumption behaviors to help them in their endeavors to curb food loss and the generation of unnecessary waste [Camilleri & Ratten, 2020; Camilleri, 2019b). The food and beverage servers could engage in conversations with their clients to better understand their food requirements.
In a similar vein, this research suggests that the hospitality businesses ought to forge closer relationships with their suppliers including farmers and other retailers, to implement responsible inventory management systems and just-in-time purchasing. Suppliers must continuously be informed and updated on their procurement policies. Their ongoing communications may facilitate collaborative practices that may translate to positive outcomes, including the sourcing of better-quality products with extended lifecycles and longer expiry dates.
This contribution reported various preventative measures and recycling practices that may be taken on board by hospitality practitioners and their stakeholders, to reduce food waste and its detrimental effect on our natural environment and biospheres. There is scope for trade unions and industry associations in tourism and hospitality, to promote the responsible behaviors, among their members.
Notwithstanding, regulatory authorities and their policy makers can encourage hospitality practitioners to invest in environmentally friendly systems to minimize their food loss and waste. They can offer them financial incentives like tax deductions or exemptions when they donate surplus food. Alternatively, governments can support them by providing adequate infrastructures and resources including on-site composting facilities and/or methanization processes that are aimed to minimize the accumulation of food waste that finishes in landfills. Such responsible investments will ultimately result in a sustainable value chain in tourism cities, as they add value to the hospitality businesses, to the environment and to society, at large (Salonen & Camilleri, 2020; Camilleri, 2017b).
Suggested citation: Camilleri, M.A. (2021). Sustainable Production and Consumption of Food. Mise-en-Place Circular Economy Policies and Waste Management Practices in Tourism Cities. Sustainability, 13, 9986. https://doi.org/10.3390/su13179986 (OPEN ACCESS)
Camilleri, M.A. (2015a). Re-conceiving CSR programmes for education. In Corporate Social Responsibility: Academic Insights and Impacts, Vertigans, S. & Idowu, S.O. (Eds), Springer: Cham, Swtizerland, http://www.springer.com/gb/book/9783319350820
Camilleri, M.A. (2018c) Unleashing corporate social responsibility communication for small businesses in the digital era. In Academy of Management Annual Conference Proceedings: Improving Lives, Chicago, 11 August 2018, Academy of Management. Available online: https://journals.aom.org/doi/10.5465/AMBPP.2018.10467abstract
Camilleri, M.A. (2018d). Theoretical insights on integrated reporting: The inclusion of non-financial capitals in corporate disclosures. Corporate Communications: An International Journal, 23, 4, 567-581. https://doi.org/10.1108/CCIJ-01-2018-0016:
Camilleri, M.A. & Costa, R. A. (2018). The small businesses’ responsible entrepreneurship and their stakeholder engagement through digital media. 13th European Conference on Innovation and Entrepreneurship (ECIE) (11 September). University of Aveiro, Aveiro, Portugal. Available online: https://papers.ssrn.com/sol3/papers.cfm?abstract_id=3233528 (accessed on 24 August 2021).
Camilleri, M. A. (2019a). The circular economy’s closed loop and product service systems for sustainable development: A review and appraisal. Sustainable Development, 27(3), 530-536. https://doi.org/10.1002/sd.1909
Camilleri, M. A. (2020). European environment policy for the circular economy: Implications for business and industry stakeholders. Sustainable Development, 28(6), 1804-1812.https://doi.org/10.1002/SD.2113
The unexpected Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic has disrupted the provision of education in various contexts around the globe. Education service providers, including higher education institutions (HEIs) were required to follow their respective governments’ preventative social distancing measures and to increase their hygienic practices, to mitigate the spread of the pandemic. They articulated contingency plans, disseminated information about the virus, trained their employees to work remotely, and organised virtual sessions with students or course participants.
These latest developments have resulted in both challenges and opportunities to students and educators. Course instructors were expected to develop a new modus operandi to deliver their education services, in real time. During the first wave of COVID-19, HEIs were suddenly expected to shift from traditional and blended learning approaches to a fully virtual course delivery.
The shift to online, synchronous classes did not come naturally. COVID-19 has resulted in different problems for course instructors and their students. In many cases, educators were compelled to utilise online learning technologies to continue delivering their courses. In the main, educators have embraced the dynamics of remote learning technologies to continue delivering educational services to students, amid the peaks and troughs of COVID-19 cases.
Subsequently, policy makers have eased their restrictions when they noticed that there were lower contagion rates in their communities. After a few months of lockdown (or partial lock down) conditions, there were a number of HEIs that were allowed to open their doors. They instructed their visitors to wear masks, and to keep socially distant from each other. Most HEIs screened individuals for symptoms as they checked their temperatures and introduced strict hygienic practices like sanitisation facilities in different parts of their campuses.
However, after a year and a half, since the outbreak of COVID-19, some academic members of staff were still relying on the use of remote learning technologies to deliver education services, as they utilised learning management systems (LMS) and video conferencing software to teach their courses. During the pandemic, they became acquainted with online technologies that facilitated asynchronous as well as synchronous learning.
Whilst their asynchronous approaches included text and/or recorded video that were made available through LMS (like Moodle), in many cases, they also utilised video conferencing platforms including Microsoft Teams, Google Meet, Zoom, D2L, Webex, Adobe Connect, Skype for Business, Big Blue Button and EduMeet, among others, to interact with students in real time.
