Diversity-Management Question: I am the chairman of a religious group at my company. I am working with key business partners in our headquarters city to move forward with a strategy that involves transformation [to a religiously inclusive workplace]. Will you share your vision as to how religious diversity can be represented/highlighted as a primary metric in an overall diversity assessment of the companies you speak with?
A. We’ve assessed best practices for diversity management and religious inclusion for several years, including religious resource groups, which generally follow two models—all-inclusive of many religions or a focus on individual religions (American Express, No. 14 in the 2012 DiversityInc Top 50, is the leader in this with Christian, Jewish and Muslim resource groups).
The key to all those resource groups’ successes is that they are inclusive (anyone can join, including people not of that or any faith) and they are educational, with a primary goal of educating employees about the religion and its members. They cannot ever proselytize or promote anything that is exclusive of anyone else (this primarily surfaces with some religious groups arguing against the inclusion of LGBT people). Read Starting Religious Employee-Resource Groups for more.
Outside of the groups, DiversityInc also measures in the DiversityInc Top 50 survey whether companies make religious accommodations for employees (usually in the form of hours and dress but also including prayer rooms) and whether they allow employees time off for religious holidays. The Tanenbaum Center for Interreligious Understanding (www.tanenbaum.org) has a lot of information on this and on national trends around the issue.