Fractional Ombuds

Pollack Peacebuilding offers fractional or part-time Ombuds (also called Ombudsman or Ombudsperson) to organizations looking to enhance wellbeing across their workforce but which are not yet ready to bring on a full-time Ombuds. With a focus on preventing escalated conflict, facilitating solution-oriented dialogues, and turning conflicts into opportunities, an Ombuds is uniquely positioned as an independent consultant wholly focused on managing conflict and ultimately enhancing employee wellbeing.

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Why hire a Part-Time Ombuds?

Professional burnout is on the rise and is an increasingly studied phenomenon. According to the American Psychological Association, burnout levels are the highest in recorded history. According to a 2022 Report by the U.S. Surgeon General, 84% of workers suggest their workplace has contributed to a mental health challenge, and 81% report they will be looking for workplaces that support mental health. To combat these and similar issues, more and more companies are employing ombuds or ombudspersons. Ombuds are critical to organizations not only for the sake of employee well-being but also for the sake of fiscal health, as employee well-being has been shown repeatedly to be a significant predictor of company innovation, productivity, and the bottom line.

If a company truly aspires to a culture of wellness, someone at the senior level must OWN workplace peace priorities. An organization may have all the intention, all the strategy, and all the money in the world for employee health, but if no one in leadership is wholly focused on managing employee conflict, such initiatives will NOT likely be carried out effectively. Creating a culture that supports healthy conflict management requires a senior leader who possesses the necessary skills and talent to prevent escalated conflict at both the high-level strategic and ground-level interpersonal stages and who has no other priorities other than coworker peace.

What is an Ombudsperson?

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Ombuds are senior conflict practitioners responsible for creating and maintaining workplace environments where employee peace is supported and optimized. While developing and implementing a strategy that carries out this mission, the ombuds endeavors to facilitate solution-focused dialogues, coach employees through difficult situations, and create sustainable conflict management systems. Ombuds are also sometimes tasked with assisting in change management to ensure employee wellbeing is maintained through disruptive organizational change.

No matter who the Ombudsperson is speaking with or helping, the overriding goal remains the same: to find opportunities in healthy conflict. To do this, the Ombuds meets with individuals to help assess and optimize difficult situations at the individual level and works with senior leaders to drive organizational initiatives that support organizational peace. In other words, Ombuds work work with senior leaders at the strategic level and with individuals at the interpersonal levels.

What does an Ombuds Do?

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A skilled Ombudsperson will view conflict holistically, aiming for both broad and acute conflict assessments of each individual involved in a situation and of the organization that supports those individuals. A skilled Ombuds often uses a biopsychosocial approach — that is a mind-body-environment framework — for addressing conflict between employees or teams. The following elements should be included in analyses:

  • MIND: basic psychological needs, meaning and purpose, goal-setting and goal achievement, self-perception, communication style, and interpersonal conflict management skills
  • BODY: lifestyle, diet, sleep, work-life balance and stress levels
  • ENVIRONMENT: company, relationships, home, and family
Because each individual is so unique, these and other components must be assessed at the individual level, and each individual must co-create with the Ombuds a plan for lasting peace that works for them. And because every employee shares at least some elements of the environment (i.e., the organization), the organization as a whole must be assessed, and leadership, especially senior executives, must support efforts to optimize culture in a way that supports employee peace. The Ombud’s mission is then to facilitate peace processes for individuals with the system. To achieve this, Ombudspersons should therefore be skilled both in conflict resolution, in conflict coaching, and in facilitating conflict management training.

Benefits of Hiring a Fractional Ombuds

When companies are not yet ready to hire a full-time Ombudsperson, either for budgetary or other reasons, hiring a fractional or part-time Ombuds is the preferred option. In addition to helping keep costs reasonable, fractional Ombuds offer many other benefits that make them critical additions to any workplace:

Perspective: Many fractional Ombuds have worked with a diverse range of companies that allow them to infuse work environments with fresh perspectives. They quickly identify issues that need addressing, many of which might not be obvious to management or employees. It can be challenging for those in-house to see their way out of difficult work challenges, something fractional Ombuds are there to assist with.

Best Practice Suggestions: Identifying the best practices for different workplaces simplifies a wide variety of corporate wellbeing problems. With guidance from a seasoned conflict consultant, managers and supervisors have easier times making decisions that support employee wellness, enhance company productivity and creativity as a result of employee peace, and utilize tools that enhance organizational peace and productivity.

Increased Leadership Productivity: By owning employee peace initiatives, fractional Ombuds allow managers, supervisors, and senior leaders to focus on their jobs rather than on employee health. In other words, efforts aimed at managing escalated coworker conflicts are wholly owned by an Ombudsperson and taken off the plates of senior leaders.

Happier Workforce: When employees feel their company deeply cares about their peace and happiness, they are more likely to enjoy their jobs and contribute to a harmonious work environment. Turnover rates typically decrease, since staff members don’t feel the need to look elsewhere for work. Interpersonal conflicts often decrease as well because as people are less stressed or burnt out, they are better equipped to handle interpersonal issues. Happy team members are also more efficient and loyal employees, because they are motivated to do the best job possible for a company they know cares about them. Team members are happy to come to work instead of looking for other jobs or taking multiple mental health days because they “just can’t take it anymore.”

Improved Business Reputation: Companies with low turnover rates that are increasingly regarded as healthy places to work enjoy increasingly better reputations. Potential hires won’t be put off by rumors of a negative work environment or by disgruntled employees who leave poor reviews on Glassdoor. Good reputations often help businesses grow and expand with customers as well because consumers want to support companies that care about their employees. The opposite is usually true for businesses where there are lots of conflicts, which can ultimately result in company losses.

More Revenue: Research has shown that employee wellness initiatives have at least a 2:1 ROI. That is, for every dollar spent on employee wellness, companies typically see at least twice as much return on that investment. This is due to many of the reasons discussed above, such as improved productivity, innovation, fewer sick days taken, less time spent in interpersonal conflict, and a better reputation, which leads to more customers and recruiting top talent.

Breaking the Conflict Cycle

According to the APA, three out of five employees cited severe work-related stress, motivation issues, low energy levels, and minimal interest in their work. Fractional Ombuds are here to help break conflict cycles that result in employee burnout and unhealthy working environments. By prioritizing mental and emotional wellness, Ombuds add something critical to the workforce that reduces burnout and creates healthier, happier employees. Healthier, happier work environments will hopefully become the “new normal,” as more and more companies opt to bring in Ombuds.

Hiring a fractional Ombudsperson is something your team will deeply appreciate because it shows your investment in their wellness. As positive changes keep happening, pay attention to your employees’ attitudes. You’ll probably notice how much happier they are to come to work every day, which exponentially builds on company morale and overall culture.

Hire a Fractional Ombuds Today!

Ready to significantly reduce conflict in your workplace? Get in touch today for a free consultation on our fractional Ombuds services! We’ll help determine the best ombudsperson and program for your company based on the unique needs of your organization.