In this light, our research investigated the facilitating conditions that can foster the students’ acceptance and usage of remote learning technologies including LMS and video conferencing programs. We examined the participants’ motivations to use them to continue pursuing their educational programs from home, during COVID-19. Specifically, our study investigated students’ perceptions about the usefulness of remote learning, their interactive capabilities, their attitudes toward their utilisation, the facilitating conditions as well as their intentions to continue using them.
Our targeted respondents were registered students who followed full-time and part-time courses at the University of Malta in Malta. We used a structural equation modeling partial least squares (SEM-PLS) analytical approach to examine the responses of 501 students who voluntarily participated in our research.
The findings clearly indicated that the higher education students perceived the usefulness of remote learning technologies during COVID-19 and valued their interactive attributes. They confirmed that the respondents held positive perceptions toward their universities’ facilitating conditions (like ongoing support, as well as training and development opportunities).
The empirical results reported that the HEI’s facilitating conditions had a significant effect on the students’ interactive engagement with online learning resources and on their attitudes towards these technologies.
The confirmatory composite analysis reported that there were positive and highly significant effects that predicted the students’ intentions to continue using remote learning technologies. Evidently, educators have provided them with the necessary resources, knowledge and technical support to avail themselves of remote learning technologies.
The respondents indicated that they accessed their course instructors’ online resources and regularly interacted with them through live conferencing facilities. The findings from SEM-PLS confirmed that the perceived usefulness and perceived interactivity with online technologies had a positive effect on their attitudes toward remote learning.
In sum, this contribution has differentiated itself from other studies as it investigated the students’ perceptions and attitudes on the use of asynchronous as well as synchronous learning technologies in higher education. It implies that the integration of these technologies ought to be accelerated in the foreseeable future as they may become the norm, in a post COVID-19 era. Therefore, HEIs ought to continue investing in online learning infrastructures, resources and facilitating conditions, for the benefit of their students and faculty employees.
The following texts are excerpts from one of my latest articles.
Suggested Citation: Camilleri, M.A. & Camilleri, A.C. (2021). The Acceptance of Learning Management Systems and Video Conferencing Technologies: Lessons Learned from COVID-19, Technology, Knowledge and Learning, https://doi.org/10.1007/s10758-021-09561-y
Course instructors were expected to develop a new modus operandi to deliver their higher education services, in real time (Johnson et al., 2020). During the pandemic, many HEIs migrated from traditional and blended teaching approaches to fully virtual and remote course delivery. However, their shift to online, synchronous classes did not come naturally. COVID-19 has resulted in different problems to course instructors and to their students. In many cases, during the pandemic, educators were compelled to utilize online learning technologies to continue delivering their courses (Fitter, Raghunath, Cha, Sánchez, Takayama & Matarić, 2020). In the main, educators have embraced the dynamics of remote learning technologies to continue delivering educational services to students, amid peaks and troughs of COVID-19 cases.
Subsequently, policy makers have eased their restrictions when they noticed that there were lower contagion rates in their communities. After a few months of lockdown (or partial lock down) conditions, there were a number of HEIs that were allowed to open their doors. They instructed their visitors to wear masks, and to keep socially distant from each other. Most HEIs screened individuals for symptoms as they checked their temperatures and introduced strict hygienic practices like sanitization facilities in different parts of their campuses.
However, after a year and a half, since the outbreak of COVID-19, some academic members of staff were still relying on the use of remote learning technologies like learning management systems (like Moode) and video conferencing software to teach their courses (Cesco, Zara, De Toni, Lugli, Betta, Evans & Orzes, 2021). During the pandemic, they became acquainted with online technologies that facilitated asynchronous learning through text and/or recorded video (Sablić, Mirosavljević & Škugor, 2020). Moreover, many of them, organized interactive sessions with their students in real time. Very often, they utilized video conferencing platforms including Microsoft Teams, Google Meet, Zoom, D2L, Webex, Adobe Connect, Skype for Business, Big Blue Button and EduMeet, among others. COVID-19 has triggered them to use these remote technologies to engage in two-way communications with their students.
Although in the past year, there were a number of researchers who have published discursive articles about the impacts of COVID-19 on higher education, for the time being, there are just a few empirical studies on the subject (Bergdahl & Nouri, 2020; Aguilera-Hermida, 2020; Gonzalez, de la Rubia, Hincz, Comas-Lopez, Subirats, Fort & Sacha, 2020). This contribution addresses this gap in academia. Specifically, it investigates the facilitating conditions that can foster the students’ acceptance and usage of remote learning technologies. It examines the participants’ utilitarian motivations to utilize asynchronous learning resources to access course material, and sheds light on their willingness to engage with instructors and/or peers through synchronous, video conferencing software, to continue pursuing their educational programs from home, during an unexpected pandemic situation.
This study builds on previous theoretical underpinnings on technology adoption (Cheng & Yuen, 2018; Al-Rahmi, Alias, Othman, Marin & Tur, 2018; Merhi, 2015; Schoonenboom, 2014; Lin, Zimmer & Lee, 2013; Chen, Chen & Kazman, 2007; Ngai, Poon & Chan, 2007; Davis, 1989). At the same time, it explores the students’ perceptions about the interactivity (McMillan & Jang-Sun Hwang, 2002) of LMS as well as video conferencing software, and sheds light on their HEI’s facilitating conditions (Hoi, 2020; Dečman, 2015; Venkatesh, Thong & Xu, 2012; Venkatesh, Morris, Davis & Davis, 2003). The rationale of this study is to better understand the research participants’ intentions to use remote technologies, to improve their learning journey. To the best of our knowledge, there are no other contributions that have integrated the same measures that have been used in this research. Therefore, this study differentiates itself from the previous literature, and puts forward a research model that is empirically tested.
