Why do internal investigations matter? Why should an organization invest time, money and other resources into conducting investigations? For many, the answer is obvious – it’s the right thing to do. Companies are responsible for investigating employee misconduct and other workplace incidents in order to take corrective action and prevent future wrongdoing. In an ideal world, every employee would follow the company code of conduct and make ethical decisions – incident investigations wouldn’t be necessary. Unfortunately, such a world doesn’t exist. As much as we want to trust and believe our employees to be honest, ethical people, we need to be prepared in case anyone slips up. Don’t wait until it’s game over.
Investigations DO Matter
As I’ve discussed in previous posts, investigations are a source of value and information in an organization. Here are three reasons why workplace investigations matter – and why they should matter to you:
1. All about the Benjamins
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Have you ever noticed how one of the first things to drop when a company is involved in some type of scandal is the share price? Misconduct is expensive. In most companies, decisions are made based on dollars. Effective workplace investigations help companies save money in the long run. For example, if a company fails to investigate allegations of fraud, chances are, the employee will continue stealing money from the organization. If a company fails to investigate a harassment allegation, the complainant might take the incident to an outside agency, resulting in fines and a reputational blow to the company. When a company takes control of incidents by investigating them and reprimanding wrongdoers, they reduce the likelihood of future misconduct, lawsuits and other forms of unflattering public attention.
2. Ensure Training Success
In Meric Craig Bloch’s book “An Insider’s Guide to Workplace Investigations,” he writes that investigations are the link between ethics training and company operations. Bloch writes that effective ethics training should be measured based on the following three points:
- How effectively the ethics training leads to increased awareness and actual reporting of actual or potential misconduct.
- How effectively the reports are investigated with the objective of, among other things, identifying how business processes can be improved.
- Thereby reducing the company’s legal, financial and reputational risks.
Another important point that Bloch raises is that companies often let problems go on longer than they should just because they are too expensive to fix. A word to the wise: misconduct has to be cleaned up eventually, and it will only be more expensive down the road. Nip misconduct in the bud from the very beginning.
3. Manage Risks
Bloch points out the fact that investigations help us learn more about our company and the risks it faces. He refers to the knowledge gained during an investigation as “organizational intelligence,” helping us prevent misconduct, rather than cleaning it up and rebuilding after-the-fact. The more information we have about the risks our company’s face, the easier it becomes to foresee and mitigate those risks. Believe me, the cost of prevention is much less than the cost of reaction.
One last thing to keep in mind is the quality of the internal investigation. Don’t just conduct an investigation to say you did it. Use qualified individuals to investigate and get down to the root of the problem. Companies face severe consequences when it comes to botched investigations. The Renault investigation is an example of what can go wrong when a company fails to conduct an appropriate investigation.