Management, Social Sustainability, Reputation, and Financial Performance Relationships

[We’re pleased to welcome authors, Dr. Robert Sroufe of Duquesne University Pittsburgh and Dr. Venugopal Gopalakrishna-Remani of The University of Texas at Tyler. They recently published an article in Organization & Environment entitled “Management, Social Sustainability, Reputation, and Financial Performance Relationships: An Empirical Examination of U.S. Firms,” which is currently free to read for a limited time. Below, Dr. Sroufe discusses the motivations for this research:]

O&E_72ppiRGB_powerpointThe motivation for this study on Management, Social Sustainability and Reputation can be found in our profound interest in how innovative organizations integrate sustainability. We developed a unique sample of top ranked Fortune 500 multinational companies to better understand how sustainability practices lead to improved performance. In doing so, we propose new constructs and item development while testing relationships to tradition measures of financial performance. This study looks at exemplary MNCs as identified by Newsweek, The Corporate Knights, and Best Corporate Citizens rankings. Firm level performance is assessed during the time of country level cuts to GHG emissions set by the Kyoto Protocol, and during a period of time in which there was a difficult recession in the U.S. The uniqueness of our study and the results operationalize multiple dimensions of sustainability and ask the question has social performance lived up to the promises made on its behalf?

A challenging aspect of this study is the development of new sustainability constructs involving management, social performance and reputation. We were able to utilize multiple measures from both Newsweek and Bloomberg to develop and assess new constructs. We found there are significant benefits to sustainability management practices, yet there is more to explore and learn about the practices and relationships involving social sustainability performance. We hope this study provides a foundation for future research into social sustainability and evolving management practices.

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Enhancing Return on HR Investment

[We’re pleased to welcome back Pankaj M. Madhani, Associate Dean and Professor of ICFAI Business School (IBS). Dr. Madhani is the author of “Enhancing Return on HR Investment: Risk Management With Real Options Approach” which has been published in Compensation and Benefits Review and is currently free to read for a limited time. From Dr. Madhani:]

CBR_42_1_72ppiRGB_powerpointWhat motivated you to pursue this research?

For any organization, human resources (HR) are assets that can provide value and competitive advantage; however, such assets have associated uncertainties and risks. There is growing recognition that one of the key risks in a business is related to management of HR. As HR inherently involves a level of uncertainty, and as risk management’s main focus is uncertainty, forging the two fields of risk management and HR is important. Returns on HR investment may not remain stable over time for organizations due to changes in business conditions. The ability of the organizations to operate flexibly in dynamically changing business conditions is crucial on the long run. The “real options” approach enables organizations to evaluate investment opportunities of HR in uncertain environments and highlights how these investments create value through future choices (i.e., options). Research applies this logic to analyze the uncertainties associated with HR assets in organizations and discuss how organizations manage these uncertainties through HR “options,” which are capabilities generated by some HRM practices and their combinations.

In what ways is your research innovative, and how do you think it will impact the field?

The research emphasizes role of HR options in hedging HR related risks and uncertainties and provides risk management guidelines to practicing managers for enhancing return on HR investment. Extending the concept of real options, the research underlines certain HRM practices as creating HR options in terms of reducing uncertainties related to returns, volume and combinations and costs. The value of HR options lies in allowing the organizations to respond proactively to the uncertainties of human assets. HR options enable the organizations to develop and deploy human capital in order to limit downside risk caused by environmental uncertainty and create opportunities for greater returns in the future. In this research, various types of options, such as switching options, growth options, learning options, timing options, scaling options and turnover and productivity HR options are developed. Deployment of such HR options creates a strategic organizational capability to adapt to future contingent events and flexibly manage risks and uncertainties associated with investments in HR. Research also provides various real-life illustrations of such successful deployment of HR options in organizations.

What advice would you give to new scholars and incoming researchers in this particular field of study?

HR options may manage more than one type of risks and have synergistic effects when they act in “bundles” of multiple interacting options. However, when there is no synergy among various HR options related to different types of uncertainty, such as uncertainty of returns, volume and combinations and costs, it results in suboptimal performance. In this scenario, hedging one type of uncertainty will increase other related uncertainties (e.g., managing uncertainty of volume and combinations may lead to increased uncertainty of costs). Thus, there is need to study interactions and interdependency of various HR options to mitigate overall risks, quantify numerically each of the investment options and  investigate the linkage between deployment of HR options and the organization’s operational and financial performance.


