PRESS – Business First Article – “Spirituality plays a valuable role in the workplace”

The June 29th edition of Business First Magazine featured an article written by our good friend Dr. Rick Underwood and me entitled “Spirituality Plays A Valuable Role in the Workplace”.

The entire text of the article is below, or you can view it free on Business First’s website HERE.

Spirituality plays a valuable role in the workplace
by Dianne H. Timmering and Rick Underwood


Are there appropriate ways that spirituality can play a positive role in the workplace while respecting diversity issues? There are some for-profit organizations who think the answer is a resounding “yes.”


Through the years, faith-based, nonprofit organizations such as hospitals often were the only workplaces that placed an emphasis on faith development and growth in spirituality. That is changing as more for-profit organizations experience the value of promoting spirituality among their staff and clients.


Some, such as Signature HealthCare, are integrating spirituality into their business plan while enjoying positive business outcomes. Signature, for example, launched its grass-roots spirituality program in 2005, focusing on spiritual care delivery with a dedicated chaplain and spirituality program for each long-term care center.


Qualitative and quantitative results confirmed the need for well-trained chaplains in spiritual care as it related to employee empowerment, meeting residents and their family members at the very point of need, and improved therapy and clinical outcomes.


For Signature, spirituality became an issue of the heart, founding the program on unconditional love for all faiths and cultures. Educating the Signature chaplain corps on tenets of understanding, listening, and humility was key to the spirituality program’s early success as well as encouraging the love and respect for one’s “neighbor,” regardless of religious or philosophical affiliation.


Members of the Signature community began to learn from one another with the barriers down. Now God (of each person’s understanding) in the workplace is a part of the fabric of their culture, from recruiting to decision-making. Purpose and personal mission, which all of mankind eventually pursues, are explored and encouraged.


Background of the movement


The roots of spirituality in the workplace began in the 1920s as individuals sought to live their faith and spiritual values in the workplace. Through the years, the interest in finding creative ways to integrate spirituality into the workplace has grown.


Some trends that led to this interest were:


• Mergers and acquisitions that destroyed the sense of security for workers and led some to seek forms of inner security;


• A global economy that called into question long-term economic viability;


• A decline of mainline church attendance because, for many, the message was no longer relevant;


• Baby boomers facing retirement who began to ask questions about meaning and purpose.


A new focus on spirituality


In the workplace today, terms such as transformation, transcendence, meditation and soul have become commonplace. Many workers in a knowledge-based business environment want to bring their entire self to work: body, mind and spirit.


It now is apparent that interest in matters of spirituality is shared by active members of faith groups of all kinds, by people whose religious practices have lapsed and by those who seek purpose, especially when it is lacking or seems to be unidentifiable.


Implications of spirituality in the workplace


Spirituality is essential to health, credibility, trustworthiness, respect, fairness, meaning of work, sense of community, creativity, commitment, ethical behavior and productivity. Recent unethical behavior among top corporate executives has confirmed the need for integrity and ethical behavior. Fortune magazine found that corporations that adhere firmly to integrity based on these values have a 50 percent higher growth rate.


Traditionally, the term “religion” has been associated with an institutional community that practices faith in a specific tradition or creed. In contrast, the word “spirituality” in the workplace is being treated as an alternative or, in some cases, a complement to religion that involves focusing on a particular way of thinking about self, others, work and organizations.


Promoting spirituality in the workplace


Activities that promote spirituality in the workplace include:


• Servant leaders/employee assistance programs (or less of a need for such);


• Programs in diversity, bereavement, wellness and stress management;


• Support groups and prayer systems;


• Management and leadership systems that promote growth, development and transformation;


• Encouragement of creativity, self-expression and innovation;


• Feedback systems that help all walk the talk of the values of the organization;


• Brown-bag lunch discussions of similarities of different faith group beliefs and practices.


As the world faces many uncertainties in the future, new strategies that integrate spirituality as one of the core business functions can help bridge the generational gaps, empower people through a spiritual intelligence of gained wisdom, inspire and retain a loyal work force, create outstanding customer service, contribute to the development of a global future story and ensure financial sustainability.


Rick Underwood is managing partner and performance consultant for Leadership Management Institute in Louisville. Dianne H. Timmering is vice president of spirituality for Signature HealthCare in Louisville.


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