A Flourishing Workplace
“Hope International had a purpose-driven and highly engaged culture,” says Peter Greer, CEO. “But I sensed that it was diluting rather than reproducing as we entered a season of accelerated growth. We recognized the importance of culture, but we didn’t know how to accurately gauge it—or move beyond recognition to action. We didn’t know what we didn’t know.”
Like hundreds of other Christian organizations, Hope International engaged Best Christian Workplaces Institute for an Employee Engagement Survey. In their commitment to learning and excellence, Hope International moved from an accidental culture to a place of intentional flourishing.
Why Does Workplace Culture Matter in Christian Organizations?
As churches and Christian organizations live out their mission in tangible ways, each organization is stewarding a calling that comes from belonging to Christ. The variety of work that God has called his followers to participate in is based on being a chosen people called out of darkness into light (as described in 1 Peter 2:9). Each Christian organization represents a slice of kingdom work—to fulfill the Great Commission, train up the next generation of Christ-followers, serve those on the margins of society, or some other cause.
Workplace culture comprises the shared beliefs and values of a group of people, expressed in priorities, decisions, and behaviors. So Christian organizations, led by people who belong to Christ, will exhibit the fruit of Christ’s love in their everyday interactions in the workplace, right?
While belonging to Christ can result in a flourishing workplace, sadly, we also can think of examples of Christian organizations where the fruit of belonging to Christ is not evident at all!
Love Makes a Difference
My own experience with a ministry team started on a positive note. While studying at Penn State, my faith life was changed through the ministry of Young Life. As I grew as a follower of Jesus, I joined with other college students to minister to high school students. The culture of the local leadership team was so engaging that I couldn’t tear myself away. Our ministry with kids was effective because of the love we had for one another as leaders.
Workplace culture determines employee engagement, and employee engagement determines organizational success.
Throughout my corporate career in human resources, I saw the value of engaged employees. Employee well-being has a great impact on bottom-line results. Workplace culture determines employee engagement, and employee engagement determines organizational success. While these were not necessarily Christian workplaces, I saw the power of a caring team that I had first experienced through Young Life.
As I contemplated what might be next for me after several decades in human resources leadership, one regular Monday morning I had a supernatural encounter with God’s love. I felt God’s love flooding my spirit and sensed God affirming that I can love others because he first loved me (1 John 4:19). God began to show me what life could be like if I lived fully in his love. My encounter with God’s love charged my heart with energy and love for others. This personal, spiritual reality connected with my professional experience to lead me in a new direction.
Flourishing or Toxic
In the corporate world, research on employee engagement led to quantifiable factors. Rather than being dismissed as a soft issue, centered around a few perks in the workplace, measurement of employee engagement provided leaders with a roadmap for improvement.
What would it look like if these measures were applied to Christian organizations, using solid research that also incorporated measurements of Christian values within the leadership of an organization? This quest led to the establishment of the Best Christian Workplaces Institute (BCWI). The nearly 20 years of learning through BCWI is now available in my newly released book – Road to Flourishing: Eight Keys to Boost Employee Engagement and Well-Being. (IVP, March 8, 2022)
The first time I dove into results for a Christian organization that displayed a toxic culture, the magnitude of the issues got my attention. This wasn’t just data; the culture was impacting real people. Those who worked for low wages and tried to make a difference for the at-risk children they served were suffering because of the workplace culture. And the children this ministry served were also suffering. What stoked my fire was realizing that one bad workplace wasn’t unique—many other ministries were squandering opportunities, damaging people, and giving Christ a bad name by their toxic cultures.
Along with understanding the damage that a toxic workplace can cause, on the other side of the spectrum, there is joy when people are inspired by leadership and bringing their full selves to the mission of their ministry.
As more and more organizations have participated in BCWI Employee Engagement Surveys, the keys to a flourishing workplace have become clear. Independent researchers used the BCWI database to establish clusters of qualities that lead to flourishing.
