I was privileged enough to spend a few weeks in the US at the end of 2023. Whilst the trip was largely for pleasure, I did take the opportunity to meet with several contacts to get a take on what is happening in the North American market.
One thing that struck me is that ‘people are people’, everywhere. What I mean is that I heard about the plethora of challenges that employees face and how that effects the workplace. Whether it’s mental health, cost of living driven desires to live in locations that are easier on the finances, or just general conflict borne out of doing more with less, all employers are seeking ideas and solutions to combat these challenges. Obviously, this was a key topic of discussion with some fellow ombuds who run Ombpoint-like solutions in the North American market. The parallels were not lost on me.
The second thing that I noted is that HR practitioners are feeling the strain of their roles. There are increasing organisational demands and the need to balance employee welfare with actively contributing to profitability through workforce effectiveness. This is not a new or unique challenge, but it highlights the perceived ‘no-win’ situation that many feel they encounter. Again, the discussion became one of how an ombuds might be able to alleviate some of the pressure by giving employees (and managers) a safe and confidential space to explore issues and solve problems before they escalate.
The other emergent issue I picked up on is how political beliefs are becoming more divergent across the population and more difficult to navigate in the workplace. In the US context, whether a person is a Democratic or Republican was driving their views on a range of topics in the workplace, such as the organisation’s stance on DEI, healthcare (including support for employees to access abortion) and other employee policies.
This is a new aspect for employers to consider. It has parallels to some of the commentary in Australia around public organisational support of the Voice that we saw in 2023. It also supports the trend we are seeing in employee engagement surveys that show that purpose and alignment is important to employees - but the question that is going to be harder to answer is: ‘Whose values?’, ‘Whose purpose’ ?
I think we’ll be hearing a lot more from employees as they continue to navigate this space.
Lindall West | Managing Director
1300 709 389