What is an ombudsman and why are they an important component of creating both a more motivated workforce and a stronger ethical culture within an organization? In short, an "ombuds" or "ombudsman" acts as a neutral go-between to help facilitate informal and confidential communications up and down the chain of command. Housed separately from both the Compliance and Ethics department and the HR team, ombuds serve to promote specific values, such as fairness, equity and accountability and have no vested interest in the outcome of issues of which they are made aware. For some employees, who many not feel comfortable speaking with their supervisor, or others who want to discuss an issue without making a report, an ombuds can serve a needed purpose, providing necessary details about processes, reporting options and policies.
Most important to note: An ombudsman does not supplant traditional corporate reporting structures. Rather, they supplement the available channels through which employees can raise concerns and learn more about options towards resolution, thereby reinforcing behavior expected within the organization and encouraging good citizenship. Employees that have multiple reporting structures and feel like their company cares about their well-being are more likely to act ethically, be more productive and remain longer with the company.
Ideas to Apply
Research and Resources
|Research Entry Points|
|Blueprint for Success: Designing a proactive organizational ombuds program [PDF]|
- United States Ombudsman Association (USOA)
- International Ombudsman Association (IOA)
- International Ombudsman Institute (IOI)
- Schenck, A. and Zinsser, J. Prepared to be Valuable: The positioning of ombuds programs. Journal of the International Ombuds Association, 2014 (vol. 7, issue 1) 23-47
Newspapers and Magazines
- Paper delivered at the 2015 Society of Petroleum Engineers E&P Health, Safety, Security, & Environmental Conference (B. M. Bonnivier, M.C. Brooke-Lander, M. R. Lewis) The Organizational Ombuds Office and Corporate Social Responsibility: Driving Values in an Organization.
- Corporate Security (Jonathan McBride, Steven Norman. 2011) Time for an Ombudsman?
- National Association of Corporate Directors Monthly (Jonathan McBride, James S. Hostetler. 2008) Board Champions for the Ombudsman
- The Ombudsman Association (Charles Howard, Maria Gulluni. 1996) The Ombuds Confidentiality Privilege: Theory and mechanics.