We hear a lot about “bringing your authentic self to work” but what might that mean and why does it matter? What is one’s “authentic self?” Can I safely, and proudly, be everything that makes me “me”or do I need to hide or change certain parts of myself to belong? Our authentic self is simply everything that makes us who we are. We carry a variety of identities with us and often, our faith or religious identity is one not often shared at work. But for many, our faith identity impacts how we live our lives.
Faith can present itself in many ways, some visible at work, some not. Whether one adorns a long beard, or wears a head covering like a kippah, hijab, or turban or just dresses demurely. Navigating through the workday, finding a space for prayer, or missing team lunches to fast, or requesting a day off for a holiday our peers may not celebrate or even know about, are all actions that may be driven by faith identities.
In 2017, Salesforce’s interfaith employee resource group (ERG) Faithforce was established to support, celebrate, and foster understanding of our global faith diversity. Faithforce creates a culture of respect, empathy, and belonging at Salesforce by inviting people of all faith backgrounds, or none, to come together and build connections. It promotes religious literacy through fun, educational initiatives that help us become better, and more well-informed, allies to one another.
According to Pew Research Center, 77% of the U.S. population identifies as religious with the other 23% identifying as atheist, agnostic, or “nothing in particular.” In order to create an inclusive environment for people of all beliefs, we should create a safe and inclusive workplace where employees of varying faith backgrounds — whether that’s a defined religious identity, a form of spirituality, or no affiliation at all — can feel valued, seen, and empowered to succeed.
Here are 4 ways you can create a faith inclusive workplace:
1. Create an interfaith employee resource group (ERG)
Employee resource groups (ERG), or Equality Groups as we call them at Salesforce, are employee-led and employee-organized groups centered around sharing life experiences or backgrounds. ERGs create an opportunity to appreciate our differences and learn from the stories of our peers. Consider creating an ERG that focuses on interfaith dialogue that is inclusive of all worldviews, rather than a faith-specific organization that may only capture one worldview. An interfaith ERG exists to acknowledge and learn about employees’ varied religious identities in order for employees to be unapologetically themselves while getting comfortable learning to understand other faith worldviews.
Faithforce is the interfaith ERG at Salesforce meant to create space to celebrate our diverse faith identities and learn from one another. Our Faithforce Global President and Co-Founder Farah Siddiqui has said, “I have been an ‘only’ and ‘an other’ in the office for most of my career. A group like Faithforce just creates a space where people like me can feel seen, can feel celebrated, and feel like we truly belong here too.”
When asked what Faithforce means to them, here’s what a few of our employees have said:
Faithforce has really given me a platform to build confidence in … talking about faith. .. we all have a desire to feel connected and to feel heard and feel understood.Joshua Aldridge, partner success manager, Oregon, U.S.
Joshua Aldridge, partner success manager has found a safe place in the workplace to feel connected to colleagues and explore faith. “[Faithforce] is a space where I can ask questions about others’ experiences. Faithforce has really given me a platform to build confidence in … talking about faith, but really just a desire to understand the human condition … we all have a desire to feel connected and to feel heard and feel understood.”
Faithforce has really enabled me to initiate courageous conversations with persons of faith and non-faith backgrounds.Hanain Hafeez, associate success manager, Sydney, Australia
Hainan Hafeez, associate success manager believes, “Faithforce has really enabled me to initiate courageous conversations with persons of faith and non-faith backgrounds allowing them a safe space to ask any questions, to really feed the curiosity and learn from one another and I do hope that in doing so, we are able to create a more tolerable and accepting society of everyone’s uniqueness and individuality.”
Faithforce … has allowed me to learn from others about what their belief systems are, understand them, and bring them back into my life.Matt Evans, senior director of transformation, Utah, U.S.
Matt Evans, senior director of transformation is grateful to an employee group that allows him to better understand his colleagues and what matters to them. “I love Faithforce. It has allowed me to learn from others about what their belief systems are, understand them, and bring them back into my life. Most importantly, Faithforce has given me space and a place to be me. To bring my authentic self to work … Faith is a personal belief system that I didn’t often share, but now I can.”
