Top 5 Signs of a Successful Investigation

Investigation Team

Investigations are heavily scrutinized. One misstep and the entire investigation can be seen as a flop.


There’s a lot riding on any workplace investigation. As laws and other legislation tighten, employers face an increasing list of responsibilities when it comes to investigations. Investigations are heavily scrutinized. One misstep and the entire investigation can be seen as a flop. Successful investigations require commitment from a lot of people within an organization – not just the investigator. Here are 5 key characteristics of a successful investigation:

1. Commitment from Management

If you don’t have commitment from those at the top of the organization, it will be hard to justify why an investigation is necessary. It will also be difficult to get the required resources and funding to properly execute an investigation. This issue was discussed when I interviewed Anthony O. Boswell in the post “Building Blocks of an Effective Compliance Program.” In order for an investigation to achieve goals and be successful, management needs to support HR, ethics, compliance- whichever area handles investigations.

2. Allocation of Resources

Cheaper isn’t always better. A successful investigation begins with the right people, significant support from management, the right supplies, sufficient funding and other identified resources. Investigators need to be provided with the tools to complete investigations. Companies cannot cut corners and attempt to complete an investigation with sub par tools. This includes bringing in outside investigators, should certain skills fail to be found internally, as well as providing investigators with tools like case management software, to simplify workflow and report writing.

3. Compliance with the Law

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You never know what could happen once a complaint has been made. Therefore, every investigation needs to be conducted with the law in mind. There are a number of laws that govern the timeliness of an investigation, as well as the responsibilities of an employer throughout a workplace investigation. Although it’s unlikely that every investigation will lead to a court case, you’ll still want to treat each investigation as if it were, simply because of the “what if” factor.

4. Extensive Documentation

Write down everything – and keep it after the investigation has concluded. Even though you conduct an internal investigation, you never know if the matter will go to court or not. Don’t gamble the odds; protect the investigation by putting together an investigation report that would hold up in court. If your company uses case management software, case notes, the investigation report and all other investigation related information is saved in a single location for future reference. Having this information on hand is important should a future incident arise between anyone involved in a previous investigation. Documenting each element of the investigation allows investigators and management to make better decisions, as sometimes you memory can fail you.

5. Post-investigation Follow Up

Just because an investigation is over, it doesn’t necessarily mean that the issue is resolved. You need to follow up with the complainant and the subject of the investigation to ensure that the problem has been rectified. If the investigation concludes that the subject violated company policy, follow up to make sure the person has been reprimanded for their actions. As I’ve mentioned in some previous posts, use investigation information to amend policies and improve employee training. Our case management software allows managers to review which types of incidents are reported and where, so that policies and training can be improved to reflect these matters.


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Article Published March 10, 2011

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