Investigation Techniques: Employee and Witness Surveys

Surveys are a great investigation tool when conducting witness interviews and gathering additional information from larger groups of employees.

Posted by Joe Gerard in on March 23rd, 2010

Surveys are a great investigation tool when conducting witness interviews and gathering additional information from larger groups of employees. Although creating surveys can initially be time consuming and difficult to formulate, surveys can be used in a variety of situations within your workplace investigations to efficiently generate valuable information.  The article “Investigation Techniques” outlines some important elements of surveys that have been modified and highlighted below:

Advantages of Surveys

When surveys are prepared properly before distribution, surveys can provide a number of benefits to your investigation process. Some of the advantages of surveys are:

  • Objectivity- All respondents are being asked the same questions, in the same order, in the same way. This reduces the chances of influencing certain responses from those being interviewed and may even generate more honest responses since responses don’t have to be given verbally to a interviewer.
  • Number of Respondents- There are no limits imposed regarding how many people can respond to a survey- it simply depends on how many you feel you require to draw a conclusion based on the answers provided.
  • Time- Once a survey has been created, it takes very little time to collect respondent information. Surveys require a fraction of the time that face-to-face interviews need. Also, the ability to survey more people in the same amount of time allows you to get a more complete picture of the situation, and it can significantly reduce the time of your investigation- which is always a solution that investigators are looking for!

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  • Money- Surveys are highly cost effective. Besides paying for someone’s time to develop the survey, there are few additional costs associated with surveys. Survey data can be compiled on paper through written surveys or can be completed online using tools like SurveyMonkey - it ranges in price from free to about $20/month. I like the online tools because they store the data and allow you to cross tabulate responses and analyze the data on the spot in real time.
  • Range- Surveys can be created for a wide range of topics or issues. Surveys can be used as an internal investigation tool, an HR tool for gathering information specific to the work environment, project related feedback as well as any other area where questions are asked within your workplace.

Survey Preparation

The make or break factor in the success of a survey is the preparation step. If a survey doesn’t follow a logical order or is missing key questions, it becomes difficult to achieve the information necessary to aid in your internal investigation. Here are some important tips that will help you avoid making mistakes during survey preparation:

  • Respondents- Think about who will be answering the questions and write in a language that’s easy to understand and relates to the group.
  • Purpose- What information do you hope to get from the survey? Define the scope of the survey in order to refrain from asking questions that don’t directly relate to the main purpose for the interview- the respondents will become tired of answering questions if they feel that they are not relevant to the case at hand.
  • Questions- First, it’s best to make a list of questions that you need to ask in order to solicit the necessary information from your respondents. When formulating the question, avoid loaded questions and ambiguity- this can lead to confusion and a lack of understanding of what the question is really asking. After that, you will want to put the questions in a specific order to avoid leading the respondents towards answering in a particular way.
  • Writing- Respondents may be reluctant to complete a survey that looks like it requires too much writing. It’s best to use a mix of different types of questions- multiple choice, fill in the blank, written open response, likert scale questions, in order to increase respondent engagement.
  • Do it Yourself- Take the time to answer the survey yourself, in order to determine the approximate completion time and to test out the flow/ sequence of questions. This gives you time to check over the questions, make sure the order they are in makes sense, ensure that a mix of formats have been used in writing the questions and remove any questions that may be irrelevant in collecting the necessary data.

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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