The development of remote learning
According to the social constructivist theory, individuals necessitate social interactions (Fridin, 2014; Lambropoulos, Faulkner & Culwin, 2012; Ainsworth, 2006; Tam, 2000). They develop their abilities by interacting with others. Therefore, online learning environments ought to be designed to support and challenge the students’ reflective and critical skills, by including interactive learning and collaborative approaches (Rienties & Toetenel, 2016; Dabbagh & Kitsantas, 2012; Wang, 2009; Wang, Woo, & Zhao, 2009). Social constructivism and discovery-based learning techniques emphasize the importance of having students who are actively involved in their learning process. This is in stark contrast with previous educational viewpoints where the responsibility rested with the instructor to teach, and where the learner played a passive, receptive role (Lambropoulos et al., 2012).
Today’s students are increasingly using online technologies to learn, both in and out of their higher educational institutions (Al-Maroof, Al-Qaysi, & Salloum, 2021). They are using interactive media to acquire formal and informal skills (Dabbagh & Kitsantas, 2012), particularly when they take part in constructivist activities with their peers and course instructors (Fridin, 2014). This argumentation is consistent with the collaborative learning theory (Lambropoulos et al., 2012; Khalifa & Kwok, 1999). Students can use digital technologies to access recorded podcasts (Merhi, 2015; Lin et al., 2013), watch videos (Hung, 2016) and interact together through live streaming technologies in real time (Payne, Keith, Schuetzler & Giboney, 2017). Hence, online education has fostered collaborative learning approaches (Wang, 2009). Computer mediated education enables students to search for solutions, to share online information with their peers, to evaluate each other’s ideas, and to monitor one another’s work (Lambić, 2016; Sung et al., 2015; Soflano, et al., 2015).
Course participants can use remote technologies, including their personal computers, smart phones and tablets to access their instructors’ asynchronous, online resources including course notes, power point presentations, videos clips, case studies, et cetera (Butler, Camilleri, Creed & Zutshi, 2021; Hung, 2016; Ifenthaler & Schweinbenz, 2013). Moreover, in this day and age, they are utilizing video conferencing technologies to attend virtual meetings, and to engage in one-to-one conversations, or in group discussions and debates with their course instructor and with other students. These virtual programs enable students to engage in synchronous communications with course instructors, to ask questions, and receive feedback, in real time.
A critical review of the relevant literature reported that university students were already using asynchronous technologies, in different contexts, before the outbreak of COVID-19 (Butler et al., 2021; Sánchez-Prieto et al., 2017; Hung, 2016; Liu et al., 2010; Sánchez & Hueros, 2010). Many authors held that online technologies were improving the students’ experiences (Crompton & Burke, 2018; Kurucay & Inan, 2017; Sánchez-Prieto et al., 2016). Before the outbreak of COVID-19, many practitioners blended traditional learning methodologies with digital and mobile applications to improve learning outcomes (Al-Maroof et al., 2021; Boelens et al., 2018; Furió et al., 2015). Course instructors can design and develop online learning environments to support their students with asynchronous resources (Wang et al., 2009). They may allow them to engage in collaborative learning activities through virtual environments (Rienties & Toetenel, 2016; Dabbagh & Kitsantas, 2012). These contemporary approaches are synonymous with the social constructivist theory (Fridin, 2014; Lambropoulos et al., 2012) and with discovery-based learning (Ifenthaler, 2012; Lambropoulos et al., 2012).
This contribution investigated the students’ perceived usefulness, perceived interactivity, attitudes toward use, facilitating conditions and behavioral intentions to utilize remote technologies. It posited that higher education students perceived the usefulness of remote learning technologies including LMS and video conferencing programs during COVID-19. The findings clearly indicated that they valued their interactive attributes. These factors have led them to embrace these programs during their learning journey. This study also confirmed that the universities’ facilitating conditions had a significant effect on their perceptions about the interactivity of these online learning resources and on their attitudes towards these technologies, as reported in Figure 1. This finding is consistent with previous research that reported that facilitating conditions is positively related to the students’ intentions to continue using digital and mobile learning resources (Gangwar et al., 2015; Teo, 2009).
This study has differentiated itself from previous contributions as it integrated facilitating conditions (Hoi, 2020; Dečman, 2015; Venkatesh et al. 2003; 2012) and perceived interactivity (Chattaraman et al., 2019; Chen et al., 2007; McMillan & Jang-Sun Hwang, 2002) with perceived usefulness (of technology) and attitudes (toward the use of technology) to better understand the students’ intentions to utilize remote learning technologies to improve their learning journey (Cheng & Yuen, 2018; Al-Rahmi et al., 2018; Merhi, 2015; Schoonenboom, 2014; Lin et al., 2013; Ngai et al., 2007; Davis, 1989) during an unexpected pandemic situation.
A bibliographic analysis revealed that there are a number of theoretical papers that have been published in the last eighteen months on this hot topic (Cesco et al., 2021; Fitter et al., 2020; Howley, 2020; Rahiem, 2020). Yet, to date, there are just a few rigorous studies, that examined the utilization of synchronous video conferencing technologies, in addition to conventional, asynchronous content, like LMS, in the context of higher education (Aguilera-Hermida, 2020; Gonzalez et al., 2020).
