At Work

The #MeToo Movement and a Biblical Approach to HR Practices

Interview with HR Expert Mark A. Griffin
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There’s never been a more urgent time than now to have HR professionals who are grounded in sound biblical principles. With the rise of the #MeToo movement, human resources consultants are in high demand as companies, churches, and organizations ensure best practices and deal with existing charges. How should biblical principles and economic thinking impact the way we approach human resources?

IFWE interviewed Mark Griffin, the founder and chief consultant of In His Name HR about best practices in some of the most urgent areas of HR today. Mark has an extensive career in human resources, working for Quaker Oats, PepsiCo, Merck, Kodak, and ultimately as VP for Human Resources for Valco Companies, Inc.

IFWE: What are some of the trends related to the #MeToo movement in how companies are addressing issues of sexual harassment in the workplace?

Mark Griffin (MG): You can’t open a news website or turn on the television news without hearing about another case. Companies are realizing that we must get ahead of this issue, not just for the sake of their employees but also because their brand may suffer significant consequences as a result of not managing it correctly. When we launched our company seven years ago, our primary focus was on all aspects of HR. Compliance, of course, was important, and is one aspect of what we provide, but now harassment issues are taking center stage—it seems that companies are contacting us in a panic because they don’t have the necessary core policies or training in place.

Articles like this one in Christianity Today are helping to educate people on the depth of the issues we’ve been presented with, and continue to address, with intervention, awareness, and training:

“People are denying the reality that most women grow up and live their lives being harassed, if not assaulted, and being propositioned or being pursued inappropriately,” Liberty University English professor Karen Swallow Prior says. “Almost every woman I know, including myself, has had something like that happen to them. This is just the world we grow up in.”

IFWE: How can organizations approach these sensitive issues with wisdom so that all involved are treated in a Christ-like manner with dignity and respect?

MG: Great organizations face issues head on. They don’t attempt to hide them—they admit we are all imperfect people and have sin as our nature, and deal with issues as they arise, swiftly.  Many organizations walk in fear that false allegations may come against a leader by a rogue employee. The most important step an organization can take is to do a swift and unbiased investigation. Do not discount or ignore a complaint.

Christian organizations are not immune to issues, and churches and mission-related organizations have all failed in this area. Personally, my heart broke when allegations of abuse were leveled at Willow Creek Church. Bill Hybels had been a great influence in my life. But when confronted with those allegations, I felt the Holy Spirit remind me never to rely on man, to instead always place my trust in Jesus, and my pain subsided. As the psalmist reminds us:

It is better to take refuge in the Lord than to trust in humans (Ps. 118:8).

At the end of the day, the failure there was not only with Pastor Hybels but the elder board. Swift investigation, even when we know the result might be detrimental to the organization’s leader, must be performed at the time of the complaint—this is non-negotiable. The takeaway from this case is that the church’s board of directors, or elder board, must be educated, not just the employees and leadership.

IFWE: What is the cost to organizations that disregard best practices around areas of sexual harassment in the workplace?

MG: The cost is huge, incalculable—it can potentially shutter your business through bad publicity or cost you millions in penalties and jury awards. That said, if an organization does the right thing, and trains its employees in proper harassment and discrimination prevention, it can dramatically limit its financial and legal exposure. The Supreme Court ruled that a company can be isolated from the actions of a rogue employee if they can prove they took reasonable care in educating and informing employees and leadership about appropriate conduct. Having a policy, enforcing the policy, and training employees are all ways to demonstrate reasonable care.

IFWE: Besides sexual harassment, are there other HR issues that can “cost” an organization and impact its overall productivity? What are some key HR investments that high-performing organizations have made that have impacted their bottom line?

MG: The greatest investment an organization can make is investing the time and cost to create its mission, vision, and values (MVV) statement with input from all its employees. But that’s not enough—you must integrate your MVV into all you do, from an HR perspective. (View an integration chart here.) This is what we learned from some of the most talented thought-leaders in organizational development at Quaker Oats. This is what made Gatorade the number one sports drink in the world—having every employee own the MVV and contribute to its success.

IFWE: How has your faith informed the way you approach HR practices?

MG: Having become a born-again Christian just 15 years ago, for me it’s like Christmas every morning, as I trust in the Lord and see what he intends to do through me each day. Once I stopped relying on myself and instead put my whole trust in him, I started performing and serving at a level I never before thought possible. The sheer growth of our firm, In HIS Name HR, and what we’ve accomplished in the past seven years has enabled us to serve for-profits, nonprofits, Christian camps, Christian colleges, ministries, and churches. Only God could accomplish all this; I am no more than his instrument.

God’s influence has helped shape the way I approach HR by simply affirming that anything is possible when God is your partner. The key, however, is in what direction you navigate your prayer. Is your prayer: “God, give me…”? Or is your prayer: “God, show me, through others, what you want me to accomplish”? There is a massive difference, and I believe that when followers of Christ get this, their lives rocket forward and are never the same again.

Editor’s note: Want to hear more about HR from Mark Griffin? Check out his upcoming nine-part weekly blog series featured in the IFWE Weekly Digest Email, visit his website at InHisNameHR.com, or contact him directly at mgriffin@inhisnamehr.com.

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