If workplace investigations are not conducted fairly or properly, a company runs the risk of damaging its culture and reputation.
It’s therefore important to choose carefully when deciding who within your teams should be trained to become in-house investigators.
Here are the top five skills you should look for:
The smooth running of an investigation hinges on clear, open and honest communication. Investigators must take responsibility for ensuring all parties involved are kept up-to-date with the progress of the investigation in a timely manner. Investigation timelines can quickly alter as new information comes to light or new witnesses are uncovered so keeping everyone in the loop will help manage expectations and frustrations.
Investigators must also be open in their own expectations of those involved in the progress. For example, clearly setting out rules around confidentiality through written correspondence and at the beginning of interviews, in order to uphold the integrity of an investigation.
The aim of an investigation is to objectively gather the facts surrounding a grievance. Investigators must therefore be conscious of their own biases, understand the influence they could have on how they conduct an investigation, and actively challenge them.
Bias comes in all shapes and sizes – you could judge someone based on their appearance, make harmful assumptions based on their past actions, or be more lenient to someone who is similar to you. All of these biases, combined with the potential time pressures of an investigation, can quickly influence a line of questioning or how evidence is assessed, leading to unfair conclusions.
Investigations can be very difficult for those involved as people may feel judged or worried that their jobs are on the line. An investigator should have the ability to build a rapport with their interviewees and allow them to feel that they’ve had an equal opportunity to voice their side of the story. Sensitive questioning is key in helping people feel at ease, which will in turn help to encourage honest responses and the clearest picture of the incident in question.
There is no point in asking the right questions if you’re not going to listen to the answers! Investigators don’t just need to jot down responses, but truly understand what is being said to determine if there are any discrepancies or if any information is missing.
Active listeners are attentive, present, reflective and are always prepared to check their understanding or ask further questions.
All these skills will only go so far if an investigator is not highly organised. As outlined in my previous blog, investigations require meticulous planning, rigorous time management, impeccable recordkeeping, effective management and analysis of data, and accurate report writing – all of which lie on the shoulders of the investigator.
Once you’ve identified your future workplace investigators, Tell Jane is here to help. We offer a comprehensive training programme aimed at upskilling in-house HR, line managers and leadership teams to carry out fair, inclusive and impartial workplace investigations. Email email@example.com to register your interest or find out more.
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