The eight keys to a flourishing workplace culture are represented by the acronym FLOURISH.
- Fantastic Teams
- Life-Giving Work
- Outstanding Talent
- Uplifting Growth
- Rewarding Compensation
- Inspirational Leadership
- Sustainable Strategy
- Healthy Communication
So how does the organization you are called to lead stack up in terms of flourishing?
So how does the organization you are called to lead stack up in terms of flourishing?
Do the people God has entrusted to your leadership display energy, enthusiasm, commitment, and passion in their work?
The BCWI Employee Engagement Survey contains more than 50 questions, but the level of agreement with four statements highlights the level of engagement:
- “I would recommend my organization to others as a good place to work”— the energy question.
- “I would rate my organization as an exceptional place to serve”— the enthusiasm question.
- “I would prefer to remain with my organization even if a comparable role at a higher pay level were available in another organization”— the commitment question.
- “I am motivated to put in extra effort beyond what is expected to help my organization succeed”— the passion question.
When new senior leaders started at an international missions organization, they could tell that morale was low and they decided to do an Employee Engagement Survey. When we looked at the results, it was clear that their scores were the lowest we had ever seen. To their credit, they persisted and wanted to find out why their scores were so low and how they could improve.
Face-to-face conversations without management in the room showed that a burning issue among employees was wasted talent. The organization hired great people who then burned out. People who stayed did so because they believed in the mission, but morale was low and there was no trust in senior leadership.
When presented with the bleak picture of workplace culture, senior leaders committed to small but swift actions to show employees that they were heard, and that things would change. In addition to implementing new ways to communicate and connect with employees, leaders apologized for past decisions that seemed arbitrary and painful for the staff. It took a couple of years to move toward a healthy culture and the overall transformation took six years. The life-giving work of sending missionaries into unreached areas was secure, because of a newly thriving organization. Their transformation was special, but it is available to every ministry that decides to focus on the keys to flourishing and commit to continuous improvement in workplace culture.
Why Workplace Culture Matters Now
The generational shift in the workplace means that Baby Boomers are retiring, Generation X and Millennials are today’s leaders and frontline managers, and Generation Z is emerging in the workplace. The leaders of today and tomorrow value personal fulfillment, access to influence, and meaningful mission. These are baseline expectations, not “extras” in workplace culture.
Creating a healthy workplace culture is a great way to capture the best qualities of the next generation...
The duty to do God’s work is not enough to keep these workers and leaders engaged. They want to live out their passion, energy, enthusiasm, and commitment. Creating a healthy workplace culture is a great way to capture the best qualities of the next generation of Christ-followers who will lead Christian organizations into tomorrow’s ministry and challenges.
In addition, we are now in our third year of adjustments based on a pandemic, which has impacted the workplace in permanent ways. Developing a thriving workplace and engaged employees sets up organizations for the ability to adapt and respond to unforeseen challenges.
You can be part of a movement of leaders of Christian organizations who are committed to thriving workplace cultures that glorify God, value people, and illustrate the difference that belonging to Christ makes in everyday life.
(Portions of this article are from Road to Flourishing: Eight Keys to Boost Employee Engagement and Well-Being. Copyright 2022 Best Christian Workplaces Institute. Published by IVPress.com.)
Al Lopus is the CEO and cofounder of the Best Christian Workplaces Institute, which provides research-based measurement tools and strategic advisory services to help Christian organizations excel. Al’s career includes over twenty years in global human resources leadership. He is author of Road to Flourishing. (IVP, March 8, 2022)
Al Lopus will lead a workshop entitled "Build a Flourishing Workplace Culture" at The Outcomes Conference 2022, April 26-28, Louisville, KY (Register today!)
Hear Al Lopus and Jay Bransford of Best Christian Workplaces Institute discuss “Workplace Trends for 2022” on The Flourishing Culture Podcast – LISTEN