How to reduce food loss (and waste) from the hospitality industry?

This is an excerpt from one of my latest academic contributions.

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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.

Key Takeaways

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)

References

Camilleri, M.A. (2014). The business case for corporate social responsibility. In Marketing & Public Policy as a Force for Social Change Conference. Proceedings pp. 8-14 (Washington D.C., 4th June), American Marketing Association (AMA), Available online: https://www.researchgate.net/publication/273131156_The_Business_Case_for_Corporate_Social_Responsibility.

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. (2015b). Environmental, social and governance disclosures in Europe. Sustainability Accounting, Management and Policy Journal, 6, 2, 224-242. http://www.emeraldinsight.com/doi/abs/10.1108/SAMPJ-10-2014-0065 

Camilleri M.A. (2016a). Corporate sustainability and responsibility toward education, Journal of Global Responsibility 7, 1, 56-71, http://www.emeraldinsight.com/doi/abs/10.1108/JGR-08-2015-0015

Camilleri M.A. (2016b). Reconceiving corporate social responsibility for business and educational outcomes. Cogent Business and Management, 3, 1 http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/23311975.2016.1142044

Camilleri, M.A. (2017a) Corporate citizenship and social responsibility policies in the United States of America. Sustainability Accounting, Management and Policy Journal, 8, 1, 77-93. http://www.emeraldinsight.com/doi/abs/10.1108/SAMPJ-05-2016-0023

Camilleri, M.A. (2017b). Corporate sustainability and responsibility: Creating value for business, society and the environment. Asian Journal of Sustainability and Social Responsibility, 2, 1, 59-74. https://ajssr.springeropen.com/articles/10.1186/s41180-017-0016-5

Camilleri, M.A. (2018a). The promotion of responsible tourism management through digital media. Tourism Planning & Development15, 6, 653-671. https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/full/10.1080/21568316.2017.1393772

Camilleri, M.A. (2018b). Unlocking corporate social responsibility through digital media. In Communicating Corporate Social Responsibility in the Digital Era.  Lindgreen, A., Vanhamme, J., Maon, F. and Watkins, R. (Eds), Routledge: Oxford, United Kingdom, https://www.routledge.com/Communicating-Corporate-Social-Responsibility-in-the-Digital-Era/Lindgreen-Vanhamme-Watkins/p/book/9781472484161

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 Development27(3), 530-536. https://doi.org/10.1002/sd.1909

Camilleri, M.A. (2019b). Measuring the corporate managers’ attitudes towards ISO’s social responsibility standard. Total Quality Management & Business Excellence, 30, 13-14, 1549-1561. https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/full/10.1080/14783363.2017.1413344

Camilleri, M. A. (2020). European environment policy for the circular economy: Implications for business and industry stakeholders. Sustainable Development28(6), 1804-1812.https://doi.org/10.1002/SD.2113

Camilleri, M.A. & Ratten, V. (2020). The sustainable development of smart cities through digital innovation. Sustainability, Available online: https://www.mdpi.com/journal/sustainability/special_issues/Smart_Cities_Digital_Innovation (accessed on 24 August 2021).

Salonen A.O. & Camilleri M.A. (2020). Creating Shared Value. In Encyclopedia of Sustainable Management, Idowu S., Schmidpeter R., Capaldi N., Zu L., Del Baldo M. and Abreu R. (eds), Springer, Cham, Switzerland. https://papers.ssrn.com/sol3/papers.cfm?abstract_id=3683975

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The students’ perceptions on remote learning through video conferencing!

Photo by Chris Montgomery on Unsplash

This is an excerpt from a recent article that was published by Springer’s Technology, Knowledge and Learning Journal.

Source: Camilleri, M.A. & Camilleri, A.C. (2021). The Acceptance of Learning Management Systems and Video Conferencing Technologies: Lessons Learned from COVID-19. Technology, Knowledge & Learning.

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.

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The acceptance of learning management systems and video conferencing technologies

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

Introduction

An unexpected Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic has disrupted the provision of educational services in various contexts around the globe (Rahiem, 2020; Johnson, Veletsianos & Seaman, 2020; Bolumole, 2020). During the first wave of COVID-19, several educational institutions were suddenly expected to interrupt their face-to-face educational services. They had to adapt to an unprecedented situation. This latest development has resulted in both challenges and opportunities to students and educators (Howley, 2020; Araújo, de Lima, Cidade, Nobre, & Neto, 2020). 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. Several HEIs articulated contingency plans, disseminated information about the virus, trained their employees to work remotely, and organized virtual sessions with students or course participants.

