A quick search online will show how much workplace productivity is being talked about these days, with myriad solutions being offered, many of them basically short-term tips. At the end of the day what we’re really talking about is building a workplace culture that keeps employees not just at their desks doing work, but actively engaged, inspired and committed to organizational goals.
In this highly complex and swiftly-changing environment, it may not be surprising that only about 25% of business leaders have an employee engagement strategy in place, even though 90% feel that such a strategy has a positive impact on business success (infographic source: Dale Carnegie). Among all the other concerns a CEO has just to run a business, building and nurturing a workplace culture can seem daunting and easily pushed to the back burner.
How does a forward-thinking, conscientious leader keep on top of it all? I submit that it takes a village….or at least a team.
A key member of that team should be an Organizational Ombudsman. An Ombudsman isn’t meant only for crisis-level altercations, but is a skilled Conflict Advisor who works with businesses, management and M&A consultants, HR and CAO professionals, startups and investors, public-sector organizations, not-for-profits and communities.
The Organizational Ombudsman/Conflict Advisor hears any and all kinds of problems, some simple and others more complex involving several departments, teams or systems. Because of our training and exposure to a broad swath of situations and organizations, we bring an experienced and nuanced view.
We are often able to detect problems or possibilities that aren’t even apparent to the folks inside the organization, because…well, they’re inside the organization. Because of the very nature of the profession, the Ombudsman/Conflict Advisor provides that bird’s-eye, big-picture view that the person standing on the ground can’t see.
The Special Sauce that boosts employee engagement and enhances workplace culture
We at Resologics call this the “special sauce” that make ombudsman services unique and effective in an organization. There are four key ingredients, which go into everything an Ombudsman does:
Confidentiality. This makes the Ombudsman a safe person to talk with about any concern. Most conflicts, or budding conflicts, are interpersonal issues that can run the span of feeling unheard within their team, to perceptions of bullying that can upset the balance of a team or entire workplace. For an employee to know that they can speak about the ‘unspeakable’ with someone confidentially is a fundamental element of trust in the workplace environment.
Neutrality/Impartiality. We do not represent individuals on either side of an issue; we are not advocates for one party or another. We are available to all team members organization-wide. Having this option – to start a conversation with candor, trust, and impartiality – positively affects inclusiveness, diversity, fairness, and safety within the workplace culture. Studies show that these are some of the key elements in boosting employee engagement, and therefore productivity.
Informality. The Ombudsman helps people resolve issues as early as possible and without triggering formal procedures (formal procedures could include investigations, high legal fees and court costs). We are trained to listen, provide and receive information, identify and reframe issues, and develop a range of responsible options and new ways to solve problems.
We DO NOT:
● Maintain formal written records
● Conduct formal investigations
● Provide oral or written records to anyone
Independence. We report only to the top level of the organization and only discuss general trends, issues and concerns, without breaching confidentiality. This make our services something that anyone in any position can count on, ensuring that an individual’s concerns are heard at the leadership levels while preserving their anonymity, and that their concerns matter.
In this growing environment of socially-responsible leadership, doing well by doing good, “a culture of social responsibility and ethical leadership sets the tone for productivity and helps the business to engage with the real-life concerns of its employees, customers and other stakeholders (Source: Jeremy Bradley, Small Business Chronicle). More and more, companies are looking to outside experts to support them in ensuring that all policies and processes are ethically sound and in service to their public.
When an organization has a system for employee engagement which embeds the ‘special sauce’ of Ombudsman Services, it is delivering the message to everyone involved – employees, management, stakeholders and customers – that it cares about its brand, its service and its people.
If you are wondering how to begin an employee engagement strategy for your organization, here is a process overview that Resologics uses for establishing an Ombuds program, a similar process to exploring an employee engagement program which can get you started in the right direction.