Easy to Implement Ideas for Inclusion

A famous Swiss supermarket had an incident where an employee in the sales area wanted to wear a head scarf, but they did not allow her to do that, so she resigned. Unfortunately, this happens to a company that promotes being open and living diversity, equity, and inclusion. I don’t see a s*** storm happening, and it seems that in Switzerland, this is acceptable, and I’m afraid I have to disagree. 

In Switzerland, the land of Zwingli and Calvin, the majority religious group is Roman Catholic, with approximately 37% of the Swiss population. The reformed Evangelical community makes up 25%. 5% of the Swiss population is Muslim, mainly from the Balkans and Turkey. Around 30% of the population have no religious affiliation.

According to Wikipedia, there are approximately 20’000 Jews in Switzerland, and more than 50 percent of Jewish households reside in Zurich, Geneva, and Basel. There is also growing concern about antisemitism in Switzerland, as in many other countries in the world. 

With global polarization growing, I am compelled to remind everyone how we can contribute to building a more inclusive work environment. If you haven’t yet bought “The Global Rockstar Album,” this would be an excellent first step.

How you can help Religious Minorities in Companies in Switzerland

Multinational companies in Switzerland promote an “inclusive” culture. Everyone should have the same opportunities within the company, regardless of their religious or cultural background. While I often hear that Switzerland is so intercultural because it has four different language regions and is located in the middle of Europe, I experience a different reality. In public discussions, we discuss differences but hardly touch on pragmatic solutions for helping each other get along. Here are 14 easy-to-implement ideas to make your minority employees feel more included in your workforce.

We help our clients gain confidence. We point out that Switzerland is an open country with a long history of religious freedom. That includes the freedom to not believe in anything at all. We raise the intercultural competence of the employees in the companies we work with, but we cannot reach everyone in the country. I am embarrassed when I hear stories of attacks, fear, and overt discrimination. We wish for our clients to be welcomed with open arms in everyday life and in the companies they work for, regardless of their cultural and religious backgrounds.

Since 2000, I have observed that many global companies have developed intercultural competence in their staff and managers, mainly through training and legislative minimum standards. While this is better than nothing, more is needed. In Switzerland, the current trend in diversity training is to uncover our “unconscious bias,” i.e., how our unconscious stereotypes affect our hiring and promotion decisions. We tend to like people who look like us, think like us, behave like us, and come from similar backgrounds. This is also called the “Mini-Me syndrome.”

I don’t see many corporate discussions around intercultural, interracial, and interreligious differences and commonalities. The main reason is that these differences tend to be seen as personal differences more often than cultural differences outside of intercultural training. Once there is a conflict, it is usually attributed to the individual rather than cultural background. Or the other way around: Negative judgments are attributed to cultural background rather than individual behavior. Hardly anyone I know has enough knowledge to distinguish between a stereotype and a tendency (that might not be a stereotype but true for most people with this cultural background, provided they have spent most of their lives in that cultural background).

We should encourage intercultural discussions more often. Awareness creates acceptance in a multicultural environment. In Tourism, we treat customers differently according to their cultural background. By considering a few minor but effective adjustments, companies can provide a discrimination-free environment and welcome everyone with open arms.

1) Religion is a private matter for every employee, and it should not affect their work performance. If we focus our assessments on performance rather than on person, we are on the right track.

2) Minorities might need short breaks to pray. If we use a trust-based time management system rather than strict time control, we can ensure that religious minorities have prayer time during the day.

3) In hospitals, physicians must learn gender-related rules that religious minorities must observe, especially when a man treats a woman. In case of doubt, ask the patient.

4) In tourism, we must learn what is important to clients from the United Arab Emirates or Saudi Arabia. For example, due to the ban on burqas, we might no longer be able to serve those clients in Switzerland.

5) In the police, we need to move away from stereotyping and get a clear understanding of why many young men feel overburdened with life in another culture. At the same time, their families at home depend on their financial support.


6) As therapists and other health care professionals, we need to learn how the trauma of war and being alone when you come from a collectivist cultural background might affect your psyche. We also need to understand that counseling might not be a concept in many of the home cultures of minority employees (assuming they did not grow up in Europe or the US).

7) We need to differentiate the social classes of the person we speak to. If you have an Islamic banker or a writer who has fled from Afghanistan, then you are likely to have no misunderstandings because you can communicate with both in German and English. But if you talk to a less educated colleague who has just arrived in Switzerland and does not yet speak the language well, then you will need to simplify your language and use techniques to check if he or she understands you. Avoid speaking in the child’s language and use proper German or English.

8) To better deal with cultural differences, we must train our staff members as authorities, medical assistants, personal assistants, and company receptionists. It would help if they were less judgemental and more understanding of inclusion.

9) We can get the basics right for inclusion. Muslims, Jews, Hindus, Jains, and many other religious minorities need to know what they eat and drink. You can install signs in the canteen and explain what is in the food. You can offer one vegetarian, vegan, halal, and kosher dish. It would be best if you did that anyway in a modern canteen.

10) Stop forcing anybody to drink alcohol: At the infamous Swiss Apéro, you can show which drinks contain alcohol and explain that everyone is welcome, even if they don’t like wine. You can make it a point to offer non-alcoholic cocktails and accept that people will cheer you with a glass of water (even if that is against the “Knigge”).

11) You can approve extended holidays over festivals to fly or drive home. You can adapt your company policy to give more flexibility for different religious holidays by providing a holiday budget. This is especially helpful in restaurants and other businesses with a large proportion of migrants

12) We can congratulate religious minorities on their holidays. Maintaining a global holiday calendar and working out content for your in-house communication is easy.

13) We can provide prayer and meditation rooms for our staff. This will help all staff members have quiet zones to contemplate, pray, or meditate in these hectic times. This would help all of us, and offering group meditation courses could be a well-being perk you provide in your company because you care about the well-being of all employees.

14) We can provide more internship opportunities to refugees. Many refugees cannot prove their formal qualifications and will fall through the roster of our recruitment processes. Still, we could see how they work if we provide them with more internships. An internship is an excellent way for you to learn more about an employee. We need to change our policies to offer internships to anyone (and take out the age limit). We would also help women who have a hard time returning to the workforce after a career break if we offered more inclusive internships with fewer barriers.

I hope these 14 pragmatic ideas will help you build an environment where your religious minority employees feel more included.

If you want more customized advice, please contact me at angela@globalpeopletransitions.com or book an appointment via Calendly: https://calendly.com/angieweinberger.


The Global Rockstar Album


Joseph Shaules and Ishita Ray discuss intuition and the “feel-good fallacy.” This is a highly critical discussion of intercultural interactions and #globalcompetency. Many of us fall into this trap and think having the right attitude or mindset is sufficient to “do right by the other”. This is largely a minimizing assumption, denying embodied cultural beliefs, values, and behaviors.

Listen to the latest episode of the #DeepCulture Podcast: Cultural Intuitions and the Feel-good Fallacy to understand why. In this episode, Ishita Ray and I explore cultural intuitions–the ability to “read the air” and interpret our environment.

Episode 42 – Cultural Intuitions and the Feel-good Fallacy










Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Some HTML is allowed

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.