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).

Theoretical implications

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 image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is the-use-of-learning-management-systems-and-conferencing-technologies.png
Figure 1

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.

A prepublication copy of this contribution can be downloaded through: https://www.researchgate.net/publication/353859136_The_Acceptance_of_Learning_Management_Systems_and_Video_Conferencing_Technologies_Lessons_Learned_from_COVID-19

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The service quality and performance of higher education institutions

This is an excerpt from one of my latest articles that was published in the International Journal of Quality and Service Sciences.

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

qual HEI

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

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Customers are always right, even after their shopping cart checkout!

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The outbreak of COVID-19 and its preventative measures have led several businesses and consumers to change their shopping behaviors. Many individuals have inevitably reduced their human-to-human interactions in physical service environments and were increasingly relying on the adoption of digital media and mobile devices, including smart phones and tablets for their shopping requirements.

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.

Advances in technological capabilities have improved the consumers’ online shopping experiences. As a result, more businesses are benefiting from the expertise of online marketplaces to deliver personalized services to their customers. For instance, Amazon provides product recommendations to its visitors, that are based on their previous searches.

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.

Key Takeaway

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.

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This is an excerpt of my latest academic article that was published in the Journal of Strategy and Management. It is available here: https://www.emerald.com/insight/content/doi/10.1108/JSMA-02-2021-0045/full/html

A prepublication version is available through ResearchGate.

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Motivations to subscribe to streaming services

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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: 

https://www.emerald.com/insight/content/doi/10.1108/SJME-04-2020-0074/full/html

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.

Recap

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

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What was the employees’ state of mind during COVID-19?

This is an excerpt from my latest open-access research that 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


Academic Implications

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 [36]. 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 [99]. 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 [3]. 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 [64]. 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 [45]. 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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Using mobile learning for corporate training: A contextual framework

This is an excerpt from one my my latest chapters on the use of digital media.

Suggested citation: Butler, A., Camilleri, M. A., Creed, A., & Zutshi, A. (2021). The use of mobile learning technologies for corporate training and development: A contextual framework. In M. A. Camilleri (Ed.), Strategic corporate communication in the digital age. Bingley: Emerald, pp. 115-130. DOI: 10.1108/978-1-80071-264-520211007

Photo by Daniel Korpai on Unsplash

There are a number of factors that can have an effect on the successful implementation of mobile learning (m-learning) for training and development purposes, including their course content, learning outcomes, the users’ perceived ease of use, usefulness and enjoyment, among other issues.

The individuals’ accessibility to these technologies or their spatial environment can also have an effect on their engagement with m-learning. Moreover, there may be certain distractions in the environment that can disrupt m-learning and/or decrease their effectiveness.

Csikszentmihalyi’s (1975) flow theory suggests that individuals can be completely focused on specific tasks (Csikszentmihalyi, Aduhamdeh & Nakamura 2014). They may immerse themselves in their training and development through m-learning. Of course, they have to be in the right environment where there are no distractions. Hence, the contextual setting of m-learning can influence its effectiveness. For example, experiential learning theory suggests that individuals learn through their ongoing interactions with their surrounding environment as they find meanings to problems and develop their understanding (Illeris, 2007). Similarly, Kolb’s (1984) learning theory posits that knowledge may result from a combination of direct experiences and socially acquired understandings (Matthews & Candy 1999). Laouris and Eteokleous (2005) discuss about the critical factors that could influence the outcomes of m-learning.

Hence, this contribution builds on these theoretical insights and on the findings from this study. The authors of this chapter put forward a contextual framework for m-learning. They identify the specific factors, including; accessibility and cost; the usefulness of the learning content; the ease of use of the technology; time; extrinsic and intrinsic motivations (e.g. rewards and perceived enjoyment, among others); integration with other learning approaches; individual learning styles and predispositions; and spatial issues and the surrounding environment, as featured here:

A prepublication version of this contribution is available here: https://www.researchgate.net/publication/344337930_The_Use_of_Mobile_Learning_Technologies_for_Corporate_Training_and_Development_A_Contextual_Framework

The authors argue that these eight contextual factors can have an effect on the successful implementation of m-learning.

