Conducting an Investigation: Approaches and Best Practices:
1. Define the scope of the investigation
2. Decide who conducts the investigation
3. Ensure confidentiality
4. Be aware of labor law restrictions
5. Collect the necessary data
6. Conduct witness interviews
7. Conclude the investigation
Conducting Workplace Investigations Training
Internal investigations are a part of a well-structured corporate security system and aim to minimize and alleviate the impact of insider threats.
Misconducts and violations of company rules committed by employees or other business associates may be highly disruptive to business.
These violations may fall under one or several categories:
– Financial fraud;
– Discrimination, harassment or other displays of questionable ethics;
– Theft of company equipment or assets;
– Data theft or unauthorized access to classified data.
On top of that, almost any company once in a while deals with client complaints and needs to clarify controversial matters. A situation when a client, an associate or a contractor files a lawsuit against the company is also a reason for conducting an internal investigation.
In this article, we will guide you through the most important steps of an internal investigation process and explore how online audio to text transcription can help you along the way. Read on to learn more!
So why are corporate internal investigations important? A strong and comprehensive security policy backed by a consistent internal investigation procedure helps avoid negative publicity, criminal and civil allegations, fines and suspension of government contracts.
Most importantly, such procedures help to spill the light on who’s really responsible for a particular violation, mitigate its consequences, and act as a responsible community member. Also, businesses that detect violations and carry out in-house investigations stand a better chance of avoiding sanctions and penalties.
Most importantly, though, good internal investigations protect innocent employees from damage to their reputation; that’s why it is important to be sensitive and impartial.
Last but not least – effective internal investigations help organizations avoid negative publicity by confronting allegations with a reliable set of facts and by communicating a clear public message.
Conducting an employee investigation requires planning, consistency and a good understanding of legal matters. Below are some tips that should help you with this important endeavor.
At the start of the investigation, define the reasons for it and its objectives. Then, define an authority that initiates and supervises an investigation (board of directors, chief security officer, an audit committee, etc), and have them issue a mandate for extracting the data relevant to an investigation.
Next, assign the persons responsible for conducting employee interviews. Finally, decide in which form you want to receive the results of an investigation – in print or during a personal meeting. Document these decisions in a clear and memorable form.
In-house or third-party? There may be a situation when a third-party is needed to ensure the necessary level of independence and impartiality. For example, if a company plans to disclose the investigation findings to legal authorities, an independent investigation appears more trustworthy.
It is important that individuals allegedly involved in the reported violation or misconduct have no access to the investigation documents or any information about the course of an investigation. A clearly defined investigation scope will help you identify these individuals.
Labor laws differ depending on a country and may impact an investigators’ access to data. In Europe, for example, the personal data of employees stored on the company computer cannot be used without employee consent. In the United States, though, all data stored on corporate computers or servers may be collected for investigation.
Decide where you will store the investigation data, and how you will ensure its protection. This will depend on the company’s technical infrastructure and data protection policies. Before you start interviewing employees, make sure you have a set of accompanying documents for each interview.
A witness interview is an important step in every internal investigation and requires soft skills as much as hard skills. Apart from preparation, planning and creating a shortlist of questions that you need to ask, witness interviews require great listening skills, and empathy – being able to read people’s non-verbal cues and avoiding making assumptions.
A good interviewer aims to get into the smallest details without intimidating employees – a tricky balance to strike, if you aim to conduct an in-depth interview. Stress and intimidation may negatively impact motivation and morale, so it’s important to avoid being too insistent. After each interview, you need to make an interview summary as soon as possible, in a written form.
When exactly should you conclude an investigation? The investigation is considered concluded when:
– You have made reliable findings;
– You can support them with enough evidence;
– You can present them to an authority that supervises the investigation in a clear and memorable form.
If the investigation did uncover violations, you will need to establish adequate disciplinary measures depending on the type of misconduct.
Finally, if you have to report about the incident to the public, decide how you will formulate your message. Hire a PR agency, if you must: you want to have as much control as you can over words and statements that may impact your company reputation.
While soft-skills and ethics are important for successful internal investigations, technical tools like Audext can also be of great help. More specifically, here’s how transcription software may assist investigators:
When it comes to uncovering the truth, witness testimonials can spill the light on the subject and support documented evidence. Depending on the scope of the investigation, the number of witnesses that you have to interview may vary, and the summary that you make after each interview has to be accurate.
The time factor also matters: you have to transcribe the facts while you still remember them. You may also have to hurry up to prevent negative publicity. Audext saves valuable time by converting the interview directly into text and leaves zero room to misinterpretations.
If you need to prevent fraudulent activity, regular meeting/corporate call transcription may help you identify suspicious phrases or non-typical conversation patterns and set you on the right track.
You may have to do it covertly, sanctioned by corporate authorities, in-line with the corporate policies and ethics. One way or the other, Audext not only transcribes meeting recordings to text, but also stores it so that you can access it for reference anytime whenever you need to.
Conversation recordings and transcriptions are a regular practice at companies with customer service departments. Even if your employees use ready-made scripts as they talk to customers, miscommunications still happen and may lead to complaints.
In this case, you can use the transcripts of conversation recordings to analyze the process and to know exactly what went wrong. This may also help you avoid unfair charges since the recordings give you insights into what was said.
Conducting internal investigations is both science and art. Most people aren’t born investigators and need to undergo training to master this complex subject.
Many organizations train their employees in conducting internal investigations to raise their competence in this sensitive area. Some companies conduct such training activities to receive an international security certificate. Most of the time, though, such training is offered by responsible employers who want their workers to feel confident in any situation, or as part of HR training.
The training course comprises lectures, group discussions, and mock investigations. But witness interviews demand special attention. Over the course of the training, employees learn to start with the easy questions and proceed with the trickier ones while taking notes and keeping their suggestions to themselves.
The difficult part lies in encouraging people to open up while controlling the conversation and making sure no important question gets omitted.
Recording and reading the mock interview transcripts help employees hone their interview skills so that they can instantly refer to the transcript to see which questions they did omit and improve their performance.
It’s hard to underestimate the value of transcription software for conducting employee investigations. Witness interviews, fraud prevention, customer service, and corporate internal investigation training are the four ways Audext can help organizations meet the demands for fairness and transparency.
By quickly accessing accurate and well-documented data, organizations can take the painstaking process of collecting evidence to an entirely new level.
Katrin runs her own podcast show, and interested in best ways to transcribe audio recordings into text.