McBride Associates offers governance consulting services, with particular emphasis on the Organizational Ombudsman function. The presence of an Organizational Ombudsman is one of the most powerful governance tools a corporate board has at its disposal today.
Businesses and nonprofit organizations are accelerating their efforts to enhance governance practices and improve organizational effectiveness and credibility after a series of highly-visible systemic failures have brought substantial enterprises virtually to their knees. Risk management strategies such as ethics and compliance programs and strengthened financial auditing procedures have proven inadequate to deal with these systemic problems.
But what might be done before problems start getting out of hand? Is there a way a “cultural” audit can be conducted and an organizational context fostered that encourages improved communications as well as ethical conduct in the first place?
An innovative emerging best-practice in corporate governance to achieve enhanced organizational performance is to create an Office of the Ombuds, an organizational Ombudsman. To foster an ethical work environment, while at the same time mitigating risk and ensuring transparency, it is essential to have multiple channels of communication, both formal and informal. A properly structured Ombuds program creates a context within which formal channels such as the Board of Directors, the Audit Committee, Ethics and Compliance Offices, Human Resources, Employee Assistance Programs, and “confidential” hotlines function measurably more effectively.
Going to a formal channel can raise fears for people that they could appear uninformed, antagonize a supervisor, or experience retaliation. The independent and informal Ombuds function offers confidentiality and neutrality that mitigates fears such as these.
Putting an Ombuds function in place also can offer substantial benefits including more efficient operations, improved retention, increased commitment to the organization, reduced reliance on formal structures, and avoidance of legal expenses because more issues get surfaced and resolved sooner.
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