by Kent Johnson, J.D., Senior Corporate Advisor, Religious Freedom & Business Foundation
Part of the blog series, Authenticity & Connection
A recent conference of the Religious Freedom & Business Foundation featured hugely diverse presenters and audience members, focused on advancing “Authenticity and Connection” in workplaces worldwide.
Speakers included C-suite executives and members of the “rank and file” of some of the world’s largest and most influential companies, and small companies; Muslims, Jews, Atheists, Humanists, Hindus, Sikhs, Buddhists, Evangelical Christians and “Nones,” among others. There were chaplains and other clergy representing a wide spectrum of belief systems. Legal experts, philosophers, poets, HR experts, ethics experts, military leaders, business school deans and other educators… all gathered to consider how freedom of religion and belief (FoRB) in our increasingly diverse workforces can enable deep, authentic and warm connections.
A whole lot of amazing and compelling data and information was shared in this three-day conference, and it’ll take time to digest it and consider the implications, including reports about positive impact of FoRB on the “three R’s” of Recruitment, Retention and Revenues. But most impactful (I think) were the many personal stories of warm, trusting friendships that are being forged across deep cultural, racial, religious, ideological and even political divides.
We heard of tears, earned respect, warmed hearts, and unlikely connections… many unlikely connections, made without compromising individuals’ core values and beliefs. We heard of many “aha” moments. We heard how FoRB is emboldening companies’ “rank and file” to appropriately speak truth to power… and influencing “bosses” to listen and invite new perspectives. FoRB is affirming human connectedness everywhere.
These weren’t exceptional instances involving just a few.
We learned that this spirit of authenticity and connection is on the move in companies like Intel Corporation and Texas Instruments, tied for first place honors in the 2021 REDI index. As they create, make and market the useful products and services for which they’re best known, companies like these also offer a compelling cultural “product”, a way of relating that ennobles humanity. This is “catching.” It’s inspirational.
The conference featured so many, representing such a broad spectrum of beliefs and areas of expertise, because the widespread ills of incivility, divisiveness and distrust can only be surmounted by purposeful efforts by many people, coming at it from all directions, through all disciplines.
At the close of the conference we asked participants and attendees to pause and reflect on what we’d all heard; to reflect personally, in their own hearts, on the WHY behind their work and their workplace relationships, and how their faith and core principles guide their work. Participants encouraged each other to listen deeply and respectfully to people who have beliefs that differ from their own; to speak authentically and thoughtfully to others about the things that matter to them. To be purposeful, and bold – and sensitive. And then to be accountable to their own expressed beliefs.
In the end, I think there was wide consensus on this: Though the business case for action to embrace religious diversity and inclusion is strong, it’s not JUST about the three Rs: Recruitment, Retention and Revenues. This is RIGHT. We’re at our best when we purposefully seek to engage from our hearts and souls on this deeper level.
Many of us left the conference with a fresh sense of optimism and hope. The world needs the authenticity and connection that we’ve seen in this conference. This MATTERS. And it’s possible.
In future weeks we’ll begin to unpack some of the specific learnings from the conference. As always, we invite your input.