HR Investigation: A Complete Guide
The truth is, not every human is the same. We all have our quirks and differences. The same applies to the employees of your organisation. Each employee is different in their own way. Keeping that in mind, it is understandable that there are bound to be differences in opinions that might cause a disciplinary or grievance issue. In scenarios like that, the HR team members look into the issue. This is termed an HR investigation.
Employee misconduct can happen at any time due to various reasons. Addressing the issue can ensure that all employees feel safe at your workplace. It is also necessary to take proper actions to maintain workplace guidelines.
HR investigations usually occur when misconduct is reported, and more information is required before proceeding with actions pertaining to the said misconduct. An HR investigation can offer more details about the event and help the HR team make an informed decision about the parties involved.
Reasons for an HR Investigation
Some specific rules and policies are laid out in a workplace to keep employees working together in harmony without issues. Here are some reasons an HR investigation might be launched in the workplace:
- Misconduct issues of an employee with actions that violate company policies. Ensure that your employees understand the company policies.
- Invasion of privacy is another reason to launch an HR investigation. Any employee who feels that their sensitive information has been leaked can file a complaint to launch an investigation.
- Discrimination can occur in many ways, such as gender, social class, ethnicity, religion, color, and county of origin. Organisations should not tolerate discrimination in the workplace, and employees should feel free to raise a complaint.
- Harassment of any kind can make employees feel violated. It is crucial that your organisation have policies in place to treat this issue seriously.
The Goals of an HR Investigation
The HR team investigates misconduct for the following reasons:
- To get a complete view of the situation and ensure that they are considering all aspects of the accounts when deciding on the issue.
- To show the employees that complaints are taken seriously at the organisation and no grievances shall go unnoticed.
- HR investigations can reveal a trend of the same problem, and investigating them is the best way to ensure that the employees are properly engaged with the organisation.
- Problems might occur because employees never fully understood the company policies. This could mean that employees may require a training session regarding the policies and rules of the company.
- These investigations encourage employees to come forth with their problems and help employers improve the organisation’s faults.
- Conducting investigations can shed more light on the alleged proprietor and might reveal more about the past exploits of that employee.
An HR investigation needs to follow specific steps to get the best possible results. Failing to follow these steps could lead the investigation to derail and reduce the employees’ morale in the organisation.
Failing to handle an HR investigation procedurally can cause your employees to lose hope in the investigation process and, as a result, reduce employee engagement with the organisation.
The following are necessary steps to conduct a fair HR investigation. These steps can help you conduct the investigation fairly by having defined steps and goals for each stage of the investigation.
1. Analyse the HR Complaint
The first and most critical part of launching an HR investigation is to analyse the complaint that is to be pursued. Once you receive the complaint, learn the root cause of the complaint. It might be a discriminatory issue. The employee might have broken the anti-harassment rules or something relating to the company policy.
Ensure that the company policies cover most of the issues in the workplace. Once the complaint is analysed, look into the next set of actions to take. Sometimes the complaint might not need an active investigation.
If there is a situation that needs intervention, it is necessary to keep the proper safety measures in place. Keep the victim protected and take steps to prevent the situation from going out of control. Depending on the nature of the complaint, the situation might need you to send an employee home or suspend someone if the need arises.
One important thing to keep in mind is not to make any decisions based on the initial findings of the complaint. Acting out rashly will likely not solve the problem and can worsen the situation. Only take the necessary actions to keep the situation in control.
2. Decide on the Investigator
Once the situation is under control, it is time to dive into the complaint and start the investigation. Now the only problem is choosing an investigator from your organisation.
Most of the time, the organisation’s HR department will look into the complaint. Sometimes a third-party investigation may prove more fruitful for your organisation. This is especially required if the proprietor is close with the HR investigator.
The organisation should choose an employee they trust to look into the complaint and fairly share their findings. To conduct an HR investigation, they should possess a few necessary qualities. The following are such qualities:
As mentioned above, the investigator should not have a personal relationship with the employee they are supposed to investigate. This will make sure that the investigation is conducted without bias.
Attention to Detail
The investigator should ensure that no minor details are left out. Every piece of evidence can provide a new perspective on the issues in a complaint. It is essential to take every piece of information into account to produce a report.
