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Indiana, Arkansas and Where Organizational Values Meet Current Affairs

Posted by Patrick Ball on 3 Apr 2015

Current affairs and organizational issues meet around Indiana's religious freedom restoration act debate

We’ve all watched as the controversy unfolds around the divisive religious freedom laws passed in Indiana and Arkansas. Of particular interest has been the way businesses responded to these controversial pieces of legislation. 

On the surface, the chief impact for businesses is that these Religious Freedom Restoration Acts – as written at the time of their passage – appeared to open the door for individuals and businesses to deny services to LGBT people on religious grounds.

And we’ve seen Memories Pizza make a name for itself (and reportedly raise $400,000) by proclaiming it would refuse to cater a gay wedding. But, we’re not here to talk about that.

As we’ve also seen over the past few weeks, the controversial legislation generated responses from enterprises with interests well beyond the borders of Arkansas and Indiana. From Apple to Wal-Mart to the NCAA, we heard organizations speak loudly against the religious freedom laws.

Here’s why that’s important.  

By publicly voicing concerns about religious freedom legislation in Indiana and Arkansas, these organizations – along with Salesforce, the GAP, NASCAR and many others – a have sent a strong message about their organizational values and how they want to represent themselves.

Your values aren’t what you post on a wall, they’re what you project out into the world. Your values should run through your entire organization. They should be reflected in your mission, your products, your employees, your culture and, yes, your brand.  

Taking a stand on issues like the passage of the Religious Freedom Restoration Act in Indiana and Arkansas sends a strong message to not only customers, but also to your employees, about who you are as an organization and who you want to be.

When Salesforce’s CEO tweets out plans to cancel all programs that “require our customers/employees to travel to Indiana to face discrimination,” and Yelp’s CEO writes that it’s “unconscionable” to imagine Yelp expanding business in a place that “encouraged discrimination by businesses against our employees,” it’s a window into their company culture, a public display of a commitment to diversity.

Read More: The Keys to a Killer Company Culture

At a time when consumers and employees want to support companies and brands whose values reflect their own (and gay marriage is permitted in 37 states plus Washington DC), it’s important for organizations to stand behind their values if they're to get involved in current affairs, like the Religious Freedom Restoration Act.

Of course, even more important than saying the words is backing them up. But that’s another story.

Now Tell Us: How important is it that your employer’s values reflect your own? Do you believe the way a company responds to controversial issues is an important component of its employer brand? 

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