God in the Workplace

Dec 21st 2011

The following is a guest post co-authored with Dianne Timmering, VP of Spirituality for Signature HealthCare.

Joe and I served as the keynote speakers at the recent SHRM meeting in Louisville, Kentucky, a meeting made up of Human Resource leaders across the state. I will admit we were nervous, confronted with a topic normally anathema to such a group: policy and procedure conflicting with the enigmatic blanket of God in the Workplace. It wasn’t that they wouldn’t be gracious or offer a cursory listen – there was, after all, a $1,500 drawing at the end of the meeting for one lucky recipient, so they sort of had to suffer through. And it’s always hard to give the concluding speech to a sea of kind fatigue.

But that’s not what happened at all. They listened. At one point, Joe asked if he was talking too fast, and they said ‘yes.’ They wanted to hear clearly the twinkle of newness, a glint of opportunity to expand the meaning of their jobs beyond the rudimentary row of the canoe, so to speak. We began with the tactical elements of rolling out spirituality through an unconditional love and respect for all faith traditions. We explained how we took a grassroots approach because much of the opposition and skepticism came from the top. We discussed the role of HR; how it started as a talent pool, a central force focusing on the exploration and development of people into leaders, but through the decades devolved into policy, static development and even worse, paperwork.

Audience members were free to leave, and a few did – but very few. We presented spirituality as a core competency, the power of spiritual discernment as a new ingredient to help them reach their people—the struggling, the hopeful, the vulnerable. Our audience was suddenly engaged as if a secret of the soul had been dusted off. After all, why be in HR if you don’t want to help people? We spoke of ‘the unmentionable’: empathy, second tries, prayer, creative ways to develop talent, renewal of purpose, imparting being, the power of authenticity and other things that don’t have formulas. We presented a new approach outside of the day-to-day and the EAP (Employee Assistance Program), and the reentry of the ‘C suite’ by restoring HR to its 1950s role as an agent of change.

Maybe they started to remember why they had taken the job in the first place. It was a renewal of purpose of what spirituality could mean: the freedom and creativity to go beyond the practical solution with the simplicity of love, the importance of meeting people at the point of their need, loving fiercely without judgment, offering freedom to express without watering down faith traditions, and simply respecting the person next to them. The freedom to worship or not to worship, but the freedom to be, has expanded the audience, not minimized it, we shared. The art of listening has moved the mountain of faith into the belief of a spirituality component into everyday life, we offered.

We discussed measurable outcomes and metrics. They asked endless questions: How do you go up against obstinate leadership in manufacturing? How do you ‘hire the heart’ as much as the skill set? Is this an approach outside of the EAP? How do you incorporate spirituality into daily operations with skepticism on every side? How do you honor faith traditions outside of the more conventional or widely-accepted belief systems? How do you change the hearts of non-believers who don’t support the program? Did God strike anyone down? (We, of course, said there was no ‘striking down’ at Signature!)

But something bigger clearly began to ‘strike’ their hearts. We said we would help. We will see…

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