Online Workplace Investigations

Online investigations from the workplace investigation experts.

There are few industries that have remained untouched by digitisation, and the field of workplace investigations is no exception.  Online investigations, and interviews, are being used to resolve a variety of civil and community cases – and it is proving to be a useful tool in workplace settings too.

TCM Online offers your employees a choice about how best to carry out their investigation. If they are working remotely, or if they would prefer not to meet face to face, TCM Online offers the benefit of a highly effective investigation model with the complainant, respondent and witnesses safely ensconced in their own office or house.

TCM’s investigations team used to be sceptical about online investigation interviews however, now that we have seen it work, we recognise that it is an important addition to our portfolio of investigation services.

TCM are here to help and we are happy to answer any questions that you might have. Please call us on 0800 294 97 87 or contact us via our online contact form.

TCM Online is flexible and highly effective.

Sometimes, it simply isn’t possible to get all the parties involved in an investigation in one location at a convenient time.  In an increasingly global business climate, teams are frequently dispersed across continents.  Managers may be leading people they only get to meet once or twice a year – and team members may never have met each other at all.

Virtual project teams, which bring together specialists from around the world to develop new products or services or tackle a business challenge, are also increasingly becoming a feature of working life.  Of course it may just be that a workplace investigation involves extremely busy people who are finding it difficult to co-ordinate diaries or free themselves up for interviews during normal working hours.

On-line investigation interviews can also be helpful in highly charged, emotional situations.  If an allegation of sexual harassment has been made, for example, the victim may feel intimidated having to attend an interview in the same workspace as the perpetrator.  The same situation can apply in cases of bullying, particularly if the perpetrator is more senior and there is a power dynamic at play.

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Workplace investigations can be like walking through a minefield.

The risks of getting a workplace investigation wrong are significant. In an appeal or at Employment Tribunal, the applicant may use procedural failings to undermine the actions taken by the employer. Even though the employer may have been acting in good faith, the failure to investigate properly and reasonably is the achilles heel which can result in an expensive settlement or a case lost.

The Employment Tribunals apply a test called ‘The Burchell Test’ to assess if an employer has dismissed fairly following a reasonable investigation. Open any newspaper on any day to read about the reputational harm and financial cost of getting a workplace investigation wrong.

How do employers get it wrong?

  • Using poorly trained internal investigators (or worse – untrained), who have a million and one other things to do .
  • A lack of effective planning and unclear terms of reference.
  • Investigations taking too long to complete.
  • Poorly managed suspensions and communications with the parties.
  • Poorly written reports with opaque or ambiguous findings.
  • In smaller organizations with one HR person or an external HR consultant, we often hear stories of HR acting as the investigator, the adviser to the employer and the final determinations panel. Ie HR become the judge, the jury and the executioner. The conflicts of interest are fairly obvious.

It really doesn’t need to be this way. The next tab explains what a quality investigation should look like.

Putting the parties in complete control of the process

An investigation interview conducted in the virtual space can help to put people at their ease, speed up the investigative process and, when conducted by one of our professional and experienced investigators, can achieve the same results as a face-to-face interview. Online investigations can act also as a precursor to a face to face interview.

Key benefits of using TCM’s online investigation services include:

  • A speedier and less disruptive investigation. It is often possible to conduct interviews more quickly on-line than it would be face to face, meaning that cases can be resolved speedily and participants can get back to their jobs.
  • A cost effective approach. There is no need for expensive travel, accommodation or venue booking costs.
  • A more comfortable environment for cases where individuals are feeling vulnerable or stressed. The virtual environment can help to level the playing field and reduce animosity.
  • It offers you a global reach. Individuals, based anywhere in the world, can be interviewed and can participate in the investigation. Time Zones and national borders are no longer an impediment to a full, fair and rigorous investigation.

Getting investigations right first time.

TCM has developed a set of standards for our workplace investigators. These standards form the basis of all of our professional investigation services and investigation training courses. These investigation quality standards ensure that workplace investigations undertake by TCM are fair, thorough and robust.

TCM investigators always:

-Prepare fully and clarify the context and scope of the investigation at the outset. This includes developing clear terms of reference at the commencement of the investigation.

-Understand the legal, moral and organisational policy/procedural, frameworks relating to dignity at work, grievance, bullying, harassment and disciplinary investigations.

-Ensure that they suspend judgment and remain impartial, neutral, objective and free from bias or conflict of interest.

-Maintain effective levels of communication throughout the investigation process

-Apply rigour in their analysis of evidence and are careful in making findings supported by the facts and relevant evidence.

-Recognise the importance of seeking out mitigating or corroborating factors.

-Compile a clear, well-structured final report which will withstand
internal and external scrutiny.

-Aware of relevant tests (e.g. “Burchell”) and remain up to date with case law and precedents.

-Understand what happens after an investigation is complete and the role of the investigator at determination hearings, appeals and Employment Tribunals.

Provide all relevant information gathered during the investigation as appendices to the final report.

In addition, in some cases, TCM investigators may identify opportunities for mediation or restorative justice to help the parties to resolve an issue without the need for formal action. In these cases, you will be notified immediately and we will seek clarification from you before any action is taken.

