The purpose of this paper is to examine how employee satisfaction affects firm value around the financial crisis.
The authors use the 2008 financial crisis as exogenous shocks to firms to mitigate endogenous concern that employee satisfaction and firm value can be jointly determined. The authors compare firm value of two groups of firms: the firms on the Fortune magazine’s list of “100 Best Companies to Work For” and matched firms that are not on the list. The authors employ difference-in-difference approaches in the tests.
The authors find that when the crisis happens, the best companies experience larger decreases in firm value than comparable firms. In addition, such decreases in firm value only exist among the best companies with high financial flexibility. The authors also show that job satisfaction alone does not create firm value during the financial crisis; only when interacted with high financial flexibility, employee satisfaction leads to high firm value. Finally, the authors document that best companies do not have any advantage in the recovery of firm value after the crisis, regardless of their level of financial flexibility.
There is considerable debate on whether job satisfaction leads to performance or performance leads to satisfaction (Luthans, 1998). The authors show that the impact of employee satisfaction on firm value changes over time. The authors also identify a crucial factor that impacts the value-creation of employee satisfaction: financial flexibility. The findings suggest that the ambiguous results documented in prior literature can be due to the different sample periods and the failure to identify the impact of financial flexibility in previous studies.
The findings provide helpful implications to the business community. The evidence suggests that to reap the benefits of employee satisfaction, companies need to manage their financial flexibility to buffer against potential negative shocks while having strong corporate governance mechanism to mitigate agency concerns. Moreover, the study provides an investment recommendation to socially responsible investment (SRI) and suggests that it is better off implementing dynamic SRI investment strategies according to economic condition.
The evidence suggests that the economic value of employee satisfaction is related to firms’ financial flexibility and economic conditions.
The authors contribute to the literature by showing that the impact of employee satisfaction on firm value changes over time. The test design not only allows the authors to study the effect of employee satisfaction on firm value at a particular point in time, but also helps the authors examine the variation in the effect over economic cycles. This paper also contributes to the literature on SRI. The authors identify a crucial factor that impacts the value-creation of employee satisfaction: financial flexibility.
Support from a Seattle University Summer Faculty Fellowship is gratefully acknowledged. The authors also wish to thank Yan Zhao for her assistance in data collection.
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