Last month, the Religious Freedom and Business Foundation (RFBF) released a report showing that several large companies, including Google, Target and Facebook, are making great strides to promote religious freedom.
“When you look at the whole argument for an inclusive work environment, it is to make people feel that they are valued as human beings,” said Kent Johnson, senior corporate adviser with RFBR to Christianity Today. “The HR profession has come to realize that people matter, right where they are. The emphasis on creativity, teamwork, the need for new ideas has just taken off in the last decade. When people feel like they can bring their whole self to work, that’s the motivation for a lot of companies to look into this.”
These top-ranked companies, such as Google, offer “employee resource groups” (ERG) to their employees. They operate similarly to “clubs” where people of different faiths can gather to discuss their faith. Google’s Inter Belief Network was started by Barbara Phillips, who also leads the Christian Fellowship chapter, and includes chapters for Jews, Muslims, Buddhists, and other faiths.
Tyson Foods ranked third on the list, in part because of its commitment to a chaplaincy program. Karen Diefendorf, lead chaplain at the food manufacturing company, does daily rounds through the production floor. Her employees know to give her a thumbs up if they’re doing well or thumbs down if they need counseling.
“If I need more than the 15-minute break or have multiple people I need to see, any chaplain is free to go to that person’s supervisor and work [out] a time to get them off the line,” she said. She oversees 100 chaplains, most of whom are Christian, that serve over 100,000 employees at nearly 400 locations.
Though the push for religious inclusion is encouraging, Jeff Haanen of the Denver Institute for Faith and Work believes that people of faith should not equate the presence of ERGs to having a faith-friendly workplace.
“It’s a good trend to see this happening, especially in large corporations. It can be an aspect of faith in the workplace,” he said. “[But] don’t think an ERG is the only place to express your faith in your workplace. You express your faith through every context at work. The values of a corporation are ultimately a religious, philosophical worldview. But as a believer, Christ is Lord of all things and he is renewing all things.”
Many of these corporations also highlight their groups for race, ethnicity, and sexual orientation more than religion. Among Fortune 100 companies, only 18 percent mentioned faith-based groups while 77% included ERGs for race and 78% for gender and sexual orientation.
Photo courtesy: Pawel Czerwinsk
Mikaela Mathews is a freelance writer and editor based in Dallas, TX. She was the editor of a local magazine and a contributing writer for the Galveston Daily News and Spirit Magazine.