Religion in the workplace good for business, Tyson Foods high on the list

No suit, no corner office... but Karen Diefendorf wields a great deal of power at Tyson Foods--as pastor.

The food giant has become one of the new faces of corporate faith-friendly work environments. Diefendorf is head of the chaplaincy program for Tyson's 141-thousand employees.

She said: "Our chaplains spend a lot of time in the break room and during the lunch or dinner periods so that they can sit down with folks and just check on them. So there's a lot of what we would refer to in the chaplain world as a ministry of presence just being available... and it's in the building of those relationships."

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Tyson is tied at number two among Fortune 100 companies in a new study measuring corporate America's inclusion of religion as a part of its diversity programs.

The first-of-its-kind study is from the Religious Freedom and Business Foundation.

Brian Grim, the organization's president, said: "There's a lot of studies that look at how well a company does and including gender or sexual orientation or race... This is the first one to look at how they include religion."

The purpose of the study, said Grim, is not to measure "doctrine or dogma in the workplace, but it's to help people be able to express themselves" and their faith in the workplace.

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The goal is to be better ambassadors and representatives of their company. Instead of living bifurcated lives, employees can now be fully expressed in the workplace.

"People tell us all sorts of things about their life," Diefendorf said. "It might begin with I've just put mom or dad in a nursing home or maybe somebody in their family is going on hospice... Life comes with us in the door. So all those myriad of things that you think about, it happens in our plants. And so our chaplains are there to be a resource to help people process life."

Some surprising companies are at the top of the list

Google actually topped the list. Intel is tied with Tysons at number two. Others in the top tier include Target, Facebook, American Airlines, Apple, Dell, Goldman Sachs and American Express.

Grim said these companies, mostly global, have seen the writing on the wall concerning faith and beliefs. According to his research, "The religious-affiliated will outgrow the religiously unaffiliated by a factor of twenty-three to one. So that means the clients around the world are going to be more likely to be religious than they aren't. So if you're able to express your faith at work, then then you're somebody that can understand a client. "

The bad news in the report is that most Fortune 100 companies--60 percent--neglect faith.

While the protected categories like race, gender, ethnicity are mentioned 3,166 times in corporate programs, religion is mentioned just 92 times--a ratio of 34:1.

But Grim believes those numbers are bound to change as more companies learn that being faith-friendly towards employees is good for business, and actually helps work through cultural clashes rather than cause them.

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"So where you have people able to bring their faith to work, that's the same company where they're going to also allow people to bring the other identities," he said, "being a veteran or being somebody with a special needs or disability. So when you have these groups, then that's a sign that you're they're open to all."