  1. Time: This relates to the time that the users dedicate to learn to use and to engage in m-learning.
  2. Spatial issues and the environment: These relate to the physical location of the user when they access m-learning content.
  3. The usefulness of the learning content: The learning content (video, audio, written, or a combination of these) has to be useful to improve the mobile users’ knowledge, skills and competences.
  4. Ease of use of the technology: The m-learning technology has to be easy to use. It may (not) be connected to wireless networks (if it is, there should not be connectivity problems when accessing the content). The m-learning technology may require passive or active learning (for example, reading and/or interacting through games).
  5. Individual learning styles and predispositions: The m-learning technology should consider the individuals’ age, cognitive knowledge (e.g. memory); skills; visual, auditory and/or kinaesthetic abilities, as well as their preferences toward certain technologies. The technology may require interaction with peers or facilitators in synchronous, or asynchronous modes (these issues will depend on the learning outcomes of the mentioned technology).
  6. Extrinsic and intrinsic motivations: Organisations and professionals should also consider extrinsic and intrinsic motivations to entice the mobile users to use the m-learning technology.
  7. Accessibility and cost: These relate to the accessibility and cost of the m-learning technology. It can be available through different mobile platforms. It may be used by wide range of users (who have different learning needs) for different purposes. The software and/or hardware ought to be reasonable priced.
  8. Integration with other learning approaches: The m-learning technology ought to be complemented and blended with offline teaching approaches.

This proposed framework represents different contextual factors that can have an effect on the successful implementation of learner-centred corporate education (see Grant, 2019; Janson, Söllner & Leimeister, 2019). These eight factors are influencing the effectiveness of m-learning during the training and development of human resources. Hence the arrows are pointing inwards. However, the factors in the outer circle are related to each other and they can lead to further considerations. M-leaners may choose a short video over a longer podcast to learning or revise depending on the content or their situation. There are innumerable other examples of contextual learning due to the diversity of people, organizations and learning resources, objects and opportunities. For example, time is related to the spatial issues and the environment. The mobile users will use their downtimes wisely at the office, at home, or whilst commuting to and from work if they engage with m-learning applications. Their down time may provide them with an opportunity to improve their learning journey.

Conclusions and implications

The contextual factors for mobile learning encompass a variety of dimensions including time, spatial issues and the environment, the usefulness of the learning content and the ease of use of the technology, individual learning styles and predispositions, extrinsic and intrinsic motivations, accessibility and cost, as well as integration with other learning approaches.  The authors posit that this comprehensive framework can support businesses in their human resources training and development. It enables them to identify all the contextual factors that can have an effect on the successful roll out of m-learning designs.

This chapter has featured a critical review of the relevant literature and has presented the findings from an empirical research. The data for this study was gathered through quantitative and qualitative methodologies. The researchers have disseminated a survey questionnaire among course participants and have organised semi-structured interview sessions with corporate training participants. In sum, this study reported that the younger course participants were more likely to embrace the m-learning technologies than their older counterparts. They suggested that they were using laptops, hybrids as well as smartphones and tablets to engage with m-learning applications at home and when they are out and about. These recent developments have led many businesses to utilize mobile technologies to engage with their employees or to use them for their training and development purposes.

Therefore, this contribution has identified the contextual factors that should be taken into account by businesses and/or by training organisations. Thus, the authors have presented their proposed framework for mobile learning. This framework is substantiated by their empirical research and by relevant theoretical underpinnings that are focused on m-learning.

The authors are well aware that every study has its inherent limitations. In this case, this sample was small, but it was sufficient for the purposes of this exploratory study. Future studies may include larger sampling frames and/or may use different research designs. The researchers believe that there is still a knowledge gap in academia on this topic. For the time being, just a few studies have explored the use of mobile learning among businesses. The mobile learning technologies can be rolled out for the training and development of corporate employees. The training organisations can encourage their course participants to engage in self-directed learning and development through formal, informal or micro learning contexts. Corporate educators and services providers of continuous professional training and development can use the mobile learning applications to improve the employees’ skills and competences. This may in turn lead to increased organisational productivities and competitiveness.

This chapter was published in Strategic Corporate Communication in the Digital Age.

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The effect of macro celebrity and micro influencer endorsements on consumer-brand engagement on Instagram

Photo by Solen Feyissa on Unsplash

The following is an excerpt that was drawn from one of my latest contributions.

