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Identity and Image Running head: IDENTITY AND IMAGE

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Organisational Identity and Employer Image: Towards a Unifying Framework

Filip Lievens, Greet Van Hoye, and Frederik Anseel Ghent University, Belgium

In press British Journal of Management

We would like to acknowledge Bert Schreurs, Lieselot Boone, and Kristof Cazaerck for their help in collecting the data. The views, opinions, and findings contained in this paper are solely those of the authors and should not be construed as an official Belgian Defense position, policy, or decision, unless so designated by other documentation. Address of correspondence: Filip Lievens, Department of Personnel Management and Work and Organizational Psychology, Ghent University, Henri Dunantlaan 2, 9000 Ghent, Belgium. Phone: +32 9 264 64 53; Fax: +32 9 264 64 94; E-mail: filip.lievens@ugent.be.

Identity and Image

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Organisational Identity and Employer Image: Towards a Unifying Framework

Summary This study aims to bridge two research streams that have evolved relatively apart from each other, namely the research streams on organisational identity and on employer branding (employer image). In particular, we posit that it is crucial to examine which factors company outsiders (applicants) as well as company insiders (employees) associate with a given employer. To this end, this study uses the instrumental-symbolic framework to study factors relating to both employer image and organisational identity of the Belgian Army. Two samples are used: a sample of 258 Army applicants and a sample of 179 military employees. Results show that both instrumental and symbolic perceived image dimensions predict applicants’ attraction to the Army. Conversely, symbolic perceived identity dimensions best predict employees’ identification with the Army. Results further show that employees also attach importance to outsiders’ assessment of the organisation (construed external image). Theoretical and practical implications for managing organisational identity and image are discussed.

Identity and Image

3

Organisational Identity and Employer Image: Towards a Unifying Framework

In social situations such as cocktail parties, dinners, or alumni reunions, there is a high probability that we have to answer the question for which organisation we work. If we subsequently tell who our employer is and the conversation sways almost immediately in another direction, this might indicate that the organisation is held in low regard. However, if people express their appreciation and keep talking about the organisation, this might suggest that the organisation is highly valued. We will typically compare the information received from outsiders of the organisation to what we as insiders of the organisation believe the company stands for. When an employer is viewed favourably by ourselves and by others, organisational membership probably enhances our self-esteem and our organisational identification is likely to be strong. The reverse happens when an employer is held in low regard. In other words, this so-called “cocktail party test” provides valuable information for individuals gauging which employers are held in high (or low) regard and how outsiders are judging them. From a theoretical point of view, the issues elicited by this cocktail party test can be framed in the context of social identity theory (Ashforth and Mael, 1989; Dutton and Dukerich, 1991; Haslam, 2001; van Dick, 2004). According to this theory, people’s identity and self-esteem are partly determined by their membership of social organisations, such as the organisation they work for or their specific work group. Although social identity theory was originally developed to explain intergroup relations, it has heavily influenced research on organisational identity and identification in the last fifteen years (see Ashforth and Mael, 1989, and for overviews, see Haslam, 2001; van Dick, 2004). The basic premise is that organisational...
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