The sharing economy continues to expand as technology makes it easier to connect people, goods and services. In co-authored research, ITOM Associate Professor Ulrike Schultze considers the role of information technology in attaining an organization’s corporate social responsibility goals, and specifically employee engagement.

“Employee engagement is really a big deal in organizations,” notes Schultze. When senior managers are asked what keeps them up at night, “certainly in the United States, employee engagement is right up there,” she says. Schultze believes that organization-sponsored sharing platforms will expand in the years ahead.

The study considers the Zimride ride-sharing platform as a prototype of the business-to-business-to-peer-to-peer (B2B2P2P) business model. A key difference between this private version of P2P platforms and others such as Uber and Airbnb is that access is limited to organization members. Schultze and her co-author stress that to work effectively, technology and management must synch up. CIOs, says Schultze, can play an important role in influencing a more effective design of sharing platform features. The authors note that the public P2P platforms of Uber and AirBNB are also seeking entry into the enterprise market.

The research focuses on the oldest, organization-sponsored ride-sharing platform, Zimride by Enterprise®, and specifically, how to more effectively integrate the platform to encourage employee engagement. Zimride does not rely on a transaction fee model like Uber or Lyft for financial success. Instead, a sponsoring organization pays for the technology through an annual subscription and a setup fee; its members use the platform for free and find and match rides as drivers or riders. The study’s sample represented 22 universities, two government organizations and one corporation.

Zimride relies on organizations in which critical mass of users can be achieved. A form of security comes from its members-only access. According to Schultze, while many social platforms exist, this is “a platform where people have to use it to generate value.”

After the platform is integrated with the sponsoring organization’s technology, making it successful requires effort. The authors identify the need to achieve critical mass or network scope as one area of management attention. They suggest offering incentives such as special parking or free car washes to incentivize and build the supply of drivers for the private rides-sharing network.

Sharing platforms provide an infrastructure on which employee relationships and organizational commitment can develop. “Corporate social responsibility is certainly important for reporting purposes and to create a certain culture in the organization,” says Schultze. By sponsoring investment platforms that encourage individuals to share their resources — thus improving the lives of others in their community — organizations’ employee engagement is likely to grow. Due to the network effects of the P2P marketplace, employee engagement will have a multiplier effect.

The research finds that organization-sponsored sharing platforms present a self-sustaining approach to creating a culture of employee engagement.

The research finds that organization-sponsored sharing platforms present a self-sustaining approach for creating a culture of employee engagement. They create shared value by promoting communal and sustainable living through collaborative consumption, that is, peer-to-peer sharing of goods and services via a virtual marketplace.

Given the importance of employee engagement as well as corporate social responsibility today, Schutze and her co-author believe that sharing platforms will increasingly become part of organizations’ IT offerings. Importantly, this new area of management focus seeks to harness the value-generating capacities of organizational members. Schultze’s co-authored paper, “Organization-Sponsored Sharing Platforms: Implementation Recommendations for Building Employee Engagement,” is under review by MIS Quarterly Executive.