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

[3] “Healthcare turnover rates in 2018” Nov 14, 2018.

[4] Bryan Feller, “A Business Care for Corporate Chaplaincy” (Los Angeles: Chaplains Inc., 2011), 6-7. See Feller, 6-7.

[5] Feller, 2.

[6] “Driving the bottom line: improving retention” Saratoga, PricewaterhouseCoopers LLP, 2006. See 

[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.

excerpt, What Is A Spiritual Assessment?

[This is an excerpt from The Chaplain Skillset Series, Vol 3: Understanding the Spiritual Assessment. A complimentary copy is available as an e-book on thru April 24, 2016.]

Chapter Two: What Is A Spiritual Assessment?

Rev. Keith A Evans DC, DMin and Zacarias C Buhuro MA, MDiv

For chaplains in any setting, the unspoken protocol is to assess the spirituality and beliefs of the individual which they are ministering. Completing a spirituality assessment allows the chaplain to see what spiritual or faith-specific resources the individual may need for the situation. To do this well, one must understand what spirituality is and what the objectives of completing a spiritual assessment might be.

For a quick review of how spirituality is defined, Christina Puchalski MD of George Washington Institute of Spirituality and Health states,

Spirituality is the aspect of humanity that refers to the way individuals seek and express meaning and purpose and the way they experience their connectedness to the moment, to self, to others, to nature, and to the significant or sacred (Puchalski, 2014, p. 642).

Stephen R. Covey states, “The spiritual dimension is your core, your center, your commitment to your value system. It’s a very private area of life and a supremely important one” (Covey, p. 170).

One can quickly assess from just these two definitions of spirituality that spirituality is multi-faceted and complex.

Chaplains are often asked, “Is there a difference between spirituality and religion?” Some may disagree but my generalized answer is, “Yes.” First of all, everyone has a spirituality within them, whether they personally recognize it or not. People are spiritual in nature. Secondly, I view religion as the way an individual or group determines how they learn and practice (rites, rituals and worship) their spirituality, beliefs and their theologically-based faith. Religion is where your theology, doctrines and dogmas are developed. However, I do not believe a person can commit to and authentically practice a religion without a sense of their own spirituality or spiritual needs. But one may express their spirituality outside of traditional religious practices.

George Fitchett’s book Assessing Spiritual Needs: A Guide for Caregivers (1993) has become a classic among professional chaplains and as a vital clinical pastoral education resource. Fitchett’s work revealed that many approaches were being used to accomplish a spiritual assessment. He discovered that chaplains were using a broad range of spiritual assessments from informal and personal methods to very precise, impersonal “diagnostic” surveys.

Fitchett discusses the importance of the spiritual assessment. For the chaplain, the spiritual assessment becomes the foundation for developing an action plan which will direct soul care, as well as to promote intentional and effective spiritual communication, as well as a way to evaluate chaplaincy interactions, maintain personal accountability, quality assurance, and establish the role and purpose of the chaplain. But whichever spiritual assessment model that is used by a chaplain, these objectives should be foundational to the model’s overall purpose.

Through Fitchett’s research and personal experience, he developed his own spiritual assessment model called the 7 x 7 Model. This model is conceptual, functional, holistic, and provides a great framework for chaplains in any setting for spiritually assessments. In brief, he states that holistic wellness is built around seven dimensions:

  1. Medical
  2. Psychological
  3. Psychosocial
  4. Family systems
  5. Ethnic and cultural
  6. Societal issues
  7. Spiritual dimensions

One can easily see the influence which each of these seven dimensions has upon an individual’s life and perceptions of holistic wellness.

Within the Spiritual dimension, Fitchett’s 7 x 7 Model describes seven smaller categories which give the broader perspective and complex intricacies for an individual’s overall spirituality:

  1. Beliefs and meaning
  2. Vocation and consequences
  3. Experience and emotion
  4. Courage and growth
  5. Ritual and practice
  6. Community
  7. Authority and guidance

In Douglas Edward Robinson’s doctoral work on spiritual assessment and his evaluation of Fitchett’s 7 x 7 Model, he states,

For review, the two hemispheres of assessment are the Holistic and Spiritual…It is likely that you will not gain all the information you seek in the first visit, or during all of your visits. Time does not always permit this thorough an assessment. Remember that hospital patient needs and challenges can rapidly change. Hospitalized patients may present with multiple issues. When this is the case, you may first need to address the most crucial issue, before tending to the others. The important thing to remember is that spiritual care in the hospital is need-based and fluid. Let the patient direct you to the areas in greatest need of intervention. Spiritual welfare and appropriate intervention is always more important than getting all the information. Promoting such integration requires an appropriate assessment of patient spirituality, and definition of conditions for spiritual interventions, that improve patient care (Robinson, 2012).

