The Religious Freedom and Business Foundation held a conference about how companies can do a better job including faith in the workplace.
Held at Utah Valley University just outside of Salt Lake City, attendees gathered considered what it means to bring one’s whole self – spiritual beliefs and all (or even none) – to work every day.
As workplaces around the country commit to diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) initiatives, studies show some people find religious expression an integral part of their lives, but don’t always feel free to share that once entering the workplace.
While his black attire and white collar obviously identifies him, Anglo-Catholic priest Father Greg McBrayer told the conference goers that he would certainly have retired after decades on the job if not for the joy he gets from sharing his faith at work.
McBrayer, now a chaplain for American Airlines, spent the majority of his 43-year tenure directing flight traffic and most recently as a chief flight control director. But after the terror attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, McBrayer says he started making his faith a part of his work. He believed his job wasn’t something separate from his spiritual walk with God.
While many people might push back at the idea that religion and faith should have a place in the office, Brian Grim, founding president of the Religious Freedom and Business Foundation and one of the world’s experts on faith and economics, explained that as companies find all diversity helpful, even to their bottom lines, the same can be found with making faith a part of corporate DEI.
Grim said paying attention to religion need not conflict with a company’s other diversity commitments.
“With research we’ve done globally, we find that where a company has freedom to have more acceptance of religious practices, they’re also more accepting of LGBT people more and more,” he said. The foundation’s founding president added that respecting religious beliefs also “opens the door for companies to stand up for other human rights issues.”
But even for businesses who are more inclined to see their mission in dollars and cents, Grim said that it just makes, well, good business sense. Allowing people to be themselves “gives a company a competitive advantage that increases employee morale, and therefore retention,” he explained.
Grim said that establishing faith-related employee groups increases how welcoming the workplace is, especially for people whose faith practices may not be the most practiced or popular.
Grim’s research also finds that religion contributes an annual $1.2 trillion to the U.S. economy, more than the combined revenues of the top 10 technology U.S. companies including Apple, Amazon and Google.
As this is the time of year many people celebrate religious holidays, companies that accommodate folks who need time off to practice, often have an advantage over workplaces where only the most common faith, or that practiced by the company owners or managers, is acknowledged.
The Religious Freedom and Business Foundation is planning an upcoming conference in Washington, D.C. after the new year.