A lot of time goes into conducting an internal investigation, the last thing you want to do is ruin it with poor documentation. Investigation reports should be written with the worst case scenario in mind. You may not have a lawsuit on your hands at the time of an investigation, but things could change down the road and you will need a report that will hold up in court.
Investigation Report Essentials
Want to know what you should be including in your investigation reports? Here’s a quick video we put together that describes some of the essential elements of an investigation report:
I just wanted to do a quick video today and talk about some of the key elements of a great investigation report. What I’d recommend is that when you are preparing your report, you really have the worst case scenario in mind. You’ll want to assume that this case might end up in court or in front of the regulator, and so your report becomes a critical element in defending and showing what you’ve done as part of your investigation.
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With i-Sight, our case management tool, investigators actually keep all this information in an electronic case file so that at the end they can hit a button and produce this preformatted Word document with their investigation report that they can share internally. One of the things that we’ve learned after having worked with hundreds of companies and helping them prepare these reports is that there are some really key elements, or best practices, that we see. These are the key elements that are really in every single investigation report or most of the investigation reports we’ve done.
The first thing is tombstone information. When that case comes in, this is just basic information. What’s the case number? Who’s the investigator? When did we receive it? Some basic information to start the case.
Next is allegation detail. Usually each corporation has a way of categorizing the type of allegation and those allegations come from multiple referral sources. Whether that’s coming from a hotline, maybe your HR manager, maybe an e-mail directly from the employee, you want to make sure that you capture the original report and how it was described inside of your investigation report.
Next we move to involved parties. This is going to be a list of the people that were involved in your investigation. That’s everything from the original complainant or referring party. We want to have the witness, the subject, any other involved either entities, including companies or people that were involved in that file. Sometimes that can be attorney’s or law firms, law enforcement agencies – that sort of thing. A complete list of who was involved and their contact information.
Fourth is the scope. Most of our clients, and you don’t see this every time, but most are going to have some kind of paragraph or two that describes the scope of the investigation. Before they set out on the investigation, they set some boundaries around what they are going to be investigating. That really sets the stage for the reader in terms of setting it up to say, “Well, this was the original allegation, here are the people involved and this is what we set out to find in our investigation.”
The next four are really the meat of the investigation itself. The first is the case diary. This is where every investigator is going to be keeping notes as they do their investigation. It’s really important that those notes make it into chronological order inside of your investigation report and that each note is date stamped – on this date, here’s what we did, this date here’s what we did, and who did it. That’s a critical element of giving the reader an idea of how that investigation sort of took place.
Next up are interview reports. Sometimes these are referred to as interview memorandums, but the idea is to make sure that you’ve got a record of every single interview that happened. We’ve written a lot about interviewing on our blog because it’s really one of the key elements of the investigation process. What you want to do is make sure that you list every interview that you did, and you want to include some key things like location, date of the interview, who you interviewed, why you interviewed them, and hopefully your interview notes as well. Some people will actually prepare a summary here for the report and an appendix with the details – it’s up to you.
Next is evidence. Any other evidence outside of interviews that was gathered. This might be e-mails, documents, scanned files, whatever you end up coming across through your discovery process. You want to make sure that you itemize again, date stamp when you collected the evidence, what that piece of evidence is, and why it’s related to the case.
Then last, but certainly not least, is recommendations. Usually in a workplace investigation you’re trying to identify the piece or the element of your code of conduct that was violated, and what the repercussions are, what’s going to fall out from that. The person might be retrained, they might be fired, they might come to a settlement. As an investigator you want to make a recommendation so that the consumer of your report, whether that’s legal or whoever, is going to be able to look at it and get a sense of where to go next.
Hopefully, that gives you some detail around how to create an investigation report and what should be included. Best of luck with your investigations.