The investigation should be as confidential as it can be. Letting your employees know about the ongoing investigation can influence them and make it difficult to extract the correct information. Not to mention that information leaking out of your organisation can have a negative impact.
Every complaint may differ in its core nature. But to keep things simple, it is better to complete the investigation quickly. The investigator acting quickly can help in more ways than one. The innocent should be cleared promptly, and corrective actions need to be taken quickly so that employees know that you are serious about complaints.
The investigator should have the necessary skills to handle the witnesses and conduct their research thoroughly while ensuring that every employee gets a fair chance to provide evidence or clear themselves. They should also be able to manage documents and follow up with emails and do a thorough job.
The investigator will likely conduct investigation interviews with various employees. The employees must feel safe opening up to them. Being trustworthy can ensure that the employees speak to the investigator and provide insight without reservations. To ensure that this happens, they should be trustworthy while remaining neutral.
3. The Interview Process
After deciding on the investigator, the next step is to start the interview process. This is where most of the heavy lifting takes place. To get the most out of the interview process, consider taking the following steps:
Plan the Interview
Before the investigator starts asking questions, it is essential to have a plan. The plan will make sure that you stick to your schedule and understand the necessary action items of the interview.
It is better to have a rough outline of the interview questions, but you do not have to stay rigid with your interview questions. Keep the questions flexible to get the most out of the interview.
Employees to Include in the Interview Process
The main objective of the interview is to get a thorough idea of the issue and deal with it as quickly and efficiently as possible. Ideally, it is best to include every employee in the organisation. Due to time constraints, it is better to stick with only the employees associated with the issue.
This should include the victim who raised the complaint. If the preparators are identified, interview them. Any employee who could potentially lead to any new evidence about the issue should be interviewed. Additionally, there might be employees whom the victim might ask you to interview.
The Interview Dynamics
The investigator should be the one in control of the interview. It is better to avoid any leading questions that might influence the employees. It is easy to get lost in the conversation and lose track of the actual issue. Do not let this happen when interviewing a witness. It needlessly consumes a lot of time and will not lead to fruitful results.
The investigator must keep their emotions in check. It is better to avoid revealing any information about the previously interviewed employees or new information that might have come to light. Choosing the questions will ensure that the investigator does not lose track so they can extract useful information.
4. Consolidate and Report Your Results
It is essential to ensure that the employees’ response remains confidential during the interview process. An anonymous interview can help the employees involved to trust the investigator more and open up during the interview.
It is necessary to have a transcript of the entire interview response from the witness or other employees. The complete information will give a better picture of the issue. Also, keep the records of the interview confidential.
Once you have all the data, it is necessary to consider all the aspects of the report to get a well-rounded idea about the issue. Consider the potential and legal risks that might come up once the report is released.
The action for the issue might range from a warning to termination or anything in between. Include necessary employees for the final meeting. Also include the pros and cons of the action for the issue.
Tips for HR Investigation
A few tips can help you conduct the HR investigation without a hiccup. These tips can ensure that the investigation process is handled efficiently.
- Instead of asking leading questions, go for open-ended questions that make the employee speak more about the issue. This can make them share the entire story.
- For the interview, it is better to ask the employee to repeat their answer if there are any miscommunications. Getting repetitive is better than recording miscommunicated information.
- It is crucial to stay neutral to conduct a fair interview. Do not offer or imply to offer any rewards. This might encourage the employees to give false information.
- For the HR investigation, create a proper timeline and stick to it. The organisation should focus on conducting the HR investigation fairly and quickly.
- An employee might not give specific information in the interview and might avoid talking about certain areas altogether. Notice the information an employee avoids giving.
- Be sure that all employees involved in the HR investigation understand why they need to be interviewed. Maintaining confidentiality should not come at the cost of keeping the involved employees in the dark.
Launching an HR investigation is a serious issue that can cause severe action and change the working dynamics of your organisation. The HR investigation can also reveal gaps in your organisation regarding your company policies. Be sure that the gaps are filled, and your employees are educated about any updated policies. This should avoid further issues in your workplace.
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