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Workplace investigations 101: Understanding the basics


Maintaining a harmonious and productive workplace is essential for any organization's success. In today's ever-evolving business landscape where challenges and competition abound, fostering a work environment that prioritizes employee well-being, cooperation, and satisfaction has become increasingly vital. However, even in the most well-run companies, the need for workplace investigations can sometimes arise. In fact, statistics reveal that nearly 85% of today's employees experience workplace conflict1. Overlooking or underestimating the importance of conducting well-planned and timely workplace investigations can result in unforeseen business turbulence and hinder employee retention.

In this article, we shed light on the intricate world of workplace investigations, addressing fundamental aspects and common challenges while offering practical insights to help businesses navigate the process. From understanding the need and scope of these investigations to deciphering effective practices, we explore how to proactively handle such situations. 

Why prioritize workplace investigations? 

To conduct effective investigations, it is important to first understand the broader context and needs they fulfill within your organizational framework. These investigations address various issues such as harassment, discrimination, ethical violations, and workplace misconduct that are key to maintaining a healthy work environment. Prioritizing investigations showcases your commitment to upholding values, protecting employee well-being, and maintaining organizational integrity. Here are four reasons why investing in workplace investigations is crucial for your business:

  1. Conflict resolution: Workplace investigations primarily aim to resolve conflicts. Tackling these issues in a timely manner allows you to address concerns, maintain trust, and create a safer and more inclusive work environment.
  2. Compliance with the law: Workplace investigations also serve as a means to ensure compliance with the current provincial, and federal laws, thus safeguarding your employees' rights.
  3. Protection from liability: Properly conducted investigations can protect your business from legal liability. Failure to investigate and address workplace misconduct can expose you to reputational and/or financial harm.
  4. Preserving organizational culture: Workplace investigations are not solely about solving specific problems but also about preserving and enhancing the organizational culture. A culture that values fairness, respect, and accountability is more likely to attract and retain top talent.

A formula for success

Successful workplace investigations require prioritization as a key business aspect as well as a clear roadmap—whether conducted in-house or through an external investigator. Our experienced workplace investigation consulting team summarizes the essential steps for conducting a successful investigation in this formula:

An image showcasing the way to successfully conducting work place investigations starting first with policy, then process, then plan, and finally improvement.

This roadmap ensures that workplace investigations are not just reactive measures but proactive tools for fostering a healthy organizational culture. Start by ensuring your business is equipped with a well-defined policy that lays the foundation and outlines the organization's commitment to maintaining a safe and respectful workplace. Make sure your policy is cohesive, adhering to the provincial and federal regulations and guidelines.

Once your policy is in place, develop a clear and efficient investigative process to ensure that when concerns arise, they are handled swiftly and fairly. Make sure to involve key business stakeholders throughout this process. This then should be followed by the development of a comprehensive plan for conducting investigations including assigning responsibilities, timelines, and resources. This step is essential to maintain consistency and transparency. 

Ensuring your procedures and plans are in place doesn’t however conclude your role, the key to long-term success lies in a commitment to continuous improvements. Make sure you are regularly reviewing and updating policies, processes, and plans in response to feedback and changing circumstances to ensure that the workplace remains a safe, inclusive, and thriving environment for all employees.

Key tips to consider

Establishing a solid foundation for workplace investigations is a great start to maintaining a healthy work environment. Consider these fundamental tips when conducting workplace investigations.

Act swiftly upon receiving a complaint or report to prevent turbulence and escalating tensions. Timely conflict resolution is cited as essential by 92% of employees for job satisfaction1.

Assign a well-trained and experienced investigator with no personal stake in the outcome, guaranteeing an unbiased and fair assessment. 

Often overlooked, documentation is a key element of every investigation. Be sure to document every facet of every investigation. This step serves as a vital resource for future investigations or follow-ups.

Keep all involved parties updated on the investigation's progress and its ultimate outcome, fostering trust through transparency.

How BDO can help

Workplace investigations are vital for your business’s prosperity. Addressing conflicts, ensuring compliance, and upholding a positive organizational culture help drive growth through employee satisfaction. By involving the right stakeholders and following a defined process, your business can navigate these investigations confidently. 

BDO’s workplace investigation consulting team has extensive knowledge and certification in workplace investigations, offering tailored consultations to enhance policies and procedures, provide training for key stakeholders, and support throughout the investigation process and beyond. Our experienced professionals are ready to partner with you, providing clear and timely guidance to simplify the process for your organization and support you well after the investigation project. 

Reach out to us to discuss your specific requirements and improve your workplace investigation plan.

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