Print Posted by Arkus, Inc on 05/18/2017

Conduct A Successful Workplace Investigation In 6 Steps

By: Bob Arden
Conduct A Successful Workplace Investigation In 6 Steps

B2B professionals already understand the value of being able to work with other people through tricky negotiations. In the process of making a sale to another business, B2B professionals have to gather evidence ahead of time and know when it’s appropriate to speak and when to listen. What’s more, they need to have the basic interpersonal skills necessary to relate to other people and create a rapport with them. Those same skills are necessary for HR representatives within B2B companies when it comes to conducting investigations in the workplace.

Whether a workplace investigation is triggered by an alleged infraction of company rules, a sexual misconduct complaint, or suspected drug use by an employee, the professionals conducting such an investigation need to be prepared and know how best to respond. Properly handled, a workplace investigation can prevent more serious damage to the company and avoid the risk of being further exposed to liability. It’s estimated that HR professionals can spend as much as 60 percent of their time at work resolving disputes in the workplace, and investigations make up a significant portion of that work. In many cases, conducting an investigation properly allows the company to resolve these disputes internally, without the need to seek outside mediation or intervention.

Given how important it is for protecting the company from further liability and resolving disputes before they can become more serious, understanding the best way to conduct workplace investigations is crucial for HR professionals. This begins with having a clear plan of action in place, including determining at the onset whether it’s appropriate for the investigation to be handled internally or if an outside investigator is required.

Once it has been determined that the investigation will be handled in-house, the professionals in charge of the investigation should begin by collecting as much information as possible through interviews with the employees allegedly involved in the incident as well as any potential witnesses. The investigators also will need to collect any and all evidence available — including emails, personnel files, and other documentation. Once they have collected all of the relevant evidence, the investigators must then move on to evaluating all of the evidence to determine exactly what happened, how it may have violated company policies or the law, and then determine who is at fault. The final step in a workplace investigation is to take any actions deemed appropriate in context — including changes to company policy, disciplinary action, termination of the employee, or referral to law enforcement.

One of the most important steps HR professionals or anyone conducting a workplace investigation can take during the process is to keep the process open and transparent for everyone. Often, HR professionals’ biggest mistake during a workplace investigation is failing to keep all parties informed about the investigation’s progress. This can cause complaining employees to feel as though the company is not listening to their concerns and push them to seek outside counsel from an attorney, leading to more complications and potentially exposing the company to greater liability in the future.

Conducting internal investigations may be one of the less-publicized aspects of an HR representative’s responsibilities, but its impact can be substantial. Like most other aspects of the B2B world, internal workplace investigations require a deft hand and a clear understanding of interpersonal interactions to successfully navigate them. Professionalism and preparedness are key for workplace investigations. The following guide details the process HR professionals need to take to ensure that they know exactly how to proceed and how to conduct such investigations. Workplace investigations can be tricky and fraught with risks, but having a good plan in place can be the difference between resolving an issue and making it worse.

Author bio: Bob Arden has been a licensed private detective in Illinois for over 30 years with Arkus, Inc. He has provided investigative services to Fortune 500 companies, attorneys, insurance companies as well as private individuals. His experience and knowledge have led to successful results for the client. 
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