Suggested citation: Rios Marques, I., Casais, B., & Camilleri, M. A. (2021). The effect of macro celebrity and micro influencer endorsements on consumer-brand engagement on Instagram. In M. A. Camilleri (Ed.), Strategic corporate communication in the digital age. Bingley: Emerald, pp. 131-144. DOI: 10.1108/978-1-80071-264-520211008

Brands seek to improve their customer engagement in social networks. They may use different tools including the endorsements of digital influencers. Therefore, this chapter addresses a gap in the academic literature as it compares the outcomes of different types of digital endorsers including celebrity endorsers and micro-influencers, in the context of a luxury jewellery brand. The researchers delve into Instagram’s analytics to explore the differences between two types of digital influencers. This study examines the number of followers, the clicks, comments and likes on the brand’s page in Instagram. The results suggest that different types of digital influencers are generating various forms of engagement and interactions. The celebrity endorsements are boosting the number of followers, while the use of a micro-influencers is increasing the number of clicks, comments and likes on the brand’s pages. This contribution implies that luxury brands can optimize their online marketing strategies by using digital influencers. It proves that the use of social media influencers can enhance the customer-brand engagement.

Celebrity endorsements

Most brands today are committed to associate themselves with famous personalities. They may consider sport personalities, athletes and celebrities from the movie industry (Vaghela, 2012), because they are trusted by their followers when they promote products and services (Schimmelpfennig & Hollensen, 2013) and/or social causes (Casais & Proença, 2012). It is also important to understand that the use of celebrity endorsement enhances the consumers’ attitudes toward the brand, credibility in the brand, and can ultimately increase their purchase intention (Wang & Scheinbaum, 2018). The celebrity endorsement is recognised as a theoretically powerful communication tool for brand marketers (Carroll, 2009). The public are fascinated by famous people and celebrities. They may consider them as role models. Therefore, brands are using popular celebrities to advertise their products. The celebrity endorsements are improving the brands’ return on investment and the success rates of their marketing campaigns (Pringle & Binet, 2005). Several studies have concluded that the celebrity endorsements influence the consumer buying decisions (Bergkvist & Zhou, 2016). Those studies stress that the online users recall those products that are promoted by the celebrity endorsers. The credible endorsers can influence their followers’ perceptions about the quality of the brands’ products as they associate the endorsed products with the image of the celebrity image (Hollensen & Schimmelpfennig, 2013).

Macro-celebrities are reference people who attract the public. They are considered influential as they can entice the consumers’ buying attitudes and trigger behavioural changes (Chung & Cho, 2017). The credibility of the source depends on three factors: expertise, reliability and friendliness. Expertise is the communicator’s ability to support what is said in advertising, reliability is related to the communicator’s objectivity and honesty, and friendliness describes the attractiveness of that source (Vaghela, 2012). To gain a broad and loyal following, macro celebrities create interesting and engaging content, one type of content that has actually been very popular with the public is celebrities. Celebrities can also be branded because they can be professionally managed and they possess the attributes and particularities of a brand(Schimmelpfennig & Hollensen, 2013).

Micro-influencers

Individuals including young micro-influencers are increasingly using the social networking applications through their mobile devices. They are using them as their main platform to raise their profile among other social media users. Very often, these micro-influencers are considered more important in the digital environment than popular celebrities (Dunkley, 2017). These digital influencers are sources of inspiration and advice for other digital consumers. The originality and the uniqueness of their posts are key factors for effective content marketing. Their online opinion leadership can influence other consumer intentions and behaviours (Casaló, Flavián & Ibáñez-Sánchez, 2018). They use their online profile to connect with other social media users and to raise awareness about the brands’ products. These influencers are considered important in the online community (Khamis, Ang & Welling, 2017). Therefore, many companies approach those influential bloggers who are capable of marketing and promoting their products and services. Very often, they are expected to create new promotional content, including texts and images on behalf of their sponsor (Gustafsson & Khan, 2017).

Social networks have provided a platform for ordinary online users as it enabled them to share their personal stories and content. Hence, their social media posts may become visible and popular (Casaló et al., 2018), particularly if they share interesting content that appeals to their followers. The strategic and targeted development of social media content can improve the micro-celebrities’ (or micro-influencers’) public visibility and attention (Khamis et al., 2017). The advantage of micro-influencers is that they have created real relationships with their audience and expressed themselves more personally than most conventional celebrities (Djafarova & Rushworth, 2017). Micro-celebrities have become very popular through Instagram, but these days they can also be found on YouTube, Twitter and other social platforms. They are benefiting of several lucrative opportunities that were made available through the social media (Djafarova & Rushworth, 2017). As a result, more individuals are becoming micro-celebrities as they gain popularity among other users through social networks. Micro-celebrities would not raise their profile and be famous, if the social networks did not exist. The more followers a person has, the more noticeable is their social influence (Jin & Phua, 2014). These influencers are very powerful because consumers rely on their referrals and word-of-mouth publicity. They maintain interactive, personal relationships with their audience by engaging with them through social media (Camilleri, 2018; Djafarova & Rushworth, 2017).

