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Are we really getting more spiritual? And is this affecting business culture? Chris Baker, Peter Stokes and Jessica Lichy suggest we may be – and it is.
In the fields of business organisation and management much has been written and spoken about values and beliefs. However, we find ourselves entering a fresh and novel phase of experience, a new spirituality-linked epoch we can describe as a “postsecular” era in which the secularisation of society has given way to renewed attention to the values of faith, religion and spirituality.
Spirituality in the workplace continues to gain acceptance as a field of study in management education, with widespread application to practices within organisations. As a topic, spirituality is no longer a passing trend – it has gained significant legitimacy in recent years. But managers still struggle to grasp the context and to apply notions of values, beliefs and attitudes to establish an advantage over competitors.
With this in mind, colleagues from the University of Chester in the UK and IDRAC Business School in France have formed an international and cross/ inter-disciplinary team project to consider from a novel and hybrid perspective identified by the team as workplace ‘values, beliefs and attitudes’ (or the useful acronym VBA).
The Chester/IDRAC team draws together commentators from the fields of religion and theology, business management, marketing and international business. The results are striking and point the way towards a new way of thinking about and “operationalising” VBA and its strong connections to existing spiritual, religious, social and human capital within organisations.
In recent years, human capital (the skills and knowledge for operating in the workplace) and social capital (the value-creating relationships in the workplace) have received considerable attention.
Social capital has had a chain of significant proponents. Sociologists Pierre Bourdieu, James Coleman and Robert Putnam, among others, have examined it in relation to the neo-liberal, marketdriven values and systems that have increasingly dominated national and global markets from the latter part of the 20th century onwards.
The central message emerging from these debates was that individual employees going about their everyday life add value in multifarious ways. Consequently, organisations are increasingly alert to the importance of social interactions and relationships at work. The emphasis is on understanding social capital in order to foster, utilise and enhance the success of the organisation.
How does all this fit into the elusive term “postsecular era” and how should businesses be paying attention to it?
The postsecular age dawned due to a range of events and influences but not least to a conjunction of the fall of the Soviet Empire and the end of the Cold War, the emergence of globalised capitalism, and the call for ethical, sustainable and responsible responses from organisations, citizens and stakeholder groups.
Religion was viewed rather negatively prior to these changes. And secularism, built on market-driven mechanisms, materialism, commodification and consumerism, eclipsed many spiritual and religious spheres.
In the 21st century there is evidence that religion is being re-assigned an important role in many individuals’ lives and in the way we understand public life more widely.
For the full article, you can view the PDF or listen to the podcast.