2. Create a culture of trust and inclusion
Faith and cultural diversity are a modern reality for our workforce. Managers can take the lead in raising awareness around upcoming faith-related events and holidays along with their potential accommodations. And encourage their team to learn about upcoming holidays, attend interfaith events, and learn as an active interfaith ally.
Holidays are celebrated in a variety of ways by attending a religious service or ceremony, praying at specified times in the day, participating in fasts or adhering to specific dietary requirements, and more. To build trust, ask your team how you can better support them and if there are any holidays or religious observances you should be aware of.
As an interfaith ally, consider participating in interfaith events to learn from your peers. Faithforce members participate in interfaith panels, speaker events, cultural and holiday celebrations, as well as work with faith-based nonprofits and interfaith community groups committed to serving those less fortunate.
For example, Faithforce celebrates annual events such as Passover Seders, Easter choirs, and holiday celebrations for Eid ul-Fitr and Eid ul-Adha, Diwali, and more! In 2020 we also hosted interfaith activists and speakers: Simran Jeet Singh, author of “Fauja Singh Keeps Going”, Valerie Kaur, founder of the Revolutionary Love Project, and Eboo Patel, founder of Interfaith Youth Core in separate speaking events. In the past, we have also led workshops on religious literacy, faith inclusion, and cultural appropriation.
3. Ensure faith inclusion at events
Faith inclusion is also important when welcoming all guests to your events. There are many aspects to consider, from dietary needs (halal, vegetarian, kosher, etc.) as well as spaces, like prayer or meditation rooms. If possible, integrate a place to ask for attendees preferences in event RSVPs to ensure the event is inclusive.
Be mindful of major religious holidays
- Create a calendar with all the major religious and spiritual holidays. Be mindful of these dates when planning important meetings or events to ensure employees don’t have to choose between attending an event or honoring their religious holiday.
- Sometimes scheduling conflicts cannot be avoided. In the instance of Ramadan for example, when Muslims fast from dawn to sunset each day, it may be inconvenient to ask a team to avoid planning any important meetings/events for a whole month. What we can do is ensure that if an event is scheduled during a religious event, we provide accommodations and acknowledgment for those who celebrate.
Include a multifaith meditation and prayer room
More and more we see events that include mindfulness or meditation spaces, but these spaces are not always accommodating for prayer. People from different faiths can pray or meditate in different ways, and providing an open and clear space for prayer is a simple way of adding faith inclusion to all events.
We recommend these specifications for this space:
- Preferable to have signage to show the room is in use
- Includes an open space for prayer with minimal furniture
- No pictures of people inside the room, on walls (scenery or nature pictures are okay)
- Small table
- Prayer rugs and scarves
- A basket to hold prayer rugs/scarves/beads
Provide meal and drink options
- Make dietary restrictions an option available on the RSVP form during event registration. Include kosher, halal, and vegetarian as pick-list options.
- Include accommodations for those who are fasting, when possible. Many faith traditions include periods of fasting including the Islamic month of fasting, Ramadan and Tisha B’Av and Yom Kippur, the Jewish days of fasting, to name two. If a large event is being held, see if take-out containers can be provided or schedule later pick-up times for food.
- Offer mocktails or other drink options at parties for those who abstain from alcohol.
4. Take action on instances of cultural appropriation or religious bias
Cultural appropriation is often defined as taking or using an aspect from a minority culture without knowing or honoring the meaning behind it. When we talk about cultural appropriation in the context of religion, think of how objects such as a turban, hijab, kippah, bindi, images of auspicious characters, and more are used as fashion and art centerpieces for profit by major brands. Consider sharing the Inclusive Marketing Practices Trailhead module with them to learn more about inclusive context, appropriation, and counter-stereotyping.
Ultimately, it is up to each of us to create an inclusive interfaith environment. Be an ally to your friends and coworkers from different faith backgrounds. Listen to their stories and attend events. Bring your authentic self to work, faith included. If you are a leader, provide the space and resources to support our employees and build inclusive environments. At Salesforce, we work to cultivate equality at work by understanding the impact of unconscious bias and encouraging practice inclusive leadership. Learn more about building an inclusive workplace at salesforce.com/equality and take the Inclusive Leadership Trailhead module.