From the November 2004 issue of Entrepreneur

Nip It in the Bud

Employee lawsuits show no sign of going away anytime soon. That's why big companies such as Dell and Texaco have started ombudsman programs. Ombudsmen serve as confidential and neutral sounding boards for employees grappling with workplace problems ranging from harassment to suspicions of fraud. Ombudsmen also report the type of complaints employees bring anonymously, which companies can use to revamp policies before they turn into costly litigation.

Ombudsmen services are becoming popular with growing companies, too. "Having an ombudsman program is like an insurance policy," says attorney Donna N. Saleh. She's also a specialist in alternative dispute resolution and founder of Ombudsman Solutions LLC, an ombudsman consulting services firm in New York City. "It [also] shows employees the company cares about them."

But for these programs to be cost-effective, employees need to trust that the ombudsman is a confidential resource and not just a mole for management. Employees must also understand what an ombudsman can and can't do. The Ombudsman Association, an association of professional organizational ombudsmen, is a good place to start.

Time on Their Side

How would you use an extra hour away from the office? When staffing firm Ajilon Finance put this question to 582 U.S. workers recently, 42 percent said they would prefer to accumulate the hours and have a day off every month, while about 30 percent said they would leave work a bit earlier each day.

Giving employees an additional hour or two of flexibility here and there can work well as an employee reward. In fact, when OfficeTeam, a temporary office staffing firm, asked 613 U.S. employees last summer what would give them greater job satisfaction, 33 percent said more scheduling flexibility.

"In an entrepreneurial venture, you're working ridiculous hours," says Anthony McClure, an adjunct business professor at SMU Cox School of Business in Dallas and president of The Peregrine Group International, a marketing and security firm. "It can burn people out."

Letting employees telecommute one morning a week, incorporating part-time work, offering compressed workweeks, or closing the office a few hours early on Fridays during the summer are just a few ways to add flexibility, says Barbara Moses, a management expert and author of What Next? The Complete Guide to Taking Control of Your Working Life.

A little spontaneity once in a while doesn't hurt, either. "You might just say 'There's a [baseball game] this afternoon. Who wants to go?'" McClure says. When the economy surges, you could be glad you took the time to ask.


Only
22%
of U.S. workers feel their companies' leaders regularly make personal sacrifices for their organizations.
Statistic Source: The Gallup Organization

49%
of U.S. workers say technology updates or technical training will improve their efficiency.
Statistic Source: Hudson
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