5 More Internal Investigation Tips

The success of an investigation relies heavily on reducing the risk of error during the investigation process- this requires paying attention to detail and careful planning.

Posted by Joe Gerard in Human Resources on March 29th, 2010

The success of an investigation relies heavily on reducing the risk of error during the investigation process- this requires paying attention to detail and careful planning. When preparing for and conducting internal investigations, there are many factors to consider. We covered some of them in the post “8 Internal Investigation Tips” but discovered that 8 tips were simply not enough. You are held liable for reacting promptly and conducting thorough investigations once a complaint is made. This means that you need to complete your investigations properly the first time around- make the investigation a priority, collect all pieces of evidence, ask questions that cover all areas of the investigation and determine an appropriate consequence for the misconduct that was made. Here are some additional internal investigation techniques to consider in order to hit the bulls eye on your next investigation:

1. Avoid Making Pre Judgments

It’s important to approach each investigation in a non-judgmental manner.  Avoid assuming whether the subject (the accused) is guilty or innocent until all of the facts have been gathered and all sides of the story have been heard. Jumping to conclusions before understanding the facts of the case make it difficult to conduct a fair investigation.

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2. Determine if Temporary Dismissal is Required

There are some situations that require the consideration of interim dismissal of the subject while an investigation takes place. Temporary dismissal (with pay) or reassignment to another department in the workplace should only be considered if it’s decided that the presence of the subject hinders or influences key elements of the investigation (ie. evidence, witnesses, etc.). Should this decision be made, it’s important to provide reasoning to the subject for the temporary situation and explain that it isn’t a disciplinary action against them regarding the alleged misconduct. In the article “10 Steps to an Effective Investigation” on hr.blr.com, they state that

“Taking action before the investigation is complete may be necessary for health or safety reasons, or in situations that are very disruptive or emotionally charged. Temporary transfers, reassignments, or paid leave are examples of interim relief employers can use when necessary.”

3. Interviewee Signatures

The Personneltoday.com article “Trade Secrets: Conducting Internal Investigations” suggests that “at the end of each of the investigation interviews, it is best practice for interviewees to be invited to read through any notes the investigator has made and then sign them.” This allows for further clarification of statements made should there be a misunderstanding on behalf of either party. This also makes it difficult for the interviewees to try and go back on their word and aims to avoid future changes to their story.

4. Information Control

Create and follow a policy that limits the spread of investigation information. In the CSO article “Internal Investigations: The Basics“, they make it clear that “employees’ reputations and relationship to the organization are on the line in an investigation. Careless disclosure of information causes rumors, damages productivity, and creates liability for the company and the investigator.” Disclose information only when necessary- which, in many cases, is only between the investigators on the team that is assigned to the particular case. With case management systems such as i-Sight Investigations Software, it makes it easy to manage cases and ensure that investigation information remains confidential, as it has customizable case assignment rules for that allow you to control case access. By keeping all pertinent case information in one easy to access place, i-Sight reduces the chance for information leaks during the investigation as you establish the access capabilities for each case for the members of your team.

5. Separation of Roles

It’s wise to have an individual or team working on the investigation process and then have a different individual or team make the final decision regarding the action to be taken regarding the misconduct. In many cases, a team of investigators will conduct the interviews, collect the evidence and other elements in the investigation process and then create a report that will be submitted to a specific department for review and decision making regarding the punishment decision. The investigation team can include suggestions that they see fit for reprimanding the subject in the report to be passed on. Preparing investigation reports the old-fashioned way often requires a major time commitment.  With i-Sight, we have created drag and drop reporting, allowing investigators to simply click a button that generates a MS Word document- containing a comprehensive chronology of events/activities, the contacts that were made, the evidence that was gathered and the investigators’ recommendations that are pulled from the case information stored in i-Sight.

Joe Gerard
Joe Gerard

CEO, i-Sight

Spend my days showing off the i-Sight investigative case management software and finding ways to help clients improve their investigations. Usually working with corporate security, HR & employee relations, compliance and legal teams.

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