The findings from this research shed light on the utilitarian factors that were influencing the students’ engagement with interactive learning resources. According to the descriptive statistics, the students felt that remote technologies were useful to achieve their learning outcomes. They indicated that they were provided with appropriate facilitating conditions that enabled them to migrate to a fully virtual learning environment from face-to-face or blended learning approaches. During the pandemic’s lockdown or partial lockdown conditions, and even when the preventative measures were eased, many students were still using remote learning technologies to access online educational resources. They also kept using video conferencing technologies to attend to virtual classes, and to engage with their course instructor(s) and with their peers, in real time.
The confirmatory composite analysis reported that there were positive and highly significant effects that predicted the students’ intentions to use remote learning technologies. Evidently, educators have provided them with the necessary resources, knowledge and technical support to avail themselves of remote learning technologies. The respondents indicated that they accessed their course instructors’ online resources and regularly interacted with them through live conferencing facilities. The findings from SEM-PLS confirmed that the perceived usefulness and perceived interactivity with online technologies had a positive effect on their attitudes toward remote learning. This research implies that the students were confident with the utilization of interactive technologies to continue their educational programs. In fact, this research model proved that they were likely to use synchronous and asynchronous learning technologies in the foreseeable future, in a post COVID-19 context.
Implications of study for educators and policy makers
The COVID-19 pandemic and its preventative measures urged HEIs and other educational institutions to embrace video conferencing technologies to continue delivering student-centered education. This research suggests that educators ought to monitor their students’ engagement during their virtual sessions. It revealed that the students’ perceived interactivity as well as their higher education institutions’ facilitating conditions were having an effect on their perceptions about the usefulness of remote learning, on their attitudes as well as on their intentions to use them. These digital technologies were supporting the research participants in their learning journeys, whether they were at home or on campus. The students themselves perceived the usefulness of asynchronous LMS as well as of synchronous communications, including video conferencing software like Zoom or Microsoft Teams, among others.
These virtual technologies were already utilized in various contexts, before the outbreak of COVID-19. However, they turned out to be important learning resources in the realms of education. Course instructors are expected to support their students, by developing attractive digital learning resources (e.g. interactive presentations, online articles and recorded video clips) in appropriate formats that can be accessed with ease, through different media, including mobile technologies (Sablić et al., 2020). In this day and age, they can also use video conferencing technologies to interact with course participants in real time. When engaging with online resources, instructors should consider their students’ facilitating conditions, particularly if they are including high-res images, interactive media, including podcasts, videos, etc., in their LMSs. Their asynchronous content should be as clear and focused as possible, with links to relevant sources, including notes, case studies, quizzes, rubrics and formative assessments, among others.
COVID-19 has taught us that the individuals’ engagement with LMS and video conferencing software necessitate high‐quality wireless networks. There may be situations where students as well as their instructors may require online technical support, whether they are working from home of from university premises. Educational institutions including HEIs ought to regularly evaluate their students’ experiences with remote teaching in order to identify any issues that are affecting their academic performance (Camilleri, 2021b). HEI leaders are not always in a position to evaluate the quality and standards of their instructors’ online learning methods and to determine with absolute certainty whether their students have achieved their learning outcomes. During remote course delivery, students may not always have access to appropriate interactive technologies, learning materials or to adequate productive environments (Bao, 2020). There can be instances where course instructors and students could require facilitating conditions like technical support or training and development to enhance their competences and capabilities with the use of remote technologies.
Higher education service delivery and the students’ learning experiences
Higher education institutions (HEIs) are expected to adapt to ongoing developments in their macro and microenvironments as they are usually operating with budget constraints (Camilleri, 2019). They compete for funding and for student numbers in a global marketplace (OECD, 2019; Hägg and Schölin, 2018; Tian and Martin, 2014). Very often, they are using the corporate language as they formulate marketing plans, set objectives to control their resources, and are becoming customer-driven (Lynch, 2015; Sojkin, Bartkowiak and Skuza, 2012; Naidoo, Shankar and Veer, 2011; Ng and Forbes, 2009). The logic behind these managerial reforms is to improve the HEIs’ service quality and performance (Rutter, Roper and Lettice, 2016; Mourad, Ennew and Kortam, 2011; Abdullah. 2006a).
The challenge for HEI leaders is to identify their students’ and other stakeholders’ expectations on service quality. The consumers’ perceived service quality is defined as the degree and direction of discrepancy between their perceptions and expectations (Quinn et al., 2009; Parasuraman et al., 1988). Quality is distinguished from satisfaction, in that, the latter is assumed to involve specific transactions. As part of the conceptualization, expectations are viewed as desires or wants of consumers (Zeithaml, Berry and Parasuraman, 1993).
Parasuraman et al. (1988) measured the individuals’ perceptions and expectations about service quality. Their SERVQUAL scales assessed service quality in terms of tangibility, reliability, responsiveness, assurance and empathy services (Brochado, 2009; Tan and Kek, 2004). In a similar vein, other authors noted that service quality comprises three significant dimensions; service processes, interpersonal factors, and physical evidence (Tsinidou, Gerogiannis and Fitsilis, 2010; Angell, Heffernan and Megicks, 2008; Oldfield and Baron, 2000). Notwithstanding, the HEIs’ physical evidence (that is associated with their tangible aspect) can also influence the students’ satisfaction levels (Wilkins and Balakrishnan, 2013; Ford, Joseph and Joseph, 1999).
