Benefits of Using an External Resource for an Internal Investigation
With increased scrutiny surrounding workplace investigations, the importance of getting investigations ‘right’ has never been greater. The best person to conduct an internal investigation isn’t always the next available company investigator. Different cases require different skill-sets and circumstances sometimes require the services of an outside resource.
One of the biggest challenges in workplace investigations is finding the right people. Different cases require different skill-sets and circumstances sometimes require the services of an outside resource. The focus should be on getting the right people who have the skill set that you need; people who understand how to handle investigations and how to limit themselves to the scope that they’re focusing on.
Benefits of an Outsourced Investigator
- You may not have capacity to investigate internally
The first step in deciding who should investigate a case is to assess the situation and decide whether or not the case can be handled by an internal investigator.
Sometimes you simply don’t have a suitable internal resource, or the “bandwidth” to handle the investigation. Investigations should be undertaken quickly to ensure fair treatment of the person, process or situation being investigated. Delays due to lack of resources can have a negative impact on the whole process.
In these cases it’s clear that you need to use an outside resource. But there are other considerations that may also dictate use of external investigators.
- You may not have the specific skill-set required to conduct the investigation thoroughly
There are times when you may not have an investigator on staff with the necessary skills to conduct a particular investigation.
For example, a serious allegation of fraud or embezzlement may require specialized forensic investigation skills. A sexual harassment accusation may require an investigator with sensitivity training or experience with workplace harassment investigations – each cause for investigation will likely need expertise from the investigator and that experience is rarely present in day-to-day functioning of businesses.
- When executives are investigated – it needs to be handled with care
It may not be appropriate for internal investigators to conduct investigations of certain high-level staff.
It depends on the sensitivity of the issue, the level of the person being investigated. One reason mid-level staff may want to steer clear of internal investigations of higher-level staff is that they’re likely aiming to have an on-going relationship with that group of people or specific person. If internal staff are conducting the investigation, it changes the relationship. The best (and easiest) option is to coordinate or facilitate having an expert from external come in, who is a skilled investigator and who doesn’t have anything to lose in playing a part in this particular investigation.
- Conflict of interest
An internal investigator must be able to investigate a case objectively, and this means that they cannot have a vested interest in the outcome. You have to ask them to either remove themselves from the case, or, if you’re going to let them continue, then you’ve got to have checks all along the way to assure that emotion hasn’t guided the process. It’s extremely rare for someone with a vested interest to be allowed to investigate.
Having an external investigator conducting the process of investigation, you are guaranteed an impartial and honest report from a neutral party.
- Keeping work relationships civil and professional
Advice is typically leveraged against assigning an internal resource to investigate a staff member with whom they, or their team members, have a working relationship. It may be difficult for the investigator to remain impartial and to avoid labelling.
They get very emotional about an allegation and they build their perceptions into realities that are very subjective. And it is hard for people to step away and say ‘but what are the facts?’. Emotionally they’re tired of dealing with the individual. So it’s really hard with people in workplace investigations to step away from that emotion.
It can be very tenuous for you to have somebody as part of your team who has investigated somebody you’re trying to have a relationship with. It ruins all future (relationships) when it comes to trying to work day-to-day. Hiring an outsourced investigator is a sure-fire way to mitigate the risk of souring good working relationships, without having to forfeit a serious investigation.