To use this marketing strategy, companies need to identify the most appropriate digital influencer to represent their brand.  There are influencers who may have different traits and characteristics that can appeal to specific brands (Bernazzani, 2017), in terms of identification, credibility and product-endorser fit (Schouten, Janssen & Verspaget, 2020). For example, micro-influencers may have fewer followers, but they are usually committed to engage with them. They tend to interact with their audience and to produce relevant content that appeals to their followers (Barker, 2016). Cautious, thoughtful and the effective use of endorsements in social media can leverage the brand in the marketplace. They contribute to create brand awareness and improve the brand equity. All of this is only possible if the marketing managers choose the most appropriate celebrity to represent their brands (Anagnostopoulos, Parganas, Chadwick & Liu, 2016). The brands’ partnerships with the influencers may be based on their individual characteristics, for example, consumers identify more closely with micro-influencers, and tend to aspire or admire celebrities (Bernazzani, 2017). Bergkvist, Hjalmarson & Mägi (2016) state that the effect of celebrity endorsement is most significant in the consumers’ buying decision when the they realise that the celebrity is not motivated by the money they receive but by the quality of the products that they endorse.

Celebrities, who have a large follower base are more news-oriented and are usually less social than micro-influencers (Kay, Mulcahy & Parkinson, 2020). Celebrities may have a team of collaborators who help them create the advertisements. The bloggers, for example, attract fewer followers than celebrities but they usually focus on more specific topics and niches (Khamis et al., 2017). Hence, the bloggers may be considered as micro-influencers as they attract those followers who are searching for more candid and detailed product content, and/or who may be willing to interact with them (Goodman et al., 2011). In short, partnering with respected digital influencers can help the businesses to gain consumer trust. At the same time, they will help them sell their products and services. (Hsu, Lin & Chiang, 2013).

Conclusion

This research posits that there is scope for the brands to use digital influencers to help them increase their consumer engagement through Instagram. The celebrities and the micro-influencers can support them in reaching wider audiences. The brands will benefit if they increase their number of followers, visits, comments and likes, as this improves the consumer-brand engagement. The findings of this study have clearly indicated that the macro or micro influencers posts have resulted in more Instagram users who have engaged with the luxury jewellery brand. The results have shown that the users’ involvement and interactions depended on the type of influencer that was used.

This study revealed that the celebrity attracted more followers, whereas the micro-influencer attracted more visits to the page. The latter has registered a higher increase than the celebrity, in terms of the number of comments and likes on brand’s publications. In sum, this contribution proves that the digital influencers can increase the consumer engagement with brands. However, different types of influencers may result in different interactions and engagement levels.

A pre-publication version of the full chapter can be downloaded through Researchgate.

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Key Dimensions in Social Media Communication

This is an excerpt from one of my latest contributions that will be published in Emerald’s “Strategic Corporate Communication in the Digital Age”.

Suggested Citation: Capriotti, P., Zeler, I., & Camilleri, M. A. (2021). Corporate communication through social networks: The identification of key dimensions for dialogic communication. In M. A. Camilleri (Ed.), Strategic corporate communication in the digital age. Bingley: Emerald, pp. 33-52. DOI 10.1108/978-1-80071-264-520211003

The relevant literature suggests that there is dialogic communication between organizations and their followers on social media, when both parties are willing to establish a communicational exchange (Kent & Taylor, 2002; Taylor & Kent, 2014). This may result in a dialogue when organizations respond and engage with other social media subscribers. There are two main dimensions that can determine the effectiveness of dialogic communications through social networks: The organizations’ “Predisposition to Interaction” and their “Effective Interaction” with the publics. The first one includes three determinants: “Active Presence”, “Interactive Attitude” and “Interactive Resources”. The second has two determinants: “Responsiveness” and “Conversation” as reported in Figure 1. These are five key dimensions that are influencing the effectiveness of dialogic communications through social networks:

