Wk 10 – What is? Conducting an Investigation

Hi everyone, I’m Peta Cussell from Project Ops and this is our final week of our 10-week series discussing key areas of Human Resources relevant to Small Business. This week I am going to talk about ‘what to do’ and ‘what NOT to do’ when conducting an investigation in the workplace. 

As you’ve learnt over the last 9 weeks of this series, there are certain situations that require an investigation into a matter in the workplace. The situations can vary from dealing with performance and misconduct issues; personal grievances; to discrimination, sexual harassment, or bullying claims; and also with prohibited use of computer and social media matters (to name a few).

It is important in any of these cases, that a thorough investigation is conducted into the matter before any major action (i.e. termination) takes place.

Lets take a look at the steps involved...


How to Conduct an Investigation

Step 1: Identify & Plan

  • Identify the people involved – the accuser, the alleged wrongdoer and any witnesses.
  • Find out the exact details of the allegation.
  • Assess your own policies, contracts of employment and workplace practices, which could effect the investigation (e.g. Code of Conduct policy).
  • Decide on the best person to conduct the investigation. This person must be impartial.

Step 2: Assemble & Organise

  • Collect the evidence (e.g. documents, emails, witness statements, data) and orgnaise in a logical manner.

Step 3: Interview & Evaluate

  • Interview any witnesses and record the statements made. If any new evidence is revealed, you will need to repeat this step.

Step 4: Review & Consult

  • Once all the evidence has been collected the investigator should consult with another impartial senior member of staff to sense-check findings. If this is not possible, then they need to make a call themselves - Is the claim proven, unclear or rejected?

Step 5: Document

  • It is vital that each step taken and the evidence, findings, methods and outcomes are documented. This will be needed to support any actions taken.

Step 6: Action

  • Once enough evidence has been gathered to secure a verdict, its time to take action. This may be disciplinary, but also could be corrective.


Seems pretty straight-forward? Not always. Here are some common mistake made that can lead to further trouble.


Common Mistakes to Avoid

  1. Don’t start with pre-conceived outcomes.
  2.  If additional allegations are made, re-interview the respondent or any witnesses.
  3. Don’t ignore any evidence – be thorough. Quick investigations can come back to hurt you!
  4. Act in a timely manner! Don’t let too much time lapse.
  5. The investigator must be impartial.
  6. Get the facts right!
  7. Keep the matter confidential.
  8. Allow (and encourage) a support person.


How Project Ops can help?

Australia’s employment landscape can be confusing and daunting for small business. Its full of complex policies and changing legalities, is hard to understand and even harder to keep up-to-date with. That’s where Project Ops comes in. We have many years of experience and really understand small business. With Project Ops, we make HR simple!

We can assist with HR Advice and can guide you through any tricky HR situation; we can provide compliant HR Policies and HR documentation (such as Employment Contracts; HR Letters e.g. warning letters, termination letters etc; Forms; and Checklists); we can set up your Performance Management system and guide you through the process; we can assist with team planning and role definition; we can assist with leadership coaching; we can recommend and set-up HR Information Systems; and we can also help you with the Recruitment of staff in the first place! If you would like to discuss how Project Ops can assist your business, please get in touch!

Project Ops are one of Australia’s leading outsourcing specialists, providing some of Australia’s best talent to businesses of all sizes for one-off projects, short or long-term contracts. Specialising in Human Resources (HR), Recruitment, Business Operations, Change Management, Project Management and Event Management.