Conducting a workplace investigation can be daunting. There are allegations to clarify, witnesses to interview, evidence to analyse and a report to write – all of which can be complicated and time-consuming. On top of the practical tasks, there’s also the need to keep everyone in the loop, manage expectations and maintain overall workplace harmony. It’s no wonder the process can feel overwhelming.
But, we’re here to help with key insights for how to prevent workplace investigation overwhelm:
Be clear on the investigation’s scope and purpose
Before leaping in, it’s important to understand what you’re dealing with. What is alleged to have happened and who does it involve? Being clear on exactly what you are investigating will help you hone down your list of interviewees and the questions you need to ask.
It’s also important to remember that the role of an investigator is not to be judge and jury, so take that pressure off yourself. Your sole aim is to collect evidence and present findings – you are not involved in making recommendations for sanctions or the decision-making process for outcomes.
Give yourself time and space
All employers have a duty of care to investigate any grievance raised, so it’s essential that appropriate time is allocated for proper planning. It’s probable that as an investigator you will be managing the process alongside your usual work commitments. Talk to your line manager about delegating some of your workload or pushing back deadlines to give you the adequate time you need.
You will also likely be dealing with some highly confidential information, especially when writing up the report of your findings. Request to work from home for this stage of the investigation to ensure you can complete the report in private and not worry about colleagues catching a glimpse of sensitive details.
Recruit a notetaker
An investigation involves meticulous record-keeping. Taking notes at the same time as asking questions and actively listening to the responses can be a tricky task. Recruiting a notetaker to accompany you during interviews allows you to focus solely on asking questions and following up on answers to ensure you’ve built the best picture possible of the incident you are investigating.
A notetaker should, obviously, be someone able to write quick and accurate notes, and have the time to write up those notes as quickly as possible. It would be ideal if the notetaker had previously run an investigation so they were aware of the process and the requirements for confidentiality.
Work through your report methodically
Once an investigation has concluded, you can’t sit on your hands. The findings need to be communicated promptly, but with pages of interview notes and evidence to analyse before putting pen to paper, this can feel like a huge task.
The trick is to work methodically. Think of the report like a university dissertation; clarify the allegation(s) you have been investigating, who was involved, the method of your investigation, your findings and a conclusion, with an appendix including your interview notes, company policies and any other supplied evidence.
For every allegation, align the findings from your interviews and any other supplied evidence. Summarise these findings, establish the facts that have been identified and anything that has not been established, highlight any mitigating circumstances and conclude if there is a case to answer.
Consider external support
Investigations can range from the simple to the complex. Depending on the gravity of the issue, consider whether to keep the investigation in-house or ask for support from an independent consultant, such as Tell Jane. There can be a real relief in using an impartial and efficient third party to handle conflict, keep the investigation on track and within current ACAS guidelines.
Tell Jane is here to help you with your workplace investigations. We conduct fair, transparent and unbiased investigations for organisations across the UK, as well as provide thorough training for in-house investigators to help them run efficient and proficient processes without feeling overwhelmed. Email firstname.lastname@example.org to find out more.
Would you like to read more?