Workplace investigations – where to begin? Like many organizations DynaLIFEDx conducts internal investigations for a variety of different reasons.
In 2011, new to the world of Human Resources and Employee Relations, I was challenged to evaluate our internal processes for workplace investigations, identify risks and opportunities, and make recommendations on a move forward strategy. What clearly became evident was a strong desire to do the right thing, but a lack of consistency and clarity in how workplace investigations were handled. This lack of consistency and clarity did have the potential to lead to inaccurate findings and create at times, a lack of confidence in the process.
Where to start? Past experience with Queen’s University IRC led me straight to their door. In the fall of 2011 they held a Mastering Fact-Finding and Investigation course. As with other training programs I had attended at Queen’s IRC, they put you to work – creating an environment of learning that includes robust discussions, role-playing, knowledgeable and engaging facilitators, and numerous resources to provide guidance.
Led by Anne Grant, an experienced mediator and conflict resolution professional, I began the journey of learning key principles, stages, legal framework, key procedural aspects, principles of fairness and effectively using organizational policy in formal fact-finding investigations – and that was just the beginning. When I left at the end of the week, my mind was filled with potential infrastructure for our organization, and my hands were filled with templates, guides and best practices.
Personal learning aside, my mandate was to bring to the organization a consistent and fair framework for managing complaints and concerns moving forward. Fast forward two years, through trial and error, and our organization has successfully incorporated the numerous learning’s from the Queen’s IRC program, into a process that has become widely respected and trusted, not only by leaders but by employees as well.
Key infrastructure that has been built includes:
- Pre Screening Complaints: Options, when to investigate and when not to, understanding your mandate.
- Preparing a Plan: Notification processes for complainants, respondents, union and witnesses; planning the investigation.
- Gathering and Documenting Evidence: Rules of evidence, sifting through the evidence, accurate documentation.
- Interviewing: Planning the Interview, documentation, skill building in interviewing, and roles of all parties.
- Reporting Findings: Robust reporting of findings that includes clearly outlined mandates, relevant facts, facts in dispute and facts not in dispute.
- Post Investigation Components: Notification of parties, and storage of material from investigations. Included in this was the deliberate removal of the fact-finder from post-investigation follow up, such as recommending and issuing discipline, something that had been practice in the past.
With the support of Queen’s IRC, finding an infrastructure that works within our organization has been vastly successful while at the same time creating a culture where best practice investigation continues to be a mandate.
About the Author
Cathy Rendek is the Manager of Human Resources at DynaLIFEDx, a private medical laboratory with more than 1,200 employees, serving over 1.4 million patients a year. In 2012, Cathy earned both the Labour Relations Certificate and Organizational Development Foundations Certificate from Queen’s IRC.