  • Predisposition to interact in social networks

The basis for dialogic communication lies in the subjects’ readiness and willingness to interact with one another. A consistent digital presence and an ongoing dialogue with online users via social networks can help organizations to reinforce their stakeholder relationships. The organizations’ active presence and their interactive content can facilitate the online users’ engagement and may foster two-way conversations (Eberle, Berens & Li, 2013). Their predisposition towards online interactions through social media networks involves three core dimensions: the active presence (that necessitates a continuous online activity that facilitates interaction), the interactive attitude (that manifests the willingness to interact) and the interactive resources (this includes the resources that are used to disseminate content that is intended to promote interaction). Hence, a higher predisposition of organizations towards interaction on social networks is based on a greater level of these three dimensions (active presence, interactive attitude, and interactive resources).

  • Active presence

The active presence suggests that maintaining a consistent presence and activity in social networks increases the possibility of generating conversations with users (Bezawada, Rishika, Kumar & Janakiraman, 2013). The companies can use the social networks as a vehicle to promote their online content including live broadcasts, podcasts, recorded videos, images and stories. It also allows them to create events, conduct surveys and to engage with online users in real-time. Their active presence on social networks enables them to respond and interact with the different publics. The more active their online presence, the higher the likelihood of generating interactive conversations with individuals and organizations. Therefore, a first key dimension is measuring the organizations’ active presence, by identifying whether they have an interactive presence in social networks and to determine what is their level of activity.

The ‘active presence’ analyses the active and consistent use of social networks that enable, facilitate and encourage online users to share the organizations’ information with others. Therefore, the organizations’ ‘active presence’ comprises two variables: (a) the level of presence: to determine whether companies have official corporate profiles on social networks; (b) the level of activity: to analyse the weekly and daily average of publications of organizations on the social networks (e.g. posts and updated statuses). A greater active presence would involve a higher predisposition towards interaction.

Several authors agree that social networks are increasingly being incorporated in corporate communication plans as organizations can use these channels to spread content, practice active listening, take part in online conversations, thereby engaging with online users’ and building a relationship with them (Bortree & Seltzer, 2009; Castillo-Esparcia & Smolak Lozano, 2013; Chu, 2011; Neill & Moody, 2015; Rodríguez Fernández, 2012; Waters, Burnett, Lamm & Lucas, 2009). Other authors contend that the organizations’ presence on social networks ought to be part of their communication strategy (Losada-Díaz & Capriotti, 2015; Viñarás Abad & Cabezuelo Lorenzo, 2012). The practitioners themselves are well aware that there is scope in using social networks in order to enhance their organizations’ communications with stakeholders (Wigley & Zhang, 2011).

Cohen (2015) maintained that it is difficult to quantify the most effective frequency of social media posts. If the organizations post too frequently, they risk annoying their followers, whilst if they post infrequently, their audience may forget that they exist. Various experts, including Capriotti & Ruesja, 2018; Jordan, 2017; Myers, 2019; Patel, 2016; Shane, 2018; Social Report, 2018; Zeler & Capriotti, 2017; Zeler, Oliveira & Malaver, 2019, among others, have put forward their recommendations about the most appropriate publication frequency in different social networks. For example, Kemp (2019) suggested that the posting frequency in Facebook should be between 1 and 2 posts per day, in Twitter between 3 and 5 tweets per day, in YouTube between 1 and 2 videos per week and in Instagram between 1 and 2 posts per day.

Different studies have reported a huge disparity in terms of the outcomes about the presence and activity of organizations on social networks. Some researchers indicated that the activity of organizations on social networks reaches a frequency of less than 1 post per day (Devaney, 2015; Losada-Díaz & Capriotti, 2015; Quintly, 2016; Statista, 2017). Conversely, others found that companies are publishing at least one post per day (Estudio de Comunicación, 2017; Kim, Kim & Hoon Sung, 2014). This disparity in the results is because the researchers may have explored different contexts. Alternatively, they could have used different methodologies and sampling frames to investigate the organizations’ activity on social media networks.

  • Interactive attitude

The interactive attitude is focused on the need to promote actions and content that can enhance online conversations with online users (Safko & Brake, 2009). The organizations may encourage their online followers to cocreate content or simply to share their positive experiences with others and to engage in positive word-of-publicity. They are in a position to foster dialogic, two-way communications on social networks in order to build their reputation and trust from their publics (Camilleri, 2015; Camilleri, 2018b). At the same time, they can demonstrate that they care to respond to their stakeholders’ queries or concerns.