The students are considered as the primary customers of tertiary education institutions (Quinn et al., 2009; Lomas, 2007; Snipes et al., 2005). Their expectations on the HEIs’ service performance plays a key role on their quality perceptions (Raaper, 2009; Brochado, 2009; Abdullah, 2006b; Hill, 1995). Students spend a considerable amount of time on campus, in lecture rooms, libraries, IT labs, canteens, sport grounds, et cetera (Hill, 1995). They will probably use the HEIs’ service facilities, technologies and equipment.
Ozkan and Kozeler (2009) maintained that the learners’ perceived satisfaction with higher education technologies is dependent on the quality of the instructors, the quality of the systems, information (content) quality and supportive issues. Hence, HEI leaders have to ensure that the tangible aspects of their higher educational services ought to be in good working order for the benefit of their users.
The provision of higher education services involves “person‐to‐person” interactions (Clemes et al., 2008; Solomon et al., 1985). The frontline employees (like faculty employees) can influence the degree of their consumers’ (or students’) satisfaction and experiences (Raaper, 2019; Ng and Forbes, 2009; Ford et al., 1999; Bitner et al., 1990). Both academic and administrative employees’ ability and willingness to deliver appropriate service quality will determine the students’ overall satisfaction with their higher education services (Tsinidou et al., 2010).
Oldfield and Baron (2000) contended that students rely on the non‐academic employees, including administrators and support staff, over whom the course management teams have no direct control. They pointed out that the students may not be interested in the HEIs’ organizational hierarchies, as they expect their employees to work in tandem. Therefore, the administrative employees should also communicate and liaise with the academic members of staff, to ensure that the students receive an appropriate quality of service. The course instructors should be evaluated in terms of their technical and interpersonal skills, consistency of performance and appearance (Camilleri, 2021; Angell et al., 2008).
Students want their lecturers to be knowledgeable, enthusiastic, approachable, and friendly (Voss, Gruber and Szmigin, 2007). The HEI leaders should be aware that their employees’ interactions with their students will have an effect on their satisfaction during their learning journey (Quinn et al., 2009). The members of staff represent their employer whenever they engage with students and other stakeholders (Voss et al., 2007). Therefore, HEI leaders ought to foster an organizational culture that represents the institutions’ shared values, beliefs, assumptions, attitudes and norms of behavior that bind employees to deliver appropriate service quality and the desired performance outcomes (Kollenscher, Popper and Ronen, 2018; Pedro, Mendes and Lourenço, 2018; Trivellas and Dargenidou, 2009; O’Neill and Palmer, 2004).
Measuring higher education service performance
The employees’ performance is usually evaluated against their HEIs’ priorities, commitments, and aims; by using relevant international benchmarks and targets (OECD, 2019; Brochado, 2009; Lo, 2009 O’Neill and Palmer, 2004). Generally, the academics are usually appraised on their research impact, teaching activities and outreach (Camilleri, 2021).
Their academic services, including their teaching, administrative support as well as the research and development (R&D) duties, all serve as performance indicators that can contribute to build the reputation and standing of their employer (Geuna and Martin, 2003). The university leaders should keep a track record about the age and distribution of their faculty members; diversity of students and staff, in terms of gender, ethnicity, race, et cetera.
In addition, their faculties could examine discipline-specific rankings; and determine the expenditures per academic member of staff, among other responsibilities (Camilleri, 2019). The quantitative metrics concerning the students’ performance may include their enrolment ratios, graduate rates, student drop-out rates, the students’ continuation of studies at the next academic level, and the employability index of graduates, among others (QS Rankin 2019; THE, 2019).
Moreover, qualitative indicators can also provide insightful data to HEIs on the students’ opinions and perceptions about their learning environment. HEIs could evaluate the students’ satisfaction with teaching; satisfaction with research opportunities and training; perceptions of international and public engagement opportunities; ease of taking courses across boundaries; and may also determine whether there are administrative and/or bureaucratic barriers for them (Kivisto, Pekkola and Lyytinen, 2017).
HEIs should regularly analyze their service quality and performance through financial and non-financial indicators (Camilleri, 2021; Lagrosen, Seyyed-Hashemi and Leitner, 2004). A relevant review of the literature suggests that the institutions ought to be evaluated on their organization; corporate governance, autonomy; accountability; system structures; resourcing and funding; consultation processes; digitalization; admission processes; student-centered education, internationalization; regional development; continuing education; lifelong learning qualifications; research, innovation and technology transfer; high impact publications, stakeholder engagement with business and industry; labour market relevance; collaborations with other HEIs and researcher centers; and quality assurance among other issues (OECD, 2019; EU, 2017; Lagrosen et al., 2004; O’Neill and Palmer, 2004; Cheng and Tam, 1997; Owlia and Aspinwall, 1996).
The Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) regularly reviews the current state of higher education systems in its member countries. Its benchmarking exercises are intended to scrutinize the performance of universities and colleges. OECD (2019) has used 24 domains to evaluate different aspects of the HEIs’ organizational performance. The following table features a list of 45 performance indicators that can be used to assess the HEIs’ resources and their key functions
There are different methodologies and key performance indicators that can be used to evaluate the service quality in higher education. The above metrics are used to compare the OECD countries’ HEI performance in terms of allocated resources, the provision of student-centered education, research and engagement. However, this scorecard and the quality of its outputs ought to be validated in different contexts.
