September 1, 2005


Spiritual guidance... in the workplace?: Companies that hire workplace chaplains find that besides helping employees, they may help their bottom line, too. (Jane Lampman, 9/01/05, The Christian Science Monitor)

It's not that businesses are trying to take on a religious role. Corporate chaplains serve people of any or no faith, and the use of their services is voluntary. But business leaders increasingly recognize that employees who face crises often can't help bringing their personal difficulties to work, and job performance can suffer. Making provision to care for their workforce becomes a part of good business practice.

Bringing chaplains into the company "takes issues away from managers that they don't know how to handle and gives them to those that do," says Tim Embry, CEO of American LubeFast Inc., based in Duluth, Ga.

As a result, many employees are getting support that can make a significant difference in their lives, while companies say they're seeing a more satisfied, even more productive workforce.

When Coca-Cola Bottling Consolidated of Charlotte, N.C., tested a pilot program for chaplains at its Nashville, Tenn., plant, it measured changes in productivity, safety, quality, profitability, and employee perspective. "All objective criteria got better," says vice chairman Ron Pettus Jr. Along the way, "two people were talked out of suicide and are leading productive lives; several rocky marriages were reconciled; and many were helped out of financial problems and to resolve issues with their children."

The great surprise came, though, when the employees told management that, if necessary, "they'd take less benefits in order to keep the chaplain program going," Mr. Pettus says. Coca-Cola Bottling now has 25 chaplains serving employees at 58 sites.

Human resource departments used to be places to seek help, some observers say, but they've tended to become policy offices that are less in touch with day-to-day employee needs.

"If an employee has a substance abuse problem, or their husband is abusing them at home, or they're going through some trauma, most are not likely to go to the HR department and say, 'Would you just listen to me for a while?' That's where a chaplain fulfills a need," says David Miller, executive director of Yale University's Center for Faith and Culture. Last month, the center held a national conference in New Haven, Conn., on workplace chaplaincy as a developing service and career.

Speaking at the conference, Mr. Embry explained that he engaged chaplains at his oil-change business because he thought it might help the young kids who worked for him get on the right track.

Many were in their first or second job, and "they often didn't make good decisions for their lives, and would end up in the ditch," he said. Despite being "on the edge" financially, he made the investment.

Not only did lives turn around, but so did his company.

Posted by Orrin Judd at September 1, 2005 6:45 AM

I've suffered through enough corporate "voluntary" morale building events. I'll take my religion separately, thanks.

Posted by: Governor Breck at September 1, 2005 12:17 PM

The whole place is a cult.

Posted by: oj at September 1, 2005 12:26 PM

Yes, and you proved to be an unworthy infidel and were cast into perdition. You can never know the closeness of pure unity with the holy COMPANY. Now if you'll excuse me, I have to do my purely voluntary ergonomic exercises.

Posted by: Governor Breck at September 1, 2005 9:01 PM