Spirituality adds a new element in the emerging Social Era of business. When you incorporate spirituality into the workplace, you are giving all employees an opportunity to strengthen the business by breathing life into the work and building connections between self, other people and the world. When you inspire your employees, you give them a reason to stay united with the mission of the company and the daily work environment. Managers who realize the impact of spirituality in the workplace find a valuable tool for improving engagement, culture, and effectiveness in their work and the work of their employees.
A recent MIT study on spirituality in the workplace conducted by Ian I. Mitroff and Elizabeth A. Denton found that consumers related positively with companies they perceived as "more spiritual" when spirituality was defined as connectedness of self, other people and the world. Leaders who participated in the study saw a clear line between religion and spirituality. They perceived religion as an inappropriate form of expression in the workplace, but spirituality as a highly appropriate discussion topic. The participants voiced reservations about the potential abuse of spirituality but still felt it was essential. Interviews with senior executives and questionnaires from HR executives and managers indicated that leaders within the workplace could convey more of their "complete selves" at work when spirituality was incorporated into their day. They were also able to offer more of their creativity to the workplace. This shift in connectivity increased the opportunities to strengthen the company and breathe fresh life into the work.
The participants also strongly believe that organizations can learn how to join both the "whole person" and the vast spiritual energy that is available to all in a way that increases their ability to produce quality products and services. Leaders can change the way business works when spirituality becomes an integral part of the workplace. This change is especially significant with our emerging social era of consumerism.
The Social Era is the most recent conversation about how people and business interact. This new era evolved from a shift in consumer expectations that coincides with the start of the digital revolution. The evolution of the Social Era has changed the way consumers interact with organizations. It offers people a voice that they did not have in previous times through social media. One person can impact the overall value of a company through a single post. One United Airlines customer demonstrated this consumer power in 2009 when he saw airline employees damage his guitar. His frustration at the lack of customer service led him to write a song and place it on YouTube. The video logged more than 14 million views. Within four days of the video going online, United Airlines' stock decreased by 10 percent, costing United shareholders approximately $180 million.
The Social Era focuses on the power of connectivity. This era differs from any previous time in our history. The Industrial Era focused on the institution as the agent for creating value, while the Information Era respected the value of what data could provide. The Social Era values the connectedness of human interactions and self-awareness. When people value connectedness of the self to other people and the world, they can breathe life into the organization. This connectedness strengthens all ties that bind each of us together in the world.
In her book "11 Rules for Creating Value in the Social Era," Nilofer Merchant suggested that things we once viewed as opposing forces in business are not opposing forces after all. The goal in the Social Era is to find more complex ways to create a balance between the two sides. Making a profit does not have to be in conflict with community. In this model, work elements such as profit and purpose occur together in harmony. People who take the time to consider these aspects of spirituality balance business. A balanced business strengthens the overall structure of the organization.
When the spirit of the business is unified, individuals within the organization work more consistently. This cohesiveness spreads to all aspects of interactions to include self-awareness. The article "Spirituality at Work," by Donde P. Ashmos and Dennis Duchon, stated that people want to feel connected not only to each other, but also to meaningful work. Spirituality offers the connectedness that the Social Age values as an important part of the consumer experience.
The starting point to spirituality in the workplace begins with determining how you and your employees can become more cohesively connected. Spirituality promotes self-awareness to other people and the planet around them. When you find these vital spiritual associations, you unite your company more fully into a framework that is essential to this era of change.