Increased Employee Engagement and Lower Turnover When Companies Use Workplace Chaplains

A significant challenge for most companies is controlling employee turn-over. High employee turn-over costs companies millions of dollars each year which substantially effect productivity and profits which drives up the pricing of that company’s product or service. The Society of Human Resource Management (SHRM) predicts the average annual turnover rate to be close to 19%, and studies “show that replacing an entry-level position can cost up to 40% of an employee’s salary.”[2] But this turnover rate and cost percentage can be much higher in certain tech and healthcare industries.

According to “a study by National Healthcare Retention & RN Staffing Report, the average hospital turnover rate in 2017 was 18.2%, which is the highest recorded turnover in the industry for almost a decade…In 2018, data revealed that 23.8% of all new hires left within a year, which accounts for 32.0% of all healthcare turnover 53.3% of employees who left spent less than two years at their facility…Losing good employees is expensive, and in some cases avoidable.”[3]  

Companies who utilize professionally-trained chaplains (either by contract or internally hired) have revealed dramatic positive effects to their workforce. The strength of utilizing workplace chaplains are their use of informal, confidential conversations which are not reported to human resource personnel. The positive effects noted with employees were increased job satisfaction, improved customer service, reduced employee conflicts, increased management effectiveness, decreased risk of litigation, and decreased risk of workplace violence[4]

Bryan Feller cites a survey by Cornell University’s Roper Center for Public Opinion which observed that eighty-seven percent of employees said they would work harder for a company willing to help them with their personal problems.[5]

For organizations, the inclusion of a workplace minister can offer a huge savings to the bottom-line as a worker’s emotional-spiritual issues dramatically affect performance, job satisfaction and job continuity/turn-over rates. One group cited that in general, “Estimates vary, but most agree that the costs associated with employee turnover are at least 50% to 150% of an employee’s annual salary.”[6]

Organizations that utilize chaplains in their workforce have also cited substantial cost savings to employee turnover. Home Banc reduced turnover from a banking industry average of twenty percent down to fourteen percent.[7] A Taco Bell franchise reduced turnover (from the fast food industry average of three hundred percent) to one hundred twenty-five percent.[8] Allied Holdings reduced turnover (from the trucking industry average of one hundred percent turnover) to below ten percent.[9] And one American LubeFast owner described their chaplain employee assistance provider as “an employee assistance plan on steroids” citing dramatic decline in turnover and product loss.[10]

Within clinical settings, there has been a large body of research that support the positive influence of professional chaplains upon patients in stressful and challenging life/health situations. This is due in large part from the result of healthcare chaplains who implement spiritual needs assessments and encourage intentional, faith-based conversations with staff and patients. These conversations help others emotionally and spiritually process and cope with their intense existential issues.

Clinically, science and spirituality research reveal that individuals want to be asked about their spiritual and faith beliefs. First, patients prefer that their physicians inquire about their religious and spiritual beliefs as part of routine history taking.[11] Secondly, research has noted that two-thirds of surveyed patients say trust in their physician would increaseif they were asked about religious and spiritual beliefs.[12] Thirdly, patients reveal their desire for spiritual interaction with their physician increases with severity of illness.[13] And lastly, surveys reveal that physicians should inquire about beliefs in a thoughtful, rational and ethical manner, while respecting differing perspectives and worldviews.[14]

Individuals have noted that they are more pleased with overall care when their spiritual or faith-based needs are recognized. Health care satisfaction surveys show that patients who had a chaplain visit are significantly more likely to endorse positive responses.[15] A specific survey of 1.7 million patients asked those patients if the “staff addressed my emotional and spiritual needs.” The results noted that this need is one of the three main drivers of patient satisfaction with hospital experiences.[16] When spiritual needs are unmet, satisfaction is notably lower; unmet spiritual needs affects end-of-life experiences in quality of life, costs of health care, and whether one dies either in an intensive care unit or with hospice care.[17]

If these positive emotional and spiritual effects are noted with individuals under medical care, would it not be reasonable to assume these same results would occur for workplace chaplains engaging employees in any industry?

What would these implications mean for your organization’s bottom line?


