As we have entered 2022 I have noticed that more organizations are reaching out to us here at Results Performance Consulting and Investigations (“RPC” for short…) to help with creating internal investigative processes and to help with identifying the right candidates for investigator roles. A trend we are seeing is that organizations are recognizing the need to create consistent, internal investigation procedures and are moving toward a centralized HR or Employee Relations model to handle internal investigations. In other words, the investigators just work cases. They don’t get involved in the day-to-day HR issues but rather handle the Complaint intake, open up a case, work the case, present findings to management, close the case, and then move on to work another case.
The reason for this shift is to minimize the issue of investigator bias. So, with this shift to creating investigative teams, I’ve had some conversations with attorneys and senior HR leaders about how to properly select HR and Employee Relations professionals for internal investigation roles.
Here are 3 tips for how to improve your selection process of HR and Employee Relations investigators:
- Recognize that not everyone is cut out to be an investigator. It takes a high degree of skill to create investigative strategy, to accurately capture and document during investigative interviews, manage conflicts and hostile or reluctant witnesses, and it also takes a high level of skill in preparing an internal investigation report that is court-ready. In evaluating the current skill level of your existing team members, you may realize that some of them may not be the right fit for an investigative role. To determine that, here at RPC we conduct internal HR investigations training programs that are customized to the needs of our clients. As an example, in our programs we do scenario-based training in which we create a mock environment for investigators to apply skills they’ve learned in the first part of the training program. They are tasked with conducting a proper investigative interview using templates, they are required to take accurate notes, and then prepare the documentation. We then evaluate their productivity and their ability to effectively prepare a witness summary or prepare an investigation report. As the program progresses, it becomes evident which class attendees have the skills and those who do not.
- When vetting talent, I recommend creating a very robust screening process that involves a Complainant role play scenario. I find the best way to determine if someone has the skill set to conduct investigations is to put them in a simulation to see how they do under pressure in an investigative interview. As the interviewer of the candidate, pretend you are a Complainant and are lodging a complaint of harassment, discrimination, or retaliation. Task the candidate with handling the intake of the complaint through conducting an intake interview. Tell them they are responsible for asking the interview questions, documenting the interviewee responses, and then synthesizing the conversation notes into a witness summary document.If your candidate for the job can do that accurately, and type up a witness summary in under 40 minutes, you’ve found a good candidate. On the other hand, if this individual struggles to find the right questions to ask, doesn’t have a logical thought process as to why they are asking certain questions, they have a hard time multi-tasking with asking questions while also typing interviewee responses…this is probably not the right candidate. Additionally, if this is an individual who prefers to take hand-written notes vs. typing notes in a Word document or a case management system, I can tell you this individual will struggle in managing their productivity with having to juggle multiple cases and in delivering a quality work product. In my experience when conducting internal investigations training classes with HR, ER, and even Legal teams, the accuracy in capturing details during the investigative interview is always lower with the hand-written note takers rather than those who took notes by keyboarding the interviewee responses. Additionally, those who feel they have to take hand written notes and then transcribe their notes into a Word document or into a case management software solution, this transcription process will take them 2-3 times as long as those who keyboarded interviewee responses. So, from a productivity standpoint these individuals who do not have good keyboarding skills will indeed struggle if they have to handle a high case load.
- When vetting talent for an HR or Employee Relations investigator position, I also recommend asking scenario-based questions such as, “So, Investigator Candidate, if you had an employee tell you in an interview that his boss yelled at him and creates a hostile work environment, what questions will you ask to determine if hostile work environment is an accurate assessment of the behavior that is being alleged?” Additionally, I recommend creating case studies for them to complete where they have to assess a situation involving some type of misconduct (harassment based on disability, a supervisor interfering in an employee’s use of FMLA, or something else that could be serious) and see if the interviewee can identify exactly what the misconduct is AND which organizational policy(ies) may be implicated.
If you are a senior level HR, ER, or Legal professional in need of assistance with creating internal investigation procedures, are in need of HR investigations training for your team, or need assistance with creating effective screening processes for investigators, please just reach out to us and we’re happy to help.
Until next time…
Natalie Ivey, MBA, SPHR, SHRM-SCP
State of Florida PI License #: CC3100045