Pankaj M. Madhani earned bachelor’s degrees in chemical engineering and law, a master’s degree in business administration from Northern Illinois University, a master’s degree in computer science from Illinois Institute of Technology in Chicago, and a PhD in strategic management from CEPT University. He has more than 30 years of corporate and academic experience in India and the United States. During his tenure in the corporate sector, he was recognized with the Outstanding Young Managers Award. He is now working as an associate dean and professor at ICFAI Business School (IBS) where he received the Best Teacher Award from the IBS Alumni Federation. He is also the recipient of the Best Mentor Award. He has published various management books and more than 300 book chapters and research articles in several refereed journals. He has received the Best Research Paper Award at the IMCON-2016 International Management Convention. He is a frequent contributor to Compensation & Benefits Review and has published more than 20 articles on sales compensation. His main research interests include salesforce compensation, corporate governance and business strategy. He is also editor of The IUP Journal of Corporate Governance.


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Professionalizing Corporate Professions

[We’re pleased to welcome author Dr. Cara Reed of Swansea University. Dr. Reed recently published an article in Management Learning entitled “Professionalizing corporate professions: Professionalization as identity project,” which is currently free to read for a limited time. Below, Dr. Reed reveals the inspiration for conducting this research :]

mlqb_48_3.coverIn this article, I introduce the concept of professionalization as identity project for corporate professions. Before returning to academia, I worked in public relations (PR) as a consultant representing corporate services and professions such as law, accountancy, and surveying.

My experience of working in that occupation, whilst representing other professions, motivated me to pursue my research into the professionalization of UK PR. I wanted to explore in more detail some of the tensions I had experienced between different occupations and their professional status and how an emergent occupation like PR attempts to gain a professional status in this context (I was also a member of PR’s professional body when I worked in the occupation).

My research argues that corporate professions like PR pursue professionalization as an identity project where the professional body attempts to resonate with practitioners’ professional identity construction in order to recruit a critical mass of membership and thereby assert some control over the occupation. Exploring professionalization in this context provides a more nuanced understanding of the dynamics between professional body and practitioner. It also suggests that for professionalization as identity project to succeed, an innovative reconfiguration of discourses of professionalism is required. Placing identity construction at the heart of the professionalization process therefore demonstrates the wider challenges present in all professions in terms of reconciling the differences between the lived realities of practitioners with professional ideology.

I think there is much more to be done to explore and examine professionalization processes for corporate professions. Too often they are dismissed as occupations that do not have professional status and therefore are not worthy of research attention. However, I would argue many of the occupations that fall into the corporate profession category (e.g. management consultancy, information management, and advertising) are hugely influential and with that growing influence, comes attempts to professionalize. My research suggests that for these corporate professions, practitioners’ identity construction plays a greater role in this process and I hope that new scholars to this research area will consider the role of identity in detail in this context. Whilst the corporate professionalization process may not be the same as that for more established professions this does not mean they should not be examined – particularly when the notion of what constitutes a profession is now more fluid and heterogeneous than ever before.

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Argument Complexity and Discussions of Political/Religious Issues

[We’re pleased to welcome authors, Dr. Lyn M. Van Swol of the University of Wisconsin–Madison, Dr. Cassandra L. Carlson-Hill Carolina of Coastal Universit, and Dr. Emily Elizabeth Acosta Lewis of Sonoma State University. They recently published an article in Small Group Research entitled “Integrative Complexity, Participation, and Agreement in Group Discussions,” which is currently free to read for a limited time. Below, Dr. Van Swol discusses some of the findings of this research:]

SGR_72ppiRGB_powerpointPolitical and religious issues can be difficult to discuss in a group, and it can be especially difficult to convince others who disagree with your viewpoint. This paper examined the role of complexity of arguments in a group discussion of a political/religious issue. Groups discussed whether or not the words “under God” should be in the United States Pledge of Allegiance. We had hypothesized that group members whose opinion were more similar to their fellow group members would increase the complexity of their contributions to the group when they were exposed to group members with more fringe opinions, but this was not supported. However, members with more fringe opinions in the group were more successful in influencing the group towards their opinion when they used more complex arguments. Argument complexity did not matter for group members with more mainstream views in terms of how much they influenced the group decision. Because group members with more fringe and discrepant opinions cannot appeal to their opinion being normative and aligned with the majority in the group, it may be important for them to have complex arguments to be persuasive. Complex arguments tend to be more nuanced and less dogmatic, which may make someone with an opinion more different from others in the group seem more flexible and informed. Finally, arguments used by members in the group discussion were more complex when the group had a longer discussion. This highlights the benefits of extending group discussion to let more nuances of the topic of discussion get expressed.

