Internal investigations are fact-finding initiatives conducted to uncover the truth about alleged misconduct. This must be done without compromising the relationship with employees or unnecessarily damaging anyone's reputation. All of which requires planning, consistent execution, analytical skill, and an understanding of the legalities involved.
Employers are legally mandated to investigate harassment, discrimination, retaliation, safety, and certain other types of complaints. Good investigators first create a plan that includes:
Workplace investigations are crucial when it comes to establishing a safe and welcoming work environment. However, these investigations are often complex and can involve navigating sensitive topics and disputes.
A poorly conducted internal investigation can cost a company financially and damage its reputation, not to mention the reputation of the person tasked with overseeing such a probe. Some of the common mistakes made include:
Conducting workplace investigations is one of the most challenging duties that HR professionals and other managers must face due to today’s workforce demographics, new employment laws, employees being more aware of their rights – a quagmire of potential landmines - and many managers not trained to do so.
Employers must demonstrate fairness when conducting workplace investigations. Investigations should be thorough and well-documented before an employer takes any action. Additionally, effective workplace investigations need to be guided by the following principles:
An internal investigation is a formal inquiry to determine whether workplace policies or regulatory practices have been violated. Investigations can follow a:
The goal of any internal investigation is to obtain a straightforward view of the facts:
Internal investigations assist organizations in gathering information, fashioning defences, and crafting remedies. Specifically, internal investigations are useful for organizations to identify where there are needs for remediation.
It is critical to investigate an allegation quickly. Stretching an investigation out over a lengthy period tells employees the alleged misconduct is not important. As time goes by, it becomes more difficult to collect evidence and get witnesses to talk, details are forgotten and documents disappear.
If the organization terminates or disciplines an employee and that person files a lawsuit or complaint, the investigation report will be critical in protecting the company in court. While every complaint is unique, having a well-defined, consistent process in place can ward off future lawsuits.
Pete Tosh is Founder of The Focus Group, a management consulting and training firm that assists organizations in sustaining profitable growth through four core disciplines:
· Implementing Strategic HR Initiatives
· Maximizing Leadership Effectiveness
· Strategic Planning
· Enhancing Customer Loyalty
The Focus Group has provided these consulting and training services to manufacturing and service organizations across the U.S., Canada, Europe and the Middle East. Pete has worked closely with the leadership teams of organizations such as Exxon, Brinks, EMC, State Farm, Marriott, N.C.I. YKK and Freddie Mac
Prior to founding his own firm 25 years ago, Pete had 15 years of experience — at the divisional and corporate levels — in Human Resource and Quality functions. Pete held leadership positions — to include the V.P. of Human Resources and Quality — with Allied Signal, Imperial Chemical Industries, Reynolds Metals, Charter Medical and Access Integrated Networks.
Pete holds a B.A. degree in Psychology from Emory and Henry College and Master’s degrees in both Business Administration and Industrial Psychology from Virginia Commonwealth University. Pete is also co-author of Leading Your Organization to the Next Level: the Core Disciplines of Sustained Profitable Growth.
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