The Essential Factors You Should Remember When Conducting An HR Investigation

When something goes seriously wrong in the organisation – something like theft or serious breach of contract – the HR is called in to conduct an investigation; and arguably this is one of the least enjoyable tasks the HR department is burdened with. It’s an important part, and it’s due to its importance that it can be so stressful and that so much care has to be taken to get it right.

The most important task for HR is to take the allegations seriously, to stop the alleged conflict, and to protect all involved parties. Next comes the investigation; that’s a burden on its own account. Here are the essential factors you should remember when conducting an HR investigation.

Provide Protection

Both the accused and the alleged victim may be fearful of what’s to come and may be hesitant in providing more information. Both parties need to be separated and reassured that there is impartiality, and that they are safe until the investigation has been conducted. If that means transferring a person (or more) to another department or relieving a person from his or her duties on a temporary basis, then that might be the best thing to do. Consider also that the people who are involved may gossip and spread false rumours, so it’s important to remove people from their sphere of influence if it is warranted.

Ensure Confidentiality

It is their business, and the company’s business – not anyone else’s. Furthermore, a little word here or there can have devastating consequences, not only to the people involved, but also to the investigation. Ensure confidentiality at all times.

Select the Investigator

The investigation should be headed by someone who is not involved, who is not biased, and who has no personal knowledge – who can stay completely objective. If possible, find people with specific knowledge of the subject (depending on the kind of investigation) to assist and advise.

Plan the Investigation

Stipulate your goals. Find out what you need to know. Make a plan.

Conduct Interviews

Respect all people at all times, prepare your questions in advance, and try to record every single detail. Make sure you ask permission. After the interview, have the recording transcribed by a professional service such as

The final step, of course, is reaching a conclusion and writing the report. The report should be very detailed – there’s no telling if someone wants to appeal the decision, or if there will be other nasty consequences due to the event that has happened. It’s exactly for this reason that keeping accurate records is so important. Whether it is the investigation, interviews, meetings to reach a decision, or other vital actions taken, make sure there are plenty of notes, and make sure to mention it all. The investigation and the decisions reached are too important to take lightly.