Fitchett’s 7 x 7 Model seems daunting at first glance, but it actually is a common-sense and thorough approach. It hits upon all aspects of life. If a chaplain, or any person ministering to another, can remember to utilize just a few of these sections, they will more than likely have a meaningful encounter. Of course, the inclusion of all seven areas of the spiritual dimension remains the objective goal.

The next chapter will review a few of the more common spiritual assessments which are in the literature and being practically used in different clinical and public ministry settings. But first, let’s hear about some of the benefits of a chaplain using spiritual assessments.

The Practical Benefits of the Spiritual Assessment

Performing a spiritual assessment should not be about imposing a set of rigid questions on an individual. It should be an interactive conversation between individuals. This discussion will center on healthcare settings, but the spiritual assessment can be administered in any setting with individuals who may be hurting spiritually.

Buhuro: Upon admission to the hospital, patients may undergo a spiritual screening, which is generally very short in nature. The spiritual screening simply asks questions such as, “Do you have spiritual beliefs? Do you have a faith or church preference? Do you want a local minister or church to visit you while you are admitted?”

However, as the patients stay for one or more days, there is a need for a professional chaplain to do the spiritual assessment. A spiritual assessment helps to address the patient’s needs in a more holistic way and also to engage the patients on the meaning of their life as they are dealing with an illness.

One may not claim to belong to any organized religion or may even claim that they are “atheists.” What is important to know is that the spiritual assessment taps into the core of what and who the person is, in terms of meaning making of what is happening in their life.

What does it mean, for example, for a mother that is accustomed to waking up every morning, going to work, taking care of her family and so on…but now she is in the hospital facing a serious illness? What does she make of news about a new diagnosis that may interfere with her daily life? How does she cope with that? Who supports her? How can others be of support to her?

The spiritual assessment deals with the ultimate meaning of life regardless of the person’s religiosity. In my work with hospice patients, one of the dominant issue which often needed to be addressed was their pain. The pain here is not only physical, but emotional, psychological and spiritual pain…..


Covey, Stephen R. The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, Signature Edition 4.0. Salt Lake City: FranklinCovey, date not listed.

Fitchett, George. Assessing Spiritual Needs: A Guide for Caregivers. Minneapolis: Augsburg Fortress, 1993.

Puchalski, Christina M., Robert Vitillo, Sharon K. Hull and Nancy Reller. “Improving the Spiritual Dimension of Whole Person Care: Reaching National and International Consensus.” Journal of Palliative Medicine 17, no. 6, 2014: 642.

Robinson, Douglas Edward. “Pastoral Care: A New Model For Assessing the Spiritual Needs of Hospitalized Patients.” D.Min. dissertation. Liberty Baptist Theological Seminary, August 2012: 111-112.


Does spirituality and faith shape you as a person and as a worker?



Did you know that your experience and practice of your spirituality Miller4Esand faith, informs and shapes your daily decisions, as well as enrich your life and help create and even direct your destiny? Dr. David Miller of Princeton’s Faith and Work Initiative thinks so. Miller developed a model that reveals the different aspects of how one’s spirituality and faith holistically effects them (see photo).

Miller’s model developed a qualitative survey which reveals how the four general sections are manifested in an individual’s life but also can reveal an organization’s workplace spirituality. As there is more overlap of the sections, there is an elevated perception and experience of workplace spirituality, meaning and purpose of your work, as well as a freedom and liberty to express your own faith and spirituality (verbally and non-verbally) as you work and among your peers.

Over the next few blogs, I’ll discuss these four sections in more detail. In the meantime, email me and let me know how you perceive spirituality and faith in your workplace and the reasons why you feel so. I’m really curious!

Is it positive? Restrictive? Would you want to voice your faith more?

Is there intimidation or a “code of silence” that you sense which limits what you say to others or patients?

How does your faith affect your job satisfaction, or even your ability to get over the “bad days”, etc. ?

Is your personal integrity and character shaped by your spirituality? If so, how?

I’d love to hear your comments (fully confidential, of course).

Chaplain Keith