Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Employee Ombudsman - #HealthcareHR

This is another post in the occasional series on healthcare and human resources (#HealthcareHR.) Today's post focuses on taking a bold step in order to create a pro-employee culture.

I find it interesting that in one of the most stressful industries, if not the most stressful, the role of employee ombudsman is not widely used in healthcare settings. In my organization we've been effectively using this role for more than three years with tremendous results.

What the Heck is An Employee Ombudsman
We define the role this way:

"Employee Ombudsman:  a non-management representative of the organization that is available to employees to talk through and process options about employee concerns." 

To say the implementation of this strategy has been anything short of a huge success would be an understatement. In an industry riddled with legal, regulatory, staffing, and third party pressure it is a no-brainer to hard wire support for your employees. One of the most effective ways to do that is to invest in the role of employee ombudsman.

But What Do They Do
The power of this role can not be underestimated. Making work hours flexible to meet the needs of all employees (healthcare is a 24/7 business); reinforcing that a requirement to follow the chain of command to report issues is an archaic strategy (what if the problem is with the chain of command!); and most importantly taking action when the data indicates action is required.

Key responsibilities of the role include:
- meeting with employees in a private, discreet setting
- tracking all issues
- serving as a resource to employees to assist with the resolution of work related issues whenever possible
- supporting employees through the formal grievance process
- conducting all exit interviews
- coordinating employee surveys and events

Results Tell The Story
Our employee ombudsman has helped drive the following actions: disciplinary actions being rescinded, annual evaluations being changed, merit increases being modified, and in some cases ineffective leaders being transitioned out of the organization. Plus we've also held people accountable when they thought they could deflect responsibility away from themselves.

I would say that's a pretty successful strategy, wouldn't you?

How About You
What are you doing in your organization to back up your messaging to employees that you support and care for them? Have you taken the steps necessary to prove it to them, such as using an employee ombudsman? If not, you're missing an opportunity to provide real leadership to a dedicated group of employees who deal with life and death issues everyday.

I'd love to hear from you.

No Excuses.

photo credit


  1. This is a great insight into Organizational Ombuds work and we share your wonder at why our role is not more widespread. The profession has been waiting for a tipping point.

    1. Thanks Tom...maybe there is an opportunity to push this role forward?!

  2. I don't know how I missed this post, Jay! This is a great role that you all are utilizing. Healthcare is by far the most stressful industry to work in. I know because I worked in healthcare for 8 years.

    This is a role that may have assisted my last employer in retaining me, but alas I would not be reaping the rewards of being with my current employer.

    Currently, we have an Ombudsperson. I am not sure that people understand her role and it is certainly not as effective as what you are proposing.

    Thanks for this great insight. You have just helped me more than you know. ; )

    Best Regards,


    1. Thanks for touching base on this Janine. I believe this role is a terrific opportunity for organizations to back up their rhetoric about putting employees first. I'm glad it was helpful!

  3. Thanks for sharing excellent information about employee surveys. Your website is very cool. This website has got really useful info on it!

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  5. No matter how many points we used to evaluate a business, you are right when you say that first impressions are medical staffing.. That could be an ad, a website or even the way the phone is answered. Great article!

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