A problem or a complaint, formal or informal, in a company often puts the employer in a tight spot where the workflow or the company’s reputation could be at stake. In such cases, it’s important for the employer to carry out a proper investigation. However, in many organizations, HR or compliance investigators lack appropriate training for conducting workplace investigations. Being an employer you must know that w hen a problem arises, it’s essential to take fast and effective action in order to find out the cause and remedy of the problem, and also to protect the company from dire consequences.
Here’s the step-by-step procedure that you must follow to conduct a successful investigation in your company:
- Decide on the need for investigation
Not every problem requires you to step into a detective’s boot and start investigating. First, decide if you really need an investigation or not. Sometimes minor issues don’t require a full-blown investigation. However, if you receive a complaint through company’s hotline or a web form, the company is obliged to take action. Some companies have regulations regarding how to handle a complaint. Depending on the allegation and company regulations you must decide on the need of investigation.
2. Take Necessary Actions
You need to weigh the situation carefully and take immediate action if required. If you believe that the situation is volatile like an employee is accused of stealing trade secrets or sexually assaulting someone, you could suspend the accused temporarily, with pay. If needed you must also ensure confidentiality of the matter or provide an employee interim protection. Be careful not to form any prejudice against anyone and carry out a neutral investigation.
3. Select Investigator
Select an investigator who is trained or experienced and is impartial towards the employees. He must be capable of taking quick actions, testifying in the court if required and working out professional solutions. If you have someone suitable on the payroll, you are lucky, or else you can hire an outside investigator.
4. Chalk Out a Plan
To chalk out a plan for investigation, you must gather all relevant information on the problem like employee complaint, written warnings, supervisor’s report, related emails, list of involved employees etc. Also, perform some background check. Focus on what exactly are you investigating. This would help you decide who are the employees that need to be interviewed and what questions you should ask.
5. Conduct Interviews
The sole purpose of an investigation is to find out the truth. You need to form effective interview strategies to achieve your goal. Interrogation, cognitive interviewing and confession seeking are some of the techniques, having their own pros and cons. Craft a technique that suits your situation the most and works best for you.
6. Gather & evaluate pieces of evidence
Gather all the shreds of evidence that you can including emails, personal files, company policies etc., and in some cases photographs or stolen items. It’s also important to adopt best practices and document every procedure to ensure the integrity of the evidence. Evaluating pieces of evidence is the most challenging part where you need to decide what looks or sounds most convincing.
7. Draw a conclusion & take action
Draw a conclusion from your interviews and evidence to find out if the allegation or complaint is right or not. Subsequently, take appropriate action weighing the severity of the situation and also considering how it would affect your organization or the accused. If you find the investigation inconclusive, consider conducting more interviews and gathering more evidence.
8. Documentation and follow up
After completing the investigation, make sure you write a detailed investigation report. This could help the company if a similar situation arises in future and may also help in protecting the company against any lawsuit. However, the procedure doesn’t end here. You must also follow up with your employees to ensure that the problem is solved. If the investigation unfolds any problems in the work procedure, organizing training programs could be of help.
A well planned and proper workplace investigation could save you from a number of hassles. It could also reveal organization’s vulnerabilities and avoid financial loses, giving you a fair chance of protecting your company’s integrity and reputation.
Prepare and equip your company for full proof workplace investigations, at the earliest, to deal with unexpected situations.