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8 Steps for Evaluating and Improving Your Investigators

Feb 27, 2023
Rebecca Trotsky

At the core of fair, air-tight investigations are your investigators themselves. No matter how much documentation software and technology you implement to streamline the process, the humans involved in the work will make or break the quality of your investigations. 

Ensure that your investigations team has the legal knowledge, process confidence and personal skills needed to properly investigate employee complaints, handle confidential information, and provide appropriate advice and guidance to the organization. 

Here are eight ways to evaluate the current strength of your investigators and identify areas for their continual improvement:

Conduct a process check-in.

Before investigations even begin, make sure your investigators are operating from the same expectations as your ER organization. Are they familiar with your process? How do they expect the process to flow? How do they intend to conduct the investigation? What will they do if the process gets off track?

Take a baseline assessment.

Different organizational cultures and ER models can impact how investigations are run. For example, a centralized ER team tends to resolve cases faster than HR business partners who juggle a ton of other responsibilities. Since investigators may have differing levels of functional expertise and hail from different cultures and ER models, get a baseline assessment of their experience with your culture and your model.

Review the quality of their investigation plans.

Ask investigators to show you a written investigative plan with case specific milestones. The best investigators have already thought through how their questions will flow and they generally know what documents they will be asking for. They also plan for possible pivots as the case unfolds which means they should have an idea of secondary documents they may need to ask for. Finally, find out how familiar they are with the legal rules around what they can and cannot ask for.

Gauge their interviewing and investigative skills.

This one is big. An interviewer’s communication skills are everything.Their ability to listen carefully, perceive credibility, and instinctively dive deeper are critical to a successful investigation. Ask about how they have handled past interviews. Ask them for examples of how they identified both a credible and non-credible witness. Find out what queues they listen for that compel them to ask a question differently or alter questions in the middle of an interview. If necessary, consider “around the table” role playing exercises that help not only evaluate interviewing acumen but also improve skills through group learning.

Measure their follow-up as follow-through.

The best investigators know that it’s their job to actually come to a conclusion. As you evaluate their ability to make a confident call about what probably happened, ask yourself the following: do they come to you to talk through their reasoning and weigh the factors to reach a conclusion? Do they prefer to leave the final call to someone else? Once the call has been made, how consistent are they with follow-through activities? Ask investigators to walk you through how they ensure action is completed and how they intend to document it for future reference.

Evaluate the accuracy of their conclusions, case reporting and documentation.

ER team members come and go, but documentation is forever (or at least it should be treated that way.) Take the time to evaluate how accurate and well written an investigator’s recommendations, conclusions and case reports are. Are they clear? Would they hold up in court? Would you feel confident using the material in a legal proceeding?

Test their ability to remain unbiased.

Humans are biased, but the good investigators will leave their personal opinions and corporate politics out of a case. Consider using hypothetical case scenarios and asking investigators how they would respond. In addition, if an investigator has a track record, audit it for signs of biased decision making. In the end, your goal should be confirming whether or not your investigator has the courage to make bold recommendations based on facts not feelings.

Provide coaching in real time.

As you complete the steps above, you’re bound to find areas that need improvement. Make sure your procedures provide real time coaching, support and training to help investigators take the right actions and make the right decisions. Consider using technology that embeds real time coaching and ‘procedural policing’ to ensure investigations are run properly. Explore our “Investigations Playbook” for tips on how to embed support.

A sound ER function relies on high quality investigations. High quality investigations are led by skilled investigators. Skilled investigators are the ones who follow trends, analyze data, and prevent future action by staying organized and proactively improving their own skill sets.

Rebecca Trotsky
Rebecca is responsible for HR Acuity’s talent acquisition and retention strategy as well as driving employee relations capability and effectiveness across customers, prospective customers and employees with the goal of elevating the impact of employee relations.

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