The decision to initiate a workplace investigation and establishing the process through which it will be conducted is critical to maintaining a safe, healthy and productive workplace. However, after you’ve done the difficult work of carrying out an investigation, communicating the findings with all affected parties and deciding what corrective steps will be taken is perhaps the most crucial phase of the entire process. While workplace investigations are typically conducted because there is conflict among individuals or teams, the conclusion of an investigation is actually an important opportunity to make positive changes that will ultimately benefit not only those employees but possibly the entire organization. If you can capitalize proactively, responsibly and positively, on the insights gained during a workplace investigation, your teams have the opportunity to learn from the process, contributing to a significant improvement in your culture going forward.

How does this work?

1.    Decide Who Needs to Be Informed and What they Need to Know

While maintaining privacy and confidentiality is a necessary part of the investigative process, employers must consider how investigation results will be shared with all affected parties, including the complainant, the respondent and any witnesses involved. All organizations are subject to access and privacy laws, and it’s critical that the team responsible for post-investigation communications understands what information can be shared in accordance with those rules. Generally, information can be shared on a “need to know” basis. Employees interviewed as part of the investigative process are naturally likely to be emotionally invested in the results. Providing key parties with a summary of the findings and corresponding actions relevant to their own role is critical to enabling employees to move forward and to begin restoring the relationships and the workplace.

2.    Reinforce a Culture of Transparency and Zero Tolerance for Retaliation 

Regardless of the findings of an investigation, it is essential that your organization take thoughtful and effective steps to ensure any individuals involved feel their concerns have been taken seriously and that they are protected from retaliation. Your actions post-investigation will be an important opportunity to demonstrate that your organization takes seriously the responsibility of creating a safe and healthy workplace. Thank stakeholders for bringing an issue forward, encourage them to continue to do so in the future and reassure them that no retaliatory action will be tolerated under any circumstances.

3.    Create a Plan for Follow-Up

If your investigation results include recommendations for restorative or corrective action, create a clear and specific implementation plan. Ensure the plan is well-communicated and the employees involved are well-supported with necessary and relevant resources and established milestone check-ins.  Some workplace investigations may identify larger, systemic issues that require long-term planning for team or organizational assessment, change management, reviewing policies and procedures or implementing additional training and resources. Ensure you pay an equal amount of attention to these issues and create an appropriate implementation plan.

4.    Review Your Process

In addition, each time you complete an investigation, take the opportunity to review how it all went – look at relevant policies, available reporting mechanisms, the investigation team’s skills and knowledge, the follow-up communication, and the effectiveness of your recommendations and related actions. If there were any stumbles along the way, focus on updating and improving for next time.

Ideally, a workplace investigation and the resulting findings give organizations the opportunity to learn, grow and improve. Creating and implementing a clear and thorough follow-up plan will help ensure you and your employees can move forward in a positive and productive way and help you prevent similar issues from arising in the future. Failing to manage the outcomes of an investigation properly may irreparably harm your employees, your company culture and expose you to significant financial risk, so be sure you have the tools and expert support your teams need when undertaking this important work.

 

Workplace investigations are hard;  Reach out to us today to learn how our experienced workplace investigators can help.

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