11 Mar 2016
New Research: Internal Investigations criticised - little time spent on planning or recommendations
- Most investigations organised by Human Resources are taking between 3.5 and 6 days to run, but preparation for an investigation is typically taking well under 3 hours as is follow-up on any recommendations from the inquiry’s findings.
- Over 60% of respondents had experienced criticism of an investigation after the findings had been reported.
Multiple Investigations are running at any point
Most Human Resources departments are involved in multiple investigations each year, with over 20 annual investigation for more than a third of the respondents, and over 10 at a time for one fifth of them. These investigations range from a wide variety of internal difficulties – the most common ones being disciplinary, complaint and harassment investigation, thus requiring diverse approach, such as using an internal or external investigator, or the time spend on organising, planning, running and applying results of investigation. Although all situations require particular knowledge and skills, the main sought-after qualities in an investigator are experience, as well as neutrality and an ability to see the bigger picture. Surprisingly, the less important qualities that came out of this survey were problem solving abilities and legal skills. The survey also shows the importance of word-of-mouth when selecting an individual externally to run a review or investigation, this happens in over half of instances.
Internal or External approaches depend on subject being investigated
On the question of whether an investigation should be led internally or externally there was a wide variety of views. Whilst no issue was universally considered to only be suitable for external or internal investigation, external help was felt to be most appropriate for complaints of criminal/financial wrongdoing where they may be external sanctions, whereas internally led investigation procedures were felt to be more appropriate for complaints by members of the public, complaints against the HR department and complaints about the way an investigation had been carried out. The biggest difference in thought in terms of whether to use an internal or external investigating team came with disputes involving board conflict and disputes involving very senior executives.
How time is being allocated
The survey showed an average of 26 hours was spent on internal investigations or reviews and 42 hours for an external one. Perhaps noticeably people were using relatively short times for determining what it was they were investigating and how to do a methodology. 66% spent just one hour determining how they were going to carry out the investigation (which might take 25 hours to do). Even in determining what the investigation should cover, 41% would take less than an hour. This potentially belies an overly superficial consideration of investigation ambit. Of the time spent on investigations preparation was typically taking 1 or 2 - 3 hours and follow-up on any recommendations was also typically taking 1 or 2 - 3 hours.
Investigation findings and implementing recommendations
Over 60% of respondents had experienced criticism of an investigation after the findings had been reported although the survey showed that in the majority of instances very few investigations needed to be reconducted (which only happened very occasionally).
The survey showed that in the vast majority of instances investigations and reviews are accompanied by recommendations. Satisfaction with investigation recommendations was felt to be satisfactory within organisations and also by the persons or units subject to the inquiry (approximately two thirds) though few organisations or individuals felt investigations were very satisfactory. Where recommendations are made they are more likely to be implemented if made by an external rather than an internal investigator. Just 7.4% of respondents report that over 90% of recommendations made by internal investigators are implemented compared with 27.3% of respondents reporting over 90% of recommendations made by external investigators are implemented.
What the CEDR Research might suggest
Ultimately, it can be seen that investigations are an increasing part of the work of HR departments but that in order to get maximum utility from them, thought needs to be given to:
- whether an investigation is the appropriate action to take;
- how to devise the investigation’s methodology to get an appropriate outcome;
- whether it is appropriate to use an internal or external investigating team depending on the subject matter;
- how to increase recommendation uptake by organisations;
- how to debrief from the investigation correctly and take appropriate levels of follow up rather than using the conducting of an investigation as an outcome in itself;
- how to deal with any criticism of the investigation and whether it is appropriate to revisit elements of an investigation process or report to improve outcomes.
From this consultation, CEDR has produced "GRACED – Questions for any HR Department prior to starting an investigation”
CEDR’s Questions for any investigation prior to commencement © CEDR 2016
The checklist is intended to aid with decision making prior to starting an investigation and help focus on what the purpose of the investigation is going to be, consider alternative process options and think about outcomes and how to make changes from the start of the investigation.
If emphasis is given to the above, we believe an investigation is likely to be more successful.
For more information and detailed results of the investigation, the full report can be found here: https://www.cedr.com/docslib/CEDR_Report_Human_Resources_Based_Investigations_2016.pdf
The GRACED model can be downloaded here: https://www.cedr.com/docslib/GRACED_Jan_2016.pdf
Why CEDR’s research was conducted
As part of CEDR’s thought leadership work into reforming the processes of investigations and reviews, following on from CEDR’s three-year project to reform the Public Inquiry process, we have investigated the time and resources that organisations put into investigations; the nature of investigations undertaken by internal and external investigating teams; and the efficacy of the recommendations and review process. Alongside this survey work, CEDR has also consulted with a group of HR professionals about their qualitative experiences of the investigations process as well as analysing the work that CEDR itself frequently undertakes as an external provider of internal investigation services.
Find out more about CEDR’s foundation work: http://www.cedr.com/foundation/