There are other performance variables, including the pedagogical knowledge and experience of the course instructors, the HEIs’ working conditions, teaching methodologies and practices, the usage of education technologies, engagement with business and industry, et cetera, that were not featured in this scorecard. Perhaps, in reality it may prove difficult to measure qualitative issues. For instance, while HEIs may be willing to demonstrate their engagement with different stakeholders, currently, there are no mechanisms in place to monitor, report and assess their outreach activities.
The HEIs’ responsibility is to address the skill gaps and mismatches in their labor market (EU, 2017). The governments’ policy makers together with the HEI leaders need to address sector-specific skill shortages. Specifically, EU (2017) proposed that HEIs ought to: (i) better understand what skills are required by the prospective employers (ii) communicate to society, practitioners and policy-makers about what they are already doing to prepare graduates for the labor market; (iii) prepare students and influence their choice of study; and (iv) implement effective learning programs that rely on blended learning methodologies including traditional and digital learning approach.
Suggested citation: Camilleri, M.A. (2021). Evaluating service quality and performance of higher education institutions: A systematic review and a post COVID-19 outlook. International Journal of Quality and Service Sciences, 13(2), 268-281. DOI: 10.1108/IJQSS-03-2020-0034
Consumers as well as businesses are benefiting of faster connections as the loading speeds of these devices is one of the critical determining factors as to whether visitors may (or may not) be willing to browse through e-commerce websites or apps, to proceed to check out, and to lay down their credit cards.
Ecommerce giants utilize machine learning technologies to segment consumers by geographical location, age and gender, buying habits, total expenditure, and more. They capture data from online users, including their browsing and purchase histories. They distinguish between profitable, loyal customers, price-sensitive customers, and identify those who are likely to abandon their shopping carts.
Prospective consumers will usually compare a wide variety of products and their corresponding prices, in different virtual marketplaces, before making their purchase decision. They will probably check out the consumer reviews to confirm the reputation and trustworthiness of online merchants. At times, they will not be in a position to confirm the legitimacy of certain websites and to determine if it is safe to disclose their payment details to anonymous vendors.
A few websites may require consumers to join their mailing list. They may expect them to provide their email addresses, that they may share with third parties. As a result, consumers could receive unwanted ads and scams in their inboxes. Moreover, they may experience phishing and spoofing. Therefore, shopping web pages should use SSL certificates to prove that their transactions are safe and secure.
Furthermore, e-commerce websites ought to feature accurate, timely and reliable content. They have to be as transparent as possible with online users. They should clarify their terms and conditions as well as their refund policies. The smallest thing that’s out of place in their e-commerce pages could rapidly erode the customers’ trust in their products and services.
Online users cannot inspect (or try) their chosen products until they receive them. They may experience delays in the delivery of their shopping items, particularly, if they get lost, detoured or delivered in the wrong address. Once they receive the product they ordered, they may decide to return it, if for some reason they are not satisfied by its quality. In this case, they could (or could not) be reimbursed for incurring shipping and packaging costs. Shopping websites are increasingly offering synchronous communications facilities to enhance their personalized services through web chat facilities that enable instantaneous conversations with online users.
This development has significantly improved the consumers’ perceptions about the service quality of e-commerce websites and their satisfaction levels. They also increased the chances of their repeat purchases. In sum, this contribution suggests that online businesses and marketplaces should identify the critical success factors that are differentiating e-commerce websites from one another. The most popular online marketplaces are capable of attracting repeat consumers through a consistent delivery of personalized customer service, thereby increasing their sales potential and growth prospects
This research confirmed that the consumers’ satisfaction with e-commerce websites has a significant effect on their loyalty as well as on their electronic word-of-mouth publicity. This is an important finding, considering that there are several shopping websites and online marketplaces where consumers can find identical or alternative products. In this case, the respondents suggested that e-commerce websites delivered good value to them and that they triggered their loyal behaviors. The research participants indicated that they were satisfied with the quality of the shopping websites and with their electronic services.
This study showed that customers were intrigued to share their positive or negative experiences with products and/or services with other online users. Hence, they were willing to cocreate online content for the benefit of prospective consumers. Many customers are increasingly voicing their opinions and recommendations through qualitative reviews and/or quantitative ratings to support other individuals in their purchase decisions. They may either encourage or discourage others from shopping from a particular vendor and/or website.
This research confirmed that the online users’ satisfaction levels with the service quality of the e-commerce website relied on different factors, including website attractiveness, functionality and security as well as on consumer order fulfillment, during and after a purchase. The websites’ designs and layouts can capture their visitors’ attention and may possibly improve the online consumers’ experiences during their purchase transactions.
The e-commerce websites’ appearance and their functionality may entice online users to continue browsing through their content and to revisit them again, in the future. Online users would be satisfied if the e-commerce websites are informative, useful and easy to use. They utilize shopping websites to access relevant content on the attributes and features of products, including consumer reviews. Therefore, the technical functionality of these websites’ inventory systems should feature accurate and timely information on the availability of items as well as on their prices and costs of delivery.
In this day and age, shopping websites should provide approximate shipping dates, estimated delivery times, et cetera. Online sellers should also establish clear information on their returning policies. They may direct online users and past consumers to frequently answered questions, and/or to chatbots. Alternatively, they may offer webchat facilities to engage with their valued customers, in real time.
Although there are many studies that have explored the service quality of e-commerce websites during a purchase transaction, only a few of them have focused on consumer fulfillment (and on their after-sales services). The findings from this research reported that timely deliveries, and the provision of personalized services have a highly significant effect on consumer satisfaction and loyalty.
