Facebook Vimeo Flickr Blog RSS Feed

Religious Diversity in the Workplace

Religious Diversity in the Workplace

According to a 2008 study of over 500 Senior Executives, “More than ever, businesses, governments, non-profits and other organizations are finding it necessary to adopt a global mindset in order to remain viable and relevant in today’s global marketplace.  As organizations recognize the importance of developing greater cross-cultural competence, diversity and inclusion practitioners are at the forefront.”      - Global Diversity and Inclusion – A study conducted by Economist Intelligence Unit for SHRM, the Society for Human Resource Management.

Through Religious Diversity in the Workplace, the Interfaith Center offers a variety of services to help deepen understanding and build strong work teams across faith and culture. Understanding of the many practice and sensibilities that exist is also beneficial in working with diverse clients, patients, and constituencies. Flexibility and understanding the needs of our religiously diverse workforce can both deepen employee loyalty and avert HR/legal complaints.

“It will definitely help us to associate and interact with our visitors in a respectful manner.”-Franklin Institute Participant, Religious Diversity in the Workplace

We offer the following services as part of Religious Diversity in the Workplace:

Programs:  Department or company-wide educational programs are available for “Understanding Religious Diversity.”   Two popular programs are:  A Panel Presentation and Q&A, focused on 4-5 faith traditions (90 minute-2 hours) and an Interactive Case Studies format — round table discussion of case studies, examining scenarios that arise in the workplace, (60-90 minutes).  Interfaith Center staff meets and works with Management, HR and/or Diversity and Inclusion teams to identify interests, values and goals in order to design the most effective program.

Coaching & Consultation:  Frequently, specific questions and situations arise pertaining to particular employees’ faith traditions, practices and needs, especially if they are unfamiliar.  The Interfaith Center offers confidential coaching and consultation for Managers or HR/Diversity Personnel.  These consultations (meetings or by telephone) address matters that arise, where objective information may be needed about a particular faith — or to assist in accommodating religious observances in ways that advance the values of the organization and help to avert legal complaints.

Training:   The Interfaith Center offers training workshops that can be coupled with the above programs/consultations or designed separately for managers who supervise religiously diverse teams.   Trainings to build cultural competence – knowledge and skills about a variety of faith traditions — can be held separately from or as part of overall diversity training programs. Two-hour, half-day or full day training workshops can be designed, as well as a series of workshops.

“Some were fearful of tacking the issue of religious diversity in the workplace. Today’s program illuminated how much is to be gained; I am personally taking away practical sensitivities and making a commitment to applying them in my role.”  -PECO/Exelon Executive, Participant, Religious Diversity in the Workplace

Questions to Consider in the Workplace

How do we create a comfortable work environment for people of all faiths and for those who are 'non-religious?'

Simple, everyday practices reflect our culture. What foods do we serve at meetings and in our cafeteria? Are we aware of holidays and fast days that impact the scheduling and nature of key meetings? Do we display symbols at holiday times? Do we create opportunities and “safe spaces” to assess how such practices contribute to a comfortable work environment for people of diverse cultures and faiths, as well as for those who are “non-religious”?

How do we recognize and welcome religious difference?

At times, religious differences are visible through head coverings, clothing, jewelry, etc.  What assumptions and responses do these evoke in our managers and fellow employees?  Do religious differences invite curiosity or discomfort? Enrich or divide work teams?

Frequently, religious diversity is invisible and core parts of our employees’ lives and identities are not known or understood.  Are there times when informal or formal communication has been inadvertently offensive?  Are there missed opportunities to engage personnel?

How do we accommodate religious diversity?

Do our Employee Policies and Codes of Conduct include accommodations that embrace religious diversity?  Do we have flexible dress codes?  Make allowances for time off for religious holidays?  When religious practice requires an employee to pray during the work day, is there an appropriate private space that can be used for such purposes? Is there flexibility in break times?

What do we need to know and where do we turn?

Do we have a place to turn to learn more about the faith expressions and needs of our personnel – proactively and in response to questions or concerns that arise?  How can we get accurate information, especially about people of minority faith traditions?  What competencies are needed to create an inclusive, engaging work environment?

What’s New

For consultation or questions relating to religious diversity contact Rev. Nicole Diroff at 215-222-1012 or ndd@interfaithcenterpa.org.