The Value of Faith

In today’s economy there are more candidates on the market, but organizations don’t want to just take whoever has the right knowledge, skills and abilities. Companies want to attract and retain high-caliber talent that is the right fit for the organization.

Hiring for fit can significantly reduce costs associated with turnover and recruitment, and the first step in finding the right fit is exploring values alignment between the candidate and the company.How organizations go about ensuring values alignment varies across industries, but faith-based organizations stand out.

Faith and religion play a vital role in the lives and cultures of many people throughout the world. Seventy percent of the world’s population identify themselves as members of a faith community, which situates communities of faith in a privileged position to influence behavior and attitudes, according to a 2008 article from UNAIDS, the Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS.

Faith-based organizations (FBOs) also have a history of delivering social services. Many nonprofit health care organizations are FBOs, and often take care to ensure the mission and the values they espouse are public to convey the expectation and alignment between employee and company success.

For instance, the mission statement for The Salvation Army USA is as follows:
“The Salvation Army, an international movement, is an evangelical part of the universal Christian church. Its message is based on the Bible. Its ministry is motivated by the love of God. Its mission is to preach the gospel of Jesus Christ and to meet human needs in his name without discrimination.

“The Salvation Army’s 11 articles of faith reflect our determination to remain faithful to our standards and principles. All members of The Salvation Army are encouraged to review these principles from time to time and to reaffirm before God their dedication to him and to his good works.”

In its mission The Salvation Army makes a point to say that all members are encouraged to be dedicated to God. It also states that God is viewed through a specific lens of evangelical and Christian beliefs.

That’s clear and explicit. But in an effort to attract the best-fit talent, some faith-based organizations that mention dedication in their missions choose to express their beliefs with a softer presence. Fast-food restaurant chain Chick-fil-A’s corporate purpose is “To glorify God by being a faithful steward of all that is entrusted to us. To have a positive influence on all who come in contact with Chick-fil-A.”

The privately held corporation is the second largest chicken-based fast-food chain in the U.S. and generates billions of dollars in revenue annually. There are company-owned and franchised restaurants in malls and airports, as well as freestanding restaurants, all of which are closed on Sundays. It is the only major fast-food chain to do this.

“Our decision to close on Sunday was our way of honoring God and directing our attention to things more important than our business. If it took seven days to make a living with a restaurant, then we needed to be in some other line of work. Through the years, I have never wavered from that position,” said S. Truett Cathy, Chick-fil-A founder and a devout Southern Baptist.

The Keeper at the Gate
Sometimes all it takes is the right verbiage to attract like-minded talent. Many health care organizations state that potential candidates would be working in “faith-based territory” or the “faith-based vertical.”

In related job postings the words “faith-based” appear in the first or second sentence used to describe the position. By specifically stating the type of culture and assumed values the FBO holds, the organization is customizing its talent acquisition approach to produce desired results.?

The job description is where organizations can rely on their deep affiliations with faith as a gatekeeper to filter out candidates who may not fit the culture. That’s why organizations should be clear about who they are, and more importantly who they are not.

Stating the organization’s mission and values early in the candidate selection process allows candidates to self-select out if they feel there is a misalignment with their personal values.

Early gatekeeping is an emerging trend on many career sites. Strong values-based organizations are posting statements about their organizational culture, mission and values on the career landing page. To ensure potential candidates read this, they must select “yes” to move on to the next page of job postings.

If candidates do not agree with the values or do not select the “yes” button, they cannot search job openings. This is a low-cost approach to position the self-select out option.

Consider the following example from the career landing page from the Eastern Idaho Regional Medical Center (EIRMC), a Hospital Corp. of America hospital.

“At our hospital, we live and work by values called?I am EIRMC. These values guide how we interact with patients, visitors and other colleagues.

“I am EIRMC?was created by hospital employees, and the promises they embody are important to all of us.?We hope they?resonate and align with your personal and professional values, too.”

The company goes on to detail what I am EIRMC means using words and phrases such as “special privilege to serve others,” accountability, “act like an owner,” honesty and “I will speak up, sharing my ideas and concerns.”

EIRMC also discusses different behavioral scenarios and how employees would be expected to react in those situations: “I will greet, smile and welcome each person I encounter. Not only will others see my smile, they will hear it in my voice.”

The values — quality, loyalty, integrity and respect — are clearly stated and described in measurable behavioral terms. EIRMC asks potential candidates: “Do you believe in, and are willing to live by, the values of I am EIRMC? Great! Click ‘Agree’ to search for positions at EIRMC.

“If you are uncomfortable committing to the I am EIRMC values, then take a moment to contact our HR department to learn more about why this is so important in our hospital, or exit our website, and best of luck to you finding the job of your dreams.”

Clear as Mud
Clarity of message can be helpful to screen potential talent, but there can be pitfalls for faith-based organizations when their mission and values become a focus for negative media attention.

Never mind attracting new talent, it is difficult for current employees to maintain focus and commitment when external forces, family and friends driven by negative media attention put pressure on the individual to divest from the organization.

The Boy Scouts of America (BSA) is under such scrutiny today based on its stance against homosexuality due to the Scout Oath.

The Scout Oath reads: “On my honor I will do my best to do my duty to God and my country and to obey the Scout Law; to help other people at all times; to keep myself physically strong, mentally awake and morally straight.”

The BSA prohibits “avowed” gay and lesbian children and adults from participation, citing its principle to be “morally straight.” The BSA also prohibits membership for children and adults who are atheist and agnostic, citing its “duty to God.”

In July 2012 Tim Griffin was fired from a Boy Scout camp near Sacramento, Calif. Officials claim the 22-year-old was fired because he refused to follow clothing and Scout regulations, but critics maintain he was fired for being openly gay. When news of his dismissal was known within the organization, 10 staff members quit in response.?

The firing comes in the wake of BSA announcements that it stands behind its ban on openly gay Scouts and leaders in the organization. The decision to maintain the ban resulted in a wide range of reactions, from open dismay to conservative support. This deep alignment to the foundational belief of the BSA does affect its talent pool and demonstrates how these beliefs can and do attract, retain and repel talent.

In September 2012, at an Arizona SHRM Conference event, the audience attending a session on cultural fit was asked if anyone would like to stand up and recite his or her company values or mission without looking at the company badge or reading from a note. Only one hand rose in a room of more than 200 people, and that person recited the values verbatim. The person’s organization was a faith-based nonprofit.

Faith-based and values-based cultures can do much to ensure they attract and engage employees who will best serve their missions and have those values live in the hearts and minds of the employees rather than on a plaque on a conference room wall.

Lizz Pellet is vice president for the U.S. Group at consulting company Felix Global. She can be reached at