Service providers ought to meet and exceed their customers’ expectations in different stages of their order fulfilment in online retailing contexts. They ought to deliver the ordered items as expeditiously as possible, to improve their service quality. Online retailers should respond to consumer enquiries, in a timely manner. This way, they can increase consumer satisfaction, minimize complaints and reduce the likelihood of negative criticism (and damaging e-WOM) in review websites and social media.
Understanding motivations to use online streaming services
Prof. Mark Anthony Camilleri has recently co-authored an academic contribution that explored the consumers’ perceptions, motivations and intentions to use online streaming technologies. The following text is an adapted version of an open-access article that was accepted for publication in the Spanish Journal of Marketing – ESIC. The full paper can be accessed online through:
The unprecedented outbreak of COVID-19 has led to a considerable increase in the number of subscriptions to paid streaming services. Media and entertainment companies including Amazon’s Prime Video and Netflix, among others, are responding to these latest developments in the marketing environment. These service providers may usually acquire exclusive licensing rights to stream a variety of TV shows and movies through their online platforms. In many cases, they are also investing in resources, competences and capabilities to produce and distribute their own content. They do so to offer their subscribers a wide selection of streaming services that can be accessed through digital devices and mobile applications (apps).
In this light, the researchers explored the online users’ motivations and gratifications from watching movies, TV series and/or live broadcasts through new media devices. From the outset, the researchers hypothesised that the individuals’ acceptance of streaming technologies, as well as their ritualised and instrumental motivations to use them, would have a positive effect on their intentions to continue using them.
The findings from this research indicated that the streaming software enhanced the respondents’ experience of watching informative and/or entertainment programmes. Hence, they were committed to continue watching recorded movies and TV series through digital media including mobile devices like smart phones and tablets.
The statistical analysis revealed that there were highly significant relationships between the individuals’ perceived ease of use of online programmes and their perceived usefulness. Both factors were also correlated with their intentions to use streaming technologies.
Moreover, the survey respondents’ ritualised motivations to use these online media was found to have a very significant effect on their intentions to use them. Evidently, they were utilising online streaming technologies on a habitual basis, to break the routine. It appears that they sought emotional gratifications from streaming services, as they considered them as a form of distraction.
The research participants also revealed that they used online streaming technologies for instrumental purposes to watch informative programmes, including news and talk shows in addition to entertainment programmes, including movies and series. Other studies also reported that there were many instances where individuals benefited of their smart phones and tablets’ instrumentality and ubiquity, as they enabled them to watch recorded videos, live streams as well as intermittent marketing content, when they were out and about.
During COVID-19, more businesses allocated significant marketing expenditures to online channels. As a result, many ads were also featured in different websites, including those that offer live streaming services. Video ads are usually presented to free-tier consumers as skippable or non-skippable streaming.
In this case, participants clearly indicated their agreement with the survey item that sought information about their preferences with regards to advertising options, whilst using streaming services. Respondents were aware that subscribed users of online streaming technologies can limit or block intrusive and repetitive advertisements. This finding suggests that there is scope for digital marketers to refine the quality of their video ads. Ultimately, it is in their interest to create engaging promotional clips that appeal to their target audiences.
In a similar vein, online streaming service providers ought to feature interactive content that enhances their customers’ overall online experience. This study revealed that the survey participants appreciated that the streaming programmes can be accessed from any place, at any time, through Internet networks and decent Wi-Fi connections.
Furthermore, respondents indicated that the streaming technologies were entertaining them in their free time. This factor affected their engagement with them. On the other hand, this study demonstrated that the research participants’ instrumental motivations were not predicting their intentions to continue using these media.
One of the plausible reasons for this finding is that respondents were using big screens to watch on-demand streaming services rather than accessing them via their mobile devices’ smaller screens. The latest TVs offer high resolution images and better sound systems than smart phones and tablets.
This contribution sheds light on the factors that are motivating individuals to purchase online streaming services. It implied that online users were subscribing to these services to entertain themselves by watching new movies and TV series, in an ad-free environment. This study confirmed that consumers perceived the usefulness of online streaming technologies as they provided secure, reliable, low latency streaming infrastructures. Probably, consumers valued the service providers’ recommender systems as they reminded them about new or trending movies and TV series. Such alerts are usually related to the consumers’ personal preferences and previous consumption behaviours.
In conclusion, it is hoped that the findings from this research will open-up future research avenues to academia. Perhaps, other studies involving interpretative research can investigate the subscribers’ opinions and beliefs on streaming services. Inductive methodologies can possibly reveal important factors about the individuals’ consumption behaviours, and could also clarify why, where, when and how they are using online streaming technologies. This way, service providers of streaming services will be in a better position to retain customers and attract new ones.
Suggested Citation: Camilleri, M.A. & Falzon, L. (2021). Understanding motivations to use online streaming services: Integrating the technology acceptance model (TAM) and the uses and gratifications theory (UGT), Spanish Journal of Marketing – ESIC., Forthcoming, DOI: 10.1108/SJME-04-2020-0074
This is an excerpt from my latest open-access researchthat was accepted for publication in Sustainability (IF: 2.576)
Citation: Camilleri, M.A. (2021). The Employees’ State of Mind during COVID-19: A Self-Determination Theory Perspective. Sustainability, 13, 3634. https://doi.org/10.3390/su13073634
This empirical research has presented a critical review of the self-determination theory and its key constructs, as well as on other theoretical underpinnings that were drawn from business ethics and tourism literature. It shed light on the employees’ job security as well as on their extrinsic and intrinsic motivations in their workplace environment. Moreover, it explored their perceptions on their employers’ CSR practices during COVID-19. The study hypothesized that the employees’ identified motivations, introjected motivations, external motivations, job security and their firms’ socially responsible behaviors would have a positive and significant effect on their intrinsic motivations and organizational performance. The findings confirmed that the employees’ intrinsic motivations were predicting their productivity. This relationship was highly significant. Evidently, the employees were satisfied in their job, as they fulfilled their self-determination and intrinsic needs for competence, autonomy and relatedness [15,48,56]. Their high morale in their workplace environment has led to positive behavioral outcomes, including increased organizational performance.
