When employees experience conflicts and concerns in the workplace, and cannot see a way to satisfactorily address them, their lives at work may become increasingly difficult, affecting the quality of their work and productivity. Ultimately, they may see that the only option available to resolve the problem is to leave the company.
In 2012, Baker Hughes executives voluntarily established an organizational ombuds office (OOO) that follows the ethical principles of the International Ombudsman Association: independence, neutrality, informality and confidentiality. The OOO provides a safe place where employees can obtain information, discuss their concerns, and evaluate options. The ombuds1 works with employees through any job-related issue, from a minor annoyance to a serious concern on policy or law. In addition, the ombuds can bring systemic issues to the attention of leadership; this provides an additional means for employee concerns to be safely and confidentially relayed to the highest levels of the organization.
By mid-November 2014, over 1000 employees reached out to the OOO with a range of questions and concerns. These employees represented all levels of the organization, all groups and product lines, ranging from the newly hired to long-tenured employees.
The OOO complements and supports the company's corporate social responsibility objectives in considering the needs and expectations of one of our most important stakeholder groups – our employees. The company's investment in this resource demonstrates to employees that they are part of an organization that attends to their wellbeing. In addition, the existence and use of the OOO assures the company's core values and code of conduct are not merely philosophical, but an integral part of how employees work.
In this paper, we discuss how the OOO was established within Baker Hughes and share our experiences in the preparation and implementation, establishment and operation of the function. We share the range of benefits it brings to our employees, the company and the broader community as a key component of our corporate social responsibility strategy.