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Submit Your Best Research on Family Business to Family Business Review!

fbra_30_2.coverFamily Business Review (FBR) a refereed journal published quarterly since 1988, is a scholarly publication devoted exclusively to the exploration of the dynamics of family-controlled enterprise, including firms ranging in size from the very large to the relatively small.

Reasons to submit to FBR:

• Rigorous peer review of your research
• Average time from submission to first decision: 30 days
• Impact Factor: 4.229
• Ranked 15 out of 121 in Business

Manuscripts should be submitted electronically to

You will need to create an account in order to submit your manuscript. The system will notify you once we receive the manuscript and have sent it out for review.

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Surcharges and Price Increase

[We’re pleased to welcome authors Dr. Florian Pallas of Iskander Business Partner GmbH, Dr. Lisa E. Bolton of Pennsylvania State University, and Dr. Lara Lobschat of the University of Groningen. They recently published an article in the Journal of Service Research entitled “Shifting the Blame: How Surcharge Pricing Influences Blame Attributions for a Service Price Increase” which is currently free to read for a limited time.” Below, Dr. Pallas reflects on the inspiration for conducting this research and its impact on the field:]

02JSR13_Covers.inddWhat motivated you to pursue this research?

Dealing with price increases—which are frequently unavoidable and/or beyond a company’s control—remains a significant challenge for firms. Surcharges (i.e., additional mandatory charges for performing a service, which are added to the base price) are frequently used when prices and, moreover, price increases, are communicated to consumers. In the service sector, surcharges account for up to 20% of total revenues of companies across different industries, such as airlines or car rentals. A case in point is the U.S. lodging industry, where fees and surcharges increased by nearly 60% over 10 years to a record level of $2.55 billion in 2016. Understanding how surcharges affect consumer blame responses addresses several key questions regarding surcharge pricing: when should service companies use surcharge pricing to accompany a price increase? what types of surcharges help (vs. hurt) companies? and, what are the consumer consequences of surcharge pricing? Our research addresses these managerially important questions in several ways.

In what ways is your research innovative, and how do you think it will impact the field?

Our research contributes theoretically by drawing upon attribution theory to understand its role in consumer response to surcharge pricing. We propose that various kinds of surcharge information act in concert to drive blame attribution for a price increase: Internal (vs. external) surcharges increase blame attribution and minimize the influence of other drivers captured in surcharge information, such as temporal stability, surcharge benefit, and more than one kind of surcharge. In comparison to all-inclusive pricing, we find that (i) surcharge pricing is detrimental to service firms when surcharges cue internal locus of causality, regardless of the temporal stability or surcharge benefit; whereas (ii) surcharge pricing is beneficial when surcharges cue external locus of causality, particularly when the surcharges are permanent and high-benefit; (iii) consumers are more sensitive to increases in the magnitude of internal (vs. external) surcharges, and (iv) in the case of mixed surcharges, internal surcharges are more prominent and minimize the buffering effect of adding external surcharges. Together, these findings demonstrate how surcharges that accompany price increases drive blame attributions in systematic ways as a function of theoretically distinct and managerially relevant surcharge characteristics

What advice would you give to new scholars and incoming researchers in this particular field of study?

We expand the literature on surcharge pricing to incorporate additional theoretically and pragmatically relevant surcharge characteristics (e.g., temporal stability, perceived benefit), as well as the case of both individual and multiple surcharges. Future research is encouraged to examine the impact of causal information in surcharge pricing in other contexts, such as when communicating a price decrease, or in the absence of price change or total price information. Furthermore, our research points to a new and important avenue for future research that takes into account the inter-relationships across surcharges when considering their impact. Last, we find that—in the absence of surcharge pricing—firms do not entirely attribute price increases to internal locus of causality. Does this goodwill benefit depend upon the reputation of the firm or other aspects of consumer-firm relationships?

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What is The Last Question? is an online version of “The Reality Club” and acts as a living document on the Web to display the activities of “The Third Culture.” Since 1998, has continued to feature the Annual Question and has invited contributors to reflect and respond. This year, features its final question: “What is the last question, your last question, the question that you will be remembered by?”

ZiyadZiyad Marar, President of Global Publishing at SAGE and author of Judged: The Value of Being Misunderstood contributed his insight:

“How will people focus more on forming the right question before rushing headlong towards the answer?”

In today’s fast-paced and information-rich world, it is now becoming more vital to slow down and reflect on what matters. A desire for an answer should not harm the process by which ascertain it.

To read more of these insightful questions click here!