Survey of HR Professionals Reflects Continued Rise of Religious Diversity in the Workplace

Oct 27, 2008

Survey of HR Professionals Reflects Continued Rise of Religious Diversity in the Workplace

Employers are Accommodating Religious Needs and Preferences

Alexandria, Va. – The world’s largest human resource organization released a study today indicating that a predominance of employees throughout the country bring a diversity of religion and spirituality to work.

According to theSociety for Human Resource Management (SHRM) survey on Religion and Corporate Culture,only 12 percent of HR professionals reported no religious or spiritual diversity among their organizations’ employees. Plus, where there is diversity, nearly all organizations (98 percent) reported that employees worked together cooperatively.

“Religious diversity in the workplace has been a rising trend for several years, driven by such powerful factors as immigration and globalization,” said China M. Gorman, SHRM’s chief operating officer. “HR professionals recognize that cultures that respect and value religious views benefit from higher employee performance and loyalty to the organization.”

According to the survey, employee morale and retention are most affected when an organization provides a workplace that offers religious accommodations.

Under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, employers must reasonably accommodate employees’ religious beliefs unless that creates an undue business hardship.

The survey of nearly 550 organizations showed that the top three accommodations in the past 12 months were: taking different religious beliefs of employees into account when planning holiday-related events; allowing religious decoration of individual workspaces; and offering flexible scheduling to accommodate religious practices at work (e.g., meditating, praying).

Also, despite concern by some employers that granting individual accommodations would create a wave of such requests, 94 percent of HR professionals reported no increase in formal requests during the last 12 months. Many employers are now routinely offering accommodations that were not formally requested.

“The U.S. is becoming more diverse and employers can leverage this diversity to reach business goals,” said Shirley Davis, director of diversity initiatives for SHRM. “Employees who see cultural and religious diversity being respected in the workplace feel more aligned with their organization, and that has a positive impact on the bottom line. So companies need to see this as far more than a legal requirement.”

Although accommodation of religious preferences is widespread in actual workplace practice, only 51 percent of organizations have a written policy on religious diversity, and only 56 percent offer paid or unpaid leave for holidays not included in the organization’s holiday schedule.

The complete survey can be found on SHRM’s Web site at For more information on workplace diversity trends, also see the SHRM 2007 State of Workplace Diversity Management Survey Report.


About the Society for Human Resource Management

The Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) is the world’s largest association devoted to human resource management. Representing more than 245,000 members in over 130 countries, the Society serves the needs of HR professionals and advances the interests of the HR profession. Founded in 1948, SHRM has more than 575 affiliated chapters within the U.S. and subsidiary offices in China and India. Visit SHRM at


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