Why an Organizational Ombuds Office for NC State University?
Since opening the NC State Faculty Ombuds Office in February 2015 and then adding Staff services in January 2017, I’m often asked “why” and “how” did this come about? Thus, here’s a brief history of the NC State Faculty & Staff Ombuds Office.
First, let’s tackle the why. Opening an ombuds office can be thought of as part of a comprehensive issue/conflict resolution program. There are many existing services that support NC State employees including Employee Relations, the Office of Institutional Equity and Diversity, the Office of General Counsel and the Provost’s office to name a few. These units are part of the formal channels of services and communication for the university; however, sometimes an informal channel is needed to support an employee. Thus, an ombuds office fills the gap by creating such an informal channel and supplementing (adding to) existing services. Since the ombuds office is independent, confidential and impartial, it sits outside formal services and provides an alternate for employees who have issues/conflicts and want assistance.
And, in today’s fast changing workplace, the organizational ombuds can serve as a trusted navigator to help people explore options and connect with services. Through these efforts the ombuds helps empower people to reach their full potential. Ombuds engage in constructive problem solving that also helps people strengthen relationships. At NC State University, the ombuds office can serve as a first step in addressing workplace issues.
In terms of how, according to one former chair of the Faculty Senate, one can find activities seeking a faculty ombuds as early as the 1970’s. Over the years interest waxed and waned; however, in more recent times, pushed by the Faculty Senate and with support from the Chancellor and Provost’s office and other university leaders, an ad hoc working group that included faculty and staff across the university came together to learn about the ombuds role and what such a role might be here at NC State.
The Faculty Senate adopted a resolution in support of an ombuds office to serve faculty and staff in 2011 and this got the ball rolling even faster. After the faculty ombuds office opened, and with support from Human Resources leadership and the Staff Senate, staff ombuds services were added. Thus, from February 2015 (faculty) and January 2017 (staff) to the present, the faculty & staff ombuds office has worked with employees across the university to help solve problems.
Want to learn more about ombuds services? Meet the ombuds for coffee at 10:00 a.m. on Wednesday, May 29th at Global Village Coffee on Hillsborough Street adjacent to NC State campus. Look for the sign – The Ombuds is in!