workplace investigations

Q&A – Bringing The Outside In

19 June 2020

Today we answer another important question from one of our great clients. As always, this section of our blog is aimed at giving you practical tips that your business or team can use today.

We want to provide essential tips that can be used by as many people as possible without causing information overload!

What’s your advice for our team when working out whether a workplace incident should be investigated internally or externally?  

In 2021, this is a really key question for so many businesses. The answer depends on your specific circumstances, but here are our takeaways to consider when making a decision. The good news is that you don’t necessarily have to choose one way or the other.

Key takeaways:

Size matters. Kind of.

Across our clients, we see different approaches. Some businesses are set up to investigate with well-resourced and experienced teams. This works well for high volumes of incidents (read lots of employees) where using external investigators might not seem practical for each issue that comes up. Equally, some of our larger clients intentionally outsource so they can focus resources on different priorities within the business. No matter the size of your business or the volume of complaints, taking a strategic approach to your objectives and resources delivers the best outcomes.

Initial impact assessment.

This is the first step we recommend no matter what. Establish a clear, easy-to-use system which provides a snapshot of the seriousness of the issue based on the material available. Using this information, you can easily determine when something can be looked at internally or requires some external help. Set up an internal timetable to use the system again further down the track – the level of seriousness, and with it, your approach – can change as more information becomes available.

High Stakes

Issues involving serious misconduct or failures are good reasons to seek external help. Objectively serious situations can destroy staff morale, shake customer confidence and hurt your retention and recruitment. No matter your experience levels or resources, choosing external experts shows you are doing everything possible to find out what’s happened without perceived bias or conflict. When called for, this factor alone is priceless.

Know your limits

Investigations are time consuming and can be complex. Realistically assessing your organisation’s resources and experience is essential. Ask your staff what they are comfortable doing (and not doing). The courts are critical of organisations opting for internal investigations when out of their depth. Interviewing colleagues and understanding evidence are specialist skills. The price of mistakes can be high and make a difficult situation worse.

Best of both worlds

Many of our clients don’t have to choose. We offer support services tailored to the way they work. Online chat and phone support provides immediate advice and help with assessing seriousness, risk and even what to do with which documents throughout the process. This solution also provides real-life training and feedback to teams looking to further their incident handling development capabilities.

So there you have it. Some practical insights to help you start the conversation and work out the best approach for your business.

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