How Much Do Prospective Employees Value Employers’ Ethics?

Here's a study I'd love to believe. (I only wish I could…) According to this summary at BusinessGreen.com, a majority of graduating MBAs would be willing to sacrifice as much as $15,000 of salary to work in a company "with a reputation for 'ethical and caring policies." I love the idea that professionals entering the workforce would have that level of caring about ethics and corporate social responsibility. Unfortunately, I can't make those findings fit with either the other studies I've seen or with my experience in speaking with new and soon-to-be graduating business students. (Mind you, I hear far more emphasis on the importance of ethics from these folks than I used to. But a majority? And making a substantial financial sacrifice as well? It just doesn't fit my experience, much though I wish it did.)

Here's what actually got me most concerned about this report, though…

The article states,

"The results of similar studies have been openly questioned by critics who claim that respondents only tend to rate CSR as an important factor in response to inquiries from researchers, because they do not want to appear greedy or selfish. However, Montgomery said that the online survey had been carried out anonymously, limiting the chances of biased responses, and that previous research had suggested that graduates do tend to select roles based on their ideals. He cited previous research that had asked graduates to predict the type of role they would accept, and had then tested their responses against the jobs they ended up with. It found that students had made a correct prediction 68 per cent of the time, suggesting that the majority would follow through on their commitment to look favourably on ethical employers."

As for the first comment, if I recall my social psychology correctly, many folks are just as likely to fudge their responses on anonymous surveys to make themselves feel better about their response. This is particularly true when the response would, if not anonymous, create a negative impression of the respondent. (As opposed to survey questions where the character of the respondent would not be a factor were it not anonymous.) What are the percentages of those likely to fudge such survey responses? I can't recall, I'm afraid, if I ever actually knew.

The second point is the one I found more awkward, though. It is true that sixty-eight percent of respondents is, of course, accurately described as a majority. The other, admittedly 'glass-half-empty' interpretation though, is that forty-two percent is still a sizable minority who wouldn't accurately predict the roles they would accept. Add the possibility that an additional percentage of respondents might be prone to respond to such surveys, even if anonymous, with socially desirable responses rather than perhaps accurate ones, and one needs to wonder just how compellingly this study's conclusions can be supported.

I'll say it again… I truly hope that their conclusions are accurate! I just wish I felt more sure that I could accept those conclusions without a whole lot more information to back them up.

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