Therefore, a second key dimension involves measuring the interactive attitude, by examining the organizations’ communication approaches on social networks. The organizations’ ‘interactive attitude’ is based on two approaches: (a) informative approach: This refers to the creation and presentation of informative content. Such content is descriptive/expository and encourages unidirectional communications; (b) interactive approach: This refers to the creation and dissemination of content that is intended to trigger conversations and the exchange of information. Hence, interactive approaches facilitate two-way communications (as online users are motivated to participate in online discussions, to disseminate viral content, subscribe to particular activities, share their reviews, opinions and/or recommendations, answer questions, etc.). The interactive approaches necessitate that the organizations’ demonstrate a higher predisposition towards interacting with the publics.

Several authors (Bortree & Seltzer, 2009; Diga & Kelleher, 2009; Eyrich, Padman & Sweetser, 2008; Muckensturm, 2013; Wang, 2015) emphasise that social networks promote dialogic communications, which in turn could improve the relationships with stakeholders. Various studies have reported that many organizations are already using the Internet for corporate communication purposes, as they disseminate information about their business with their publics through corporate websites (Kent & Taylor, 1998; Moreno & Capriotti, 2006), blogs (Seltzer & Mitrook, 2007) and social networks (Bortree & Seltzer, 2009; Ji, Li, North & Liu, 2016; Pace, Buzzanca & Fratocchi, 2014; Waters et al., 2009). Their bidirectional communication is possible as long as there are ongoing conversations and a regular dialogue with stakeholders (Valentini, 2015). For this to happen, it is necessary to share relevant content that appeals to the targeted audiences. This way, the corporate communication messages will result in increased stakeholder engagement and may inspire further interactions with the publics (Abitbol & Lee, 2017).

  • Interactive Resources

The interactive resources include those resources that are required to produce relevant, interactive content (Zeler & Capriotti, 2018, 2019). Theunissen & Wan Noordin (2012) maintain that successful organizations design appropriate dialogic environments that are intended to facilitate stakeholder engagement.  Their corporate communications can be presented through different media including written content and graphics through printed materials, hypertexts and/or audiovisual formats that can be accessed through digital and mobile technologies, etc. Anderson et al. (2016) noted that the communication experts were using writing skills to build relationships with their publics. The author argued that the corporate communications content ought to be relevant, concise and easily understood by online users. The organizations’ creative messages may include certain keywords that appeal to their followers, to foster their interaction (Abitbol & Lee, 2017). Hence, online users may be intrigued to engage in conversations through their comments and replies.

Therefore, a third key dimension is to measure the interactive resources, by studying the information resources used by organizations to spread their content on social networks. The ‘interactive resources’ are a key dimension for corporate communication, as organizations use them to convey information to their publics. Organizations rely on the usage of interactive resources to spread their content to their audiences. The interactive resources, including the social networks can be used to facilitate the interaction and dialogue with online users. The social media enable the exchange of information as they can feature different formats. These formats may usually be combined within the same message. For example, the communication formats include (1) graphic resources: These are composed of fixed images, texts, and emojis. Such resources may be used to foster the dissemination of information in a mono-logic manner; (2) audiovisual resources: These include videos, podcasts and/or animated images (GIFs). Such resources have potential to reach greater audiences because they have a greater capacity to appeal to the individuals’ emotions (as they can increase their attention span); (3) hypertextual resources: These comprise links, hashtags and user tags. They include resources that can trigger the exchange of information. Online users may be enticed to participate, interact and engage in online conversations. The greater access, ease of use and availability of hypertextual and audiovisual resources have led many organizations as well as individuals to use these formats and to present them in social networks.

A few studies indicated that there is a significant increase in individuals who are watching videos  online and/or via social networks. According to the Global Web Index (2017), more than 90% of Internet users watch online videos every month (Smith, 2017), and more than 50% watch videos on the main social networks. These findings represent an increase of almost 20% when compared to the previous year. Valentine (2017) posited that the social media networks have been augmented with the audiovisual resources. The authors argued that the videos add value to the social network strategies as they provide greater levels of engagement. Hence, organizations are encouraged to use the videos to enhance their corporate communication messages (Pletikosa Cvijikj & Michahelles, 2013).

