In recent years, many corporations and organizations have made significant investments to foster and develop diversity programs for their employees. Most have discovered that workers who feel included, valued and nurtured usually thrive as loyal, committed and productive team members. Few organizations, though, have made the ultimate leap to recognize faith as a dimension of diversity.
However, as employee fatigue from a 24/7 connection to work through technology, and as younger, and older, employees assess the meaning of life and career, some businesses have started to doubt their doubts when it comes to faith in the workplace. For many years, an employee talking about their faith was not just frowned upon but usually strongly cautioned against. Long shunned in the high-paced, high-tech culture of today’s organizations, faith may have re-established a foothold as companies see it as an uplifting and even uniting force for employees.
Salesforce, the world’s leading provider of customer relationship management systems, has an array of diversity programs ranging from Latino, LGBTQ and Asian groups to veterans, women and those with unique abilities within their disabilities. Each group is a “force” within the company — as in Abilityforce, Latinoforce, Outforce, etc.
Headquartered in California’s Silicon Valley, not exactly a burgeoning bastion of religiosity, Salesforce has discovered the power of faith in the lives and performance of its employees. In 2017, the company took a leap into faith as part of its diversity opportunities when Faithforce was officially organized.
The company’s website describes Faithforce this way: "We acknowledge, celebrate and foster understanding of our global faith and religious diversity across Salesforce. With the goal of inclusion and empowering our employees to bring their authentic selves to work, Faithforce is open to all people of faith and allies who wish to learn about the different traditions that are integrated into our global communities. Founded in 2017, we have seven regional hubs and are continuing to grow across our offices."
Sue Warnke, director of infrastructure documentation at Salesforce, is part of the Faithforce group. What started as a few people praying has blossomed into a group that includes employees from around the world and across the religious spectrum. Warnke said, “I can bring my whole, authentic self, the most important parts of that self, to work … what a remarkable thing: to allow faith at work!”
No employee should feel pressured or coerced to participate in a faith program. But for too long, citizens have been told that they can have their individual faith and religion so long as they don’t bring it to work or into the public square. When people feel they must disconnect who they are from what they do each day, they tend to feel isolated, marginalized or unappreciated. This disconnect also undermines commitment and performance as behavior and beliefs become more and more compartmentalized. It leads to disengaged employees who may feel they are just a number and that no one understands or cares about who they are as a person.
Valuing faith in the workplace appears to be more than just a passing management fad. Done properly, such programs and opportunities for employees to share faith and faith traditions can create increased understanding, meaningful conversation and better dialogue. Ultimately, faith in the workplace is good for businesses and better for the people who work there. Exploring faith as a dimension of diversity and as a vital element in a holistic view of employees is worth pursuing.