Workplace investigations can seem like a standard response in most cases, but it’s important to note that (like with any investigation… workplace or not) there are two different approaches.
It’s all part of the triage process. Think of it like a gateway process to guide your organisation, and your investigator if you engage one. It is important to determine which type of investigation you’ll need to undertake, right from the start.
There are investigations that are considered as “evidence-based” versus outcome-focused. But what does that mean? And what’s the difference?
And why do you need to know about it?
Outcome-focused investigations are conducted when you’re seeking an outcome… or resolution to the particular problem. Good examples of this are simple grievances, issues with performance of a staff member, minor conduct that needs to be dealt with (after determining what happened of course) and investigations that do not require any formal outcome. A cultural review that identifies organisational problems is another good example.
A simple matter that, while still requiring investigation to determine the facts, but will not result in any formal sanction against a person, is outcome-focused. These types of investigations can be undertaken internally by appropriately trained staff.
An evidence-based investigation however, is one that requires some formality, structure and independence. What this investigation seeks to determine is the facts based on the evidence. The relevant standard of proof needs to be determined – whether beyond reasonable doubt (in the case of criminal matters, generally not applicable for workplace investigations) or on the balance of probabilities. The rules of procedural fairness must be followed strictly and, generally, the evidence gathered needs to be at a standard that can withstand scrutiny in a court or tribunal, ultimately.
CEO of the Forensix Group, Gregory Lamey, says “Sometimes, I see formal evidence-based investigations being conducted when, frankly, there’s just no need. What this does is end up costing organisations time, money and stress it didn’t need.”
Mr Lamey adds, “that’s why the complaint triage process is so important.” It’s vital to seek advice and determine what type of investigation is needed right from the start. Have the appropriate processes, risk assessments and governance procedures in place… and you’ll be better placed to determine the best course of action.