It’s still FAIR Investigation, only it’s done online.

An online investigation works in exactly the same way as TCM’s FAIR Investigation Model™. The main difference is that the parties are interviewed in a virtual environment, most commonly a Zoom meeting.

There is no need for complicated equipment or technical expertise.  The investigator sets the meeting up and all the parties need to do is log in via a computer or mobile device.

It is also possible to share screens and annotate documents if necessary during the process. Blended interviews, where the process begins in the virtual space and continues at a later date face to face can also work well in some cases.

The Process

  1. Request to investigate received at TCM along with key documents.
  2. TCM investigator attends online scoping meeting. This is an opportunity to discuss chronology, key policies, sources of evidence. key witnesses, terms of reference and timescales
  3. Online interviews commence and additional sources of evidence are utilised.
  4. Investigator submits draft report to TCM’s Head of Investigation Services for internal quality assurance.
  5. Draft report is then submitted to the sponsor. This stage may include an online meeting to discuss the draft report.
  6. Final amendments are made and the investigation report is submitted with all appendices provided.

This is a summary of the investigation process. For more details please contact us on 0800 294 9787 or complete our short contact form and we’ll call you back.

The investigation interview

Q. Surely it is better for people to meet face to face rather than online?

That’s a great question and one that we ask ourselves a lot. However, we have found that online investigation interviews are at least as good as face to face interviews. In some cases, they are even better than face to face because the parties know that they are in complete control of the process – they can literally pull the plug at any time. This is important in more serious allegations such as harassment or discrimination.

Q. How can you ensure conversations and documents shared in the virtual space remain confidential?

All parties are interviewed individually, with the interviewer and interviewee only, and are provided with a summary of the interview notes for them to review and agree.. This binds them to the same levels of confidentiality that are an accepted norm in all other forms of investigative methods.

Q. How widely is online investigations being used in a workplace context?

It is still early days, however, we are seeing more and more organisations  showing an interest in TCM Online. Online investigations account for less than 10% of all investigations that we undertake at TCM – but we expect that figure to increase rapidly in the next 12 months.

Q. How much does online investigation cost?

The fees are the same for our face to face investigation services – starting at £800 per day. Discounts are available for not for profit bodies.

Please contact us on 0800 294 9787 or complete a short online enquiry form to discuss costings further.

The FAIR ModelThe FAIR Investigation Model™

TCM’s FAIR Investigation Model™ advocates a compassionate, empathetic and non-confrontational approach for interviewing and investigating. That’s not to say the process is not rigorous, challenging and highly effective. However, experience has taught us that parties who feel threatened in an interview release high levels of adrenaline and cortisol which means that they can become defensive which in turn can create hostility or withdrawal. Using the power of Positive Psychology during our interviews, we enable the parties to feel safer and more secure which has significant benefits for them, for the interviewer and for the investigation process as a whole:

  • The investigation is less stressful, damaging and corrosive for the parties
  • Creating less stress, fear and anxiety means that we protect relationships between colleagues and managers.
  • We may be able to interview less people to identify the truth which means that working relationships stay intact.

Workplace investigation case studies

Below are a handful of case studies relating to investigations undertaken by TCM. Please click on the link to find out more.

CASE STUDY: Investigating allegations of misconduct

CASE STUDY: Grievance investigation into allegations of racial discrimination and harassment

Investigation skills training from TCM

TCM delivers three investigation skills training programmes. These programmes are suitable for anyone who is required to undertake a workplace investigation – from an initial fact-finding exercise through to a complex investigation into misconduct, fraud, bullying, harassment or discrimination.

  • Core Investigation Skills™ (1 day)
    • Suitable for HR advisors, supervisors and line managers who are required to undertake fact finds into complaints, grievances and low level matters.
  • Practical Investigation Skills™ (2 days)
    • Equips internal investigators with the skills and strategies to set up, run and report on an investigation into a wide range of disciplinary matters. Includes numerous interviewing skills.
  • Advanced Investigation Skills™ (3 days)
    • This course is suitable for people who are required to investigate complex cases including fraud, bullying, harassment and discrimination.

Our courses are always tailored to meet your organisation’s specific requirements. For more details about our investigation skills courses, please click here or call us on 0800 294 9787

Are you looking for a Neutral Evaluation?

Please call TCM on 0800 294 97 87

TCM also delivers Neutral Evaluations into a wide array of situations in the workplace. These are a fact find, undertaken by experts, to help you decide which course of action to take. For more details, please click here

The Neutral Evaluation can be a very useful way to identify the most appropriate route to resolution in a particular situation. In some cases, it may result in mediation, coaching or team facilitation. In other cases we may recommend a formal investigation. Neutral Evaluations typically take two to three days to complete.

David Liddle’s new book. MANAGING CONFLICT contains valuable advice, hints, tips and resources to help HR and managers handle difficult situations at work.

Managing Conflict by David Liddle

Ready to talk? We can help

If you would like to discuss an investigation or you would like to find our more about our investigation services or courses, please contact us for no obligation and impartial advice.

 0800 294 97 87