[1] Portions of this article were adapted from Evans, Keith A. The Fundamentals: The Why, What, Who and How of Chaplaincy,2nd ed., The Chaplain Skill Set Series, Vol 1. Amazon Press, 2019; and Evans, Keith A. “Pastoral Care in Public Settings: A Theoretical and Theological Premise with Effective Outcomes of Chaplaincy.” Testamentum Imperium, Vol. 5 (2018)

[2] “What is the average employee retention rate by industry?” July 10, 2017 https://business.dailypay.com/blog/employee-retention-rate

[3] “Healthcare turnover rates in 2018” Nov 14, 2018. https://business.dailypay.com/blog/employee-turnover-rates-in-the-healthcare-industry

[4] Bryan Feller, “A Business Care for Corporate Chaplaincy” (Los Angeles: Chaplains Inc., 2011), 6-7. See http://www.yumpu.com/en/document/view/4730933/a-business-case-for-corporate-chaplaincy-chaplains-inc. Feller, 6-7.

[5] Feller, 2.

[6] “Driving the bottom line: improving retention” Saratoga, PricewaterhouseCoopers LLP, 2006. See http://www.shrm.org/hr-today/news/hr-magazine/Documents/saratoga-improving-retention.pdf. 

[7] Tracy McGinnis, “Business Has a Prayer.” (Forbes, June: 2006).

[8] Ibid.

[9] Harriet Hankin, The New Workforce: Five Sweeping Trends That Will Shape your Company’s Future (New York: American Management Association (AMACOM), 2004).

[10] Garrett McKinnon and Tim Embrey; “2007 Fast Lube Operator of the Year,” National Oil & Lube News (December: 2007).

[11] Christiana M. Puchalski, et al., “Improving the quality of spiritual care as a dimension of palliative care: the report of the Consensus Conference” J Palliat Med 2009; 12 (10):885-904; D. E. King, and B. Dushwick, “Beliefs and attitudes of hospital inpatients about faith healing and prayer” J Fam Pract. 1994:39 (4): 349-352; and Gary McCord et al. “Discussing spirituality with patients: a rational and ethical approach” Ann Fam Med. 2004; 2(4): 356-361.

[12] J. W. Ehman, et al., “Do patients want physicians to inquire about their spiritual or religious beliefs if they become gravely ill?” Arch Intern Med. 1999; 159 (15): 1803-1806.

[13] D. C. MacLean, et al., “Patient preference for physician discussion and practice of spirituality” J Gen Intern Med. 2003; 18 (1):38-43.

[14] S. G. Post, et al., “Physicians and patient spirituality: professional boundaries, competency, and ethics” Ann Intern Med. 2000; 132 (7):578-583; A. B. Astrow, et al., “Religion, spiritual, and health care: social, ethical, and practical considerations” Am J Med. 2001; 110 (4):283-287; and Harold G. Koenig, “MSJAMA: religion, spirituality, and medicine: application to clinicalpractice” JAMA. 2000: 284 (13): 1708.

[15] D. B. Marin, et al., “Relationship between chaplain visits and patient satisfaction” J Health Care Chaplain. 2015; 21 (1): 14-24.

[16] P. A. Clark, et al., “Addressing patients’ emotional and spiritual needs” The Joint Commission Journal on Quality and Patient Safety 29.12 (2003): 659-670.

[17] A. B. Astrow, et al., “Is Failure to Meet Spiritual Needs Associated With Cancer Patients’ Perceptions of Quality of Care and Their Satisfaction With Care?” J Clin Oncol. 2007; 25 (36): 5753-5757; Tracy A. Balboni, et al., “Provision of spiritual support to patients with advanced cancer by religious communities and associations with medical care at the end of life” JAMA Intern Med. 2013; 173 (12):1109-1117; Tracy A. Balboni, et al., “Support of cancer patients’ spiritual needs and associations with medical care costs at the end of life” Cancer. 2011; 117 (23):5383-5391; and Tracy A. Balboni, et al., “Provision of Spiritual Care to Patients with Advanced Cancer: Associations with Medical are and Quality of Life Near Death” J Clin Oncol. 2010: 28 (3):445-452.

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