Selecting a Workplace Investigation Partner

Why experience matters when selecting a workplace investigation partner

By Deanna Lanoway, Executive HR Consultant

Every Canadian employee has the right to feel connected, safe, and comfortable at work. Not only is it the right thing to do, and the basis of Respectful Workplace policies and legislation in Canada, but it is also integral to productivity and making Canadian organizations competitive.

When employers learn of a situation that has impacted that feeling of safety and connection, resolving it with compassion and an eye to the future is critical for the workplace culture and their legal responsibility. Ideally, complaints and concerns are resolved informally, but when they cannot be, an investigation needs to happen. Choosing the right partner for your organization is vital to restoring organizational health.

Why you need a good partner to conduct workplace investigations

Thankfully, the need for investigations is uncommon in most workplaces. However, this also means they are an unfamiliar process for you and your organization to navigate. This is one of the main reasons employers bring in a third-party partner to conduct the investigation.

Working with a partner brings experience to the situation, which helps you minimize legal risk.

A good partner will:

  • Recognize what go could sideways
  • Draw on their experience and specialized training
  • Minimize disruption to your organization
  • Maintain a high level of confidentiality

In addition to experience, bringing in a neutral third party to conduct the investigation eliminates any potential conflicts of interest and can lead to better resolutions.

Ensures employee comfort

Employees participating in an investigation often feel a level of risk as they discuss the situation, whether they were directly involved or a witness. With a third party, employees tend to open up more, as they are speaking to someone who is only looking at what is in the scope of the investigation and is not part of the organization. Nothing an employee shares with the investigation partner can be held over their heads for the future of their career.

Removes conflict of interest

An investigation partner also removes the risk of a conflict of interest with organization reporting structures. In some organizations, reporting structures make it impossible to avoid at least the appearance of a conflict of interest. In smaller organizations, for example, HR will often report to a COO or CFO. Emotions run high during investigations, and employees may feel it is unfair for someone aligned with one area of the organization to be making decisions in an investigation. Federally regulated employers are required to ensure there are no reporting relationships that create a conflict with the investigator.

Selecting your investigation partner

The best time to choose an investigation partner is when you don’t need one.

Establishing a list of approved investigators and sharing it with your Health and Safety committee is best practice for all employers and one way that federally regulated employers can meet their requirements.

Partnering with People First HR for workplace investigations

At People First HR, our main concern is to conduct a thorough investigation that will ensure the health of your organization when the process is complete. We work with organizations and employees to come to a resolution that gets the workplace back to a healthy and safe place.

By working with People First, you will get a partner who:

  • Is fully trained in conducting investigations
  • Understands the need to commence investigations quickly and complete them in a timely manner
  • Completes dozens of investigations each year across private and public sectors and federal and provincial jurisdictions
  • Works across Canada with experience from BC to New Brunswick
  • Has a defined process that is up to date with current legislation

Trained consultants

As mentioned above, the need for investigations is rare, so choosing a partner that offers trained and experienced consultants is vital.

People First has a team of consultants specially trained in conducting workplace investigations who follow our defined process. They also continue to add to their skillset with professional development in areas most relevant to their areas of expertise. These specialized courses may include conflict resolution, handling challenging witnesses, cultural competence, trauma-informed practice, or diversity and inclusion.

This vast experience means you’ll be working with a consultant who knows how to expertly handle an investigation, and how to work with the employees involved in a compassionate and caring way.

Investigation timelines

Taking the appropriate time for an investigation is part of our process. Each situation we encounter is unique, making the timeline for each investigation different. We feel it’s important to give the parties involved time to say what they need, so they feel heard and are not rushed.

Maintaining workplace health and safety at your organization

Working through an investigation, and finding a resolution, is about maintaining a healthy workplace for all employees.

While we hope that you don’t need a workplace investigation partner in the future, if you happen to, remember to choose a partner with proven experience that provides consultants trained to conduct investigations in your area.

To learn more about partnering with People First HR on investigations, contact us.

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