Part of running a business means dealing with personnel issues. When an employee comes to you with a harassment, discrimination, safety or any other type complaint, be sure to listen and investigate. Conducting workplace investigations is one of the most challenging HR duties, but also one of the most important. Some of the most common mistakes include: not taking the situation seriously, not conducting an investigation at all, failing to write a report, or failing to follow up with those involved. That sets employers up for trouble should that employee end up filing a lawsuit. On the other hand, conducting an investigation in a prompt, thorough, and fair way can be your first line of defense should a situation come back to haunt you.
Before you start scheduling people to talk about the issue, make a plan so you don’t lose focus and so that the process is efficient and effective. As you investigate, make sure to stay objective. Choose an investigator who doesn’t have a vested interest in the employee or situation. Plan questions in advance and use open-ended questions to draw information out of the witnesses. Gather evidence if you can. Be sure to document everything.
Don’t wait! Even though investigations take time, it’s critical to take care of them quickly. The more time that goes by, the better chance witnesses will start to forget what they saw or heard.
There's a great deal of information to learn to effectively prepare for and conduct a workplace investigation. Be sure to tune into our Webinar on Conducting Workplace Investigations later this month. Our HR experts will review:
- When and why an employer should conduct an investigation
- How to conduct an effective workplace investigation
- How to identify the different stages of an investigation
- Top mistakes to avoid during an investigation