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The Best Investigations Begin with the Best Investigators

Posted by Joe Gerard on January 24th, 2011

You wouldn’t select just any employee to conduct an investigation – would you? You need to make sure that expertise is there. If a case goes to court, you can guarantee that the qualifications of each investigator will be taken into consideration.

Employers are liable for conducting immediate, thorough investigations. An investigator that lacks skill or experience could be considered inadequate, putting into question the validity of the entire investigation. In some organizations, the necessary skills and experience don’t exist in-house, forcing employers to hire external investigators to get the job done.

Regardless of where your investigators come from, here are some tips to ensure you select the best of the best.


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When selecting investigators (internal or external) consider pre-existing interests that could sway someone one way or another.

You’ll need to evaluate any relationships between the investigators and those involved in the investigation. Are they friends at or outside of work? Does their role require them to report or delegate to any of the involved parties? If so, you’ll have to choose someone else to investigate.

In the book “Workplace Investigations: Discrimination and Harassment,” Diane Pfadenhauer SPHR, Esq. writes:

“The truth is, human resource staff members are not always the appropriate choice for internal investigations. For example, no employee should investigate the conduct of a superior or colleague with whom he or she is required to work closely. Objectivity is a priority, and to ignore the presence of an internal conflict jeopardizes the entire investigation.”


RELATED: Should I Use an Internal or External Investigator?


Skills and Expertise


No investigation is ever the same. Investigations involve different types of misconduct, people and methods to carry out the offense. That being said, the same investigators may not be the best choice for every investigation. Select investigators on a case by case basis.

Some of the common factors to consider – whether it’s an internal or external source up for consideration, include:

  • Previous experience– An experienced investigator knows what to look for and how to get the information they need to complete the investigation on time.
  • Seriousness of the misconduct– If the investigation involves incidents that are considered criminal offenses, you’ll want to choose an investigator that has previously dealt with cases that have gone to court.
  • Type of misconduct– Some investigators become really good at investigating a specific type of incident based on their background or areas of study. Select an investigator that has a background in an area such as harassment, accounting or IT to investigate incidents of the same nature.
  • Understanding the law– Investigators must be familiar with the laws pertaining to the type of incident under investigation.


Using Teams


In smaller organizations, it can be difficult to use multiple investigators to look in to a case. In some cases, the resources just aren’t available and using multiple investigators might make the investigation feel overly intimidating. On the other hand, routine or minor complaints simply don’t need multiple investigators.

According to the “Essential Guide to Workplace Investigations” by Lisa Guerin, she suggests only using teams for larger, more complex investigations. The book states:

“It’s probably best to use a team only for more serious complaints – those that involve many employees, substantial misconduct and/or a high possibility of legal trouble. Your company will reap the greatest benefits (of corroboration and efficiency) in these situations and they warrant spending the additional time and money a second investigator will require.”


RELATED: Assembling an Investigation Team

Joe Gerard
Joe Gerard

CEO, i-Sight

Spend my days showing off the i-Sight investigative case management software and finding ways to help clients improve their investigations. Usually working with corporate security, HR & employee relations, compliance and legal teams.

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