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An increasing body of evidence suggests that ‘Considering the diversity of your workforce and fostering an inclusive working environment can bring business benefits and provide a market advantage in economically straightened times.’
And in the area of religion and belief, in particular, work carried out by the Equality and Human Rights Commission since the Equality Act 2010 found that ‘employers and employees, service providers and service users are often unclear about their rights and obligations. They are unsure how to request or respond to a request related to an individual’s religion or belief, or how to manage diverse workplaces or diverse service user groups.’
There is an emerging business case for gathering insights and listening well to people’s experiences of faith in the workplace:
“At the organizational level, if a company has composite information about manifestation patterns for faith and work integration, it may bring many potential business benefits, including increased diversity and inclusion; avoidance of religious harassment or discrimination claims, respect for people of different faith traditions or worldviews, and possibly a positive impact on ethics programs, employee engagement, recruiting and retention.” (Miller, D. Ewest, T. 2013, ‘Rethinking the Impact of Religion on Business Values: Understanding its Reemergence and Measuring its Manifestations’.)
In our experience as strategic research and communications consultants, a mix of quantitative and qualitative methodologies can be accommodated in many organisations to help people express their needs and understand each other better.
Where existing regular mechanisms are already in place, like an annual staff survey, carefully framed questions to identify provisions which are already appreciated by those who need them or which would be welcome if introduced, can go a long way to assessing the most practical forms of reasonable accommodation.
And while the aim of a workplace where people of all faiths and none can flourish is not to increase representation of particular beliefs, there is an argument for giving people the opportunity to disclose religion or belief in surveys and for noting how many people choose the ‘prefer not to say’ option. If, over time, the levels of disclosure increase, that could arguably be seen as an indication that people are more comfortable to be open about their beliefs than they were before.
But for more nuanced conversations and to identify potential challenges before they become problems, hearing from people through more qualitative methods facilitated by trained professionals can bring to the surface opportunities to develop greater understanding of people’s preferences and requirements.
Small focus groups, either recruiting participants to reflect the demographic profile of the organisation or workforce, or identifying particular teams where conversations are emerging, can help enormously, especially if respondents are clear about the purpose of the conversation and the ways their insights will be used in organisational development.
Or, in multi-location workplaces, using technology to facilitate online and Skype discussions can enable rapid progress and contribute to relational and collaborative work styles.
We recommend that organisations consider developing, with help from research and communications experts, a bespoke programme identifying ways to hear from colleagues and build a diverse, inclusive and flourishing workforce.
Through our Faith Research Centre, we have developed a helpful process to follow, using high-quality tailored research techniques:
Audit your current level of understanding, awareness and ability to serve your stakeholders well, recognising that your relationships with customers, suppliers and employees benefit from a greater understanding of diversity and inclusion
Activate simple and effective changes to deliver significant improvements
Assess the differences you observe in workplace relationships and employee satisfaction as a result of your journey
Adjust to refine your practice and develop your understanding of your market
For advice, consultancy and research tools to help you listen and respond to your colleagues please contact firstname.lastname@example.org
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