The results reported that there were highly significant effects between the employees’ identified motivations and intrinsic motivations, and between their perceptions on their firms’ socially responsible practices and their intrinsic motivations. The mediation analysis indicated that these two constructs were indirectly affecting the employees’ job performance. These results suggest that although previous studies reported that extrinsic factors could undermine the intrinsic motivations of individuals [35–37], this study found that the research participants have internalized and identified themselves with their employers’ extrinsically motivated regulations, as they enabled them to achieve their self-defining goals. In this case, the respondents indicated that they were willing to perform certain tasks, as they perceived that their utilitarian values were also sustaining their psychological well-being and self-evaluations. The employees also identified motivations that led as an incentive to increase their organizational performance. The empirical results have proved that the employees were motivated to work for firms that reflected their own values [60,77]. This research is consistent with other contributions on CSR behaviors [32,78,88,90,91]. The respondents suggested that their employers had high CSR credentials. The findings revealed that the businesses’ CSR practices enhanced their employees’ intrinsic motivations and satisfied their psychological needs of belongingness and relatedness. Evidently, the firms’ socially responsible behaviors were enhancing their employees’ productivity and performance in their workplace environment.
The participants’ beliefs about their job security were also found to be a significant antecedent of their intrinsic motivations. Their perceptions on their job security were affecting their morale at work, in a positive manner [22,61]. During COVID-19, many employees could have experienced reduced business activities. As a result, many businesses could have pressurized their employees in their organizational restructuring and/or by implementing revised conditions of employment, including reduced working times, changes in sick leave policies, et cetera, particularly during the first wave of the pandemic. However, despite these contingent issues, the research participants indicated that they perceived that there will be job continuity for them in the foreseeable future. This study indicated that many employees were optimistic about their job prospects during the second wave.
The findings suggest that employees are attracted by and motivated to work for trustworthy, socially responsible employers [43,62,66,75]. On the other hand, they reported that the participants’ introjected and external motivations were not having a significant effect on their intrinsic motivations and did not entice them to engage in productive behaviors during the COVID-19 crisis. A plausible justification for this result is that the participants were well aware that their employers did not have adequate and sufficient resources during COVID-19. Their employers were not in a position to reward or incentivize their employees due to financial constraints that resulted from their reduced business activities or were never prepared to deal with such an unprecedented contingent situation. Hence, external motivations were not considered as stable forms of regulation . Many researchers noted that extrinsic motivations will not necessarily influence the individuals’ behaviors, as their perceived locus of control is external to them. Therefore, their actions will not be autonomous and self-determined [35,52].
Managerial Implications Businesses are continuously affected by ongoing challenges arising from their macro environment. The pandemic has exacerbated their transformation on behavioral, cultural and organizational levels. The first wave of COVID-19 was devastating for many businesses, in different contexts. The social-distancing procedures have led to changes in their working conditions and diminished communications. Many of the non-essential businesses were expected to follow their government’s preventative measures to slow the spread of the pandemic and to close the doors to their customers. Moreover, several employees have experienced their employers’ cost cutting exercises, as they reduced salaries and wages. These uncertainties have affected their employees’ psychological capital and caused them anxiety and frustration . Notwithstanding, many employees were concerned about their job security and long-term prospects. During the work-from-home scenario, employers had to finds new ways to manage their employees’ performance. The change in their working environment allowed them to do their work, whilst also attending to personal needs. Very often, employees found themselves taking other responsibilities including parenting/schooling their children.
Remote working has served as a reminder to managers that there are a number of non-work-related factors that can affect their employees’ mindsets and engagement levels. Hence, many employers set virtual meetings with their human resources to inject a sense of purpose in them. During the first wave of the pandemic, the employees’ intrinsic motivations have declined with the decreasing visibility of their management or colleagues. The lack of motivation could have led to a decrease in their productivity levels . Therefore, employers were expected to look after their employees and to foster a culture of trust and recognition to improve their motivations and performance at work . This study was carried out during the second wave, when many governments had eased their preventative restrictions to restart their economy. As a result, many employees were returning to work. They were encouraged to work in a new normal, where they were instructed to follow their employers’ health and safety policies as well as hygienic and sanitizing practices in their premises. They introduced hygienic practices, temperature checks and expected visitors to wear masks to reduce the spread of the virus.
Many businesses, including SMEs and startups, were benefiting of their governments’ financial assistance. Resources were allocated to support them in their cashflow requirements, to minimize layoffs and to secure the employment of many employees. These measures instilled confidence in employers, as they provided their employees with a sense of relatedness, competence and autonomy in their workplace environments. Evidently, employers were successful in fostering a cohesive culture where they identified their employees’ values and their self-determined goals . In sum, this contribution revealed that employees felt a sense of belonging in their workplace environment. The results confirmed that their intrinsic motivations were enhancing their productivity levels and organizational performance.
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