Currently, we are witnessing an exponential growth in the use of audiovisual resources that are posted on social networks (this may be due to the increase in connection speeds coupled with the technological improvements of the mobile devices). However, a review of the relevant literature reported that the fixed image is still the most used resource among organizations (Twenge, Martin & Spitzberg, 2019; Luarn, Lin & Chiu, 2015; Waters et al., 2009). A few studies found that institutional websites were posting more images in social media posts rather than videos and links (Capriotti, Carretón & Castillo, 2016; McCorkindale, 2010). These findings suggest that organizations are using their available resources to publish visual (graphic) content. Some practitioners were not utilizing other formats including interactive, audiovisual resources, in their corporate communication. These latter resources could improve the organizations’ engagement with online users.

  • Effective communicative exchange in social networks

The effective communicative exchange involves continuous interactions between the organizations and the online users, and among the online users themselves, within social networks. The successful dialogic exchanges rely on the parties’ responsiveness as well as on ongoing conversations (Anderson et al., 2016; Kiousis, 2002; Rafaeli, 1988; Walther, Deandrea, Kim & Anthony, 2010). Thus, the communicational exchange between the organizations and their publics is dependent on various forms of interactive engagement (e.g. likes, comments, follows, tagging, mentions with hashtags, group memberships, etc.). The greater implementation of the conversational exchange will represent a higher level of interaction.

  • Responsiveness

The responsiveness is evidenced when the recipients react to the communications that they receive. This is usually demonstrated when there is a response or reply (from the part of the recipient of the information) to an original message. For example, the ‘likes’ and ‘shares’ of the social media networks would clearly indicate the online users’ responsiveness to the organizational communications (Anderson et al., 2016; Macnamara, 2014). The likes suggest that the individuals are (somehow) appreciating the posted content (within social media), albeit in a passive manner. Recently, Facebook has introduced other features in addition to its popular like function, including love, care, haha, wow, sad and angry emojis.  Similarly, Linkedin has included the like, celebrate, love, insightful and curious emojis. Yet, these forms of communication do not involve any verbal expression from the social media users. On the other hand, when individuals share posts (and links) of organizations, or of third parties in their profile, they become volunteer spokesmen for them as they promote their content (Abitbol & Lee, 2017; Cho, Schweickart & Haase, 2014). Therefore, a fourth key dimension is to measure Responsiveness, by studying the rate of support and viralization generated by organizations on social networks.

Organizations are encouraged to measure their social media users’ responsiveness to their digital content that they share via social networks. For instance, individuals may exhibit different ‘levels of responsiveness’ toward the organizations’ posts through social media platforms. Their degree of responsiveness may be evaluated  by the social media users’ engagement, in terms of: 1) Rate of Likes: obtained from the average of total likes by company and post in relation to the number of followers of companies; (2) Rate of Shares: obtained from the total average of shares by company and post in relation to the number of companies’ followers. Hence, organizations can use these quantitative measures to better understand the level of responsiveness to their social media activity.

  • Conversation

The conversation dimension involves interactive communicative exchanges between two or more parties. The recipients of the communication interact with the communicator and engage in conversations. For example, online users can dialogue and exchange their insights with organizations through the social networks (Anderson et al., 2016; Kiousis, 2002; Walther et al., 2010). The conversation on social networks is usually manifested through ‘comments’. The comments are the most genuine expression of the online users’ interaction on social networks. They are considered as most relevant element as they provide a rich source of qualitative data to organizations. They require much more commitment than likes and shares, as organizations are expected to respond to the social media users’ comments and to engage in direct conversations with them. Hence, online conversations facilitate the communicative exchange between the organizations and the publics (Abitbol & Lee, 2017; Cho et al., 2014).  Therefore, a fifth key dimension analyse the rate of conversation generated by organizations on social networks.

The digital conversations provide qualitative insights to organizations about their followers or other online users. The organizations may capture and analyse the interpretative content of online users through social media posts and comments. The quantitative measures may include: a) Intensity: this refers to the total general number of exchanges between an organization and their publics, based on the rate of comments. (b) Reciprocity: this refers to measuring whether there is equitable communication between an organization and its followers, analysing the level of balance in the exchange between an organization and its publics, obtained from the total percentage of comments made by users and companies. Thus, the more balanced the communicational exchange between an organization and its publics, the greater the quality of the interaction. And the more imbalanced the communicational exchange between an organization and its publics, the poorer the quality of interaction. Thus, it is in the interest of organizations to maintain a balanced communicational exchange with their publics.

The full version of this chapter (a pre-publication version of this contribution) is available through ResearchGate and Academia.edu.

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