In any company, managers will likely be required to conduct an investigation into issues that appear in the workplace. These issues may be employee complaints relating to discrimination, sexual harassment, bullying, or legal matters such as policy violations and health threats.
Key to any investigation that a company conducts is the investigation report. This document serves a number of different purposes, which include:
- Accurately documenting the steps of the investigation
- Proving that the investigation was conducted in a timely, complete and fair manner
- Providing the decision maker with the facts required to decide the matter
- Presenting data that can be used to implement control and preventative measures
It is therefore essential that your company produces investigation reports that are as clear, comprehensive and accurate as possible. This blog will provide you with some tips to help you achieve this.
What Structure Should I Have?
Before putting anything down in writing, you should have a good idea of what structure you want to present your information in. We suggest a simple structure with a clear beginning, middle and end.
At the very start of your investigation report, your executive summary should give a succinct overview of the entire investigation. In this section, you should briefly go over the allegations, how you went about the investigation, and what conclusion you ultimately reached.
There are a few crucial questions that should be answered in the executive summary:
- What happened?
- Who was involved?
- Where did the incident occur?
- How was the investigation conducted?
- Does the evidence support the complaint or allegation?
- What course of action is recommended?
Additionally, the standard of proof should be established in the executive summary, i.e. ‘on the balance of probabilities.’ This concept should be clearly defined and explained so that it can be understood by a broad audience.
Given that many readers will never read beyond this section, you should only include the most important information here.
The next section of the report will go into much more detail about everything. Here, you should explain the factual background of the case, scope of the investigation, evidence considered, and analyse the evidence.
The details to be included in the factual background are:
- Departments or units involved
- Relevant policies, procedures, codes of conduct, etc
- Relevant activities of the department
- Employees involved and employee relationships
- Background facts to the allegation or incident
- Factual issues to be resolved
Scope of Investigation
The issues to consider during the scope of investigation include:
- What was the matter at issue?
- What interviews were conducted?
- What other evidence was considered?
- What investigative procedure matters should be noted?
Reports should be written for each interview conducted. Some key information to include in this report include: who conducted the interview, who was interviewed, and the location and date of the interview. Although this information may be repeated, it is still important to include it again in this section.
Your report should include all the evidence that was obtained, even if it doesn’t support your final conclusion. Doing so will ensure that your investigation is credible since it considers all evidence available to come to your conclusion.
Evidence should also be categorized by type, whether physical, digital, or some other form. Examples of evidence include video footage, email records, documents or papers, and physical objects.
When conducting an analysis of the evidence, there are a few things that you should do:
- Acknowledge the positions of each party
- Describe the evidence in support of each party
- Weigh the facts
- Identify the relevant facts
- Dismiss the irrelevant facts
After the body of your report, your final step is to summarise your findings into a conclusion. Here, you should restate the standard of proof, set out the findings of fact required to reach the conclusion, and state the conclusion with reference to the standard of proof.
The three types of conclusions that your report can come to are:
Sustained: The investigation revealed that the evidence satisfied the burden of proof in support of the allegation. For example, “Preponderance of the evidence suggests that the respondent violated Public Contract Code Section 4. Allegation is sustained.”
Not Sustained: The investigation revealed that the evidence did not satisfy the required burden of proof. For example, “There is no evidence that the accused stole computer equipment, therefore allegation is not sustained.”
Inconclusive: There was insufficient evidence to satisfy the burden of proof. For example “It was determined that there is no sufficient evidence to prove that the accused falsified his timesheet. The investigator was unable to determine whether the allegation has merit.”
Whatever type of conclusion you formulate, you need to make sure that it is based on relevant evidence and you have considered all evidence that does not support your conclusion.
Adopt the Correct Writing Tone
Throughout the report, your writing should be impartial and professional. You should avoid using unnecessary adjectives and extraneous information. Finally, your writing should be in an active voice to maintain clarity. For example, use “I interviewed John Doe,” rather than “John Doe was interviewed.”
Know Your Audience
Use clear and concise language to ensure that whoever is reading the report understands it. If you know that the person reading it may be unfamiliar with the technical terms of the industry, a glossary at the beginning of the report may be helpful.
Producing the Report
While putting the report together, there are a number of points that you should consider:
- What documents should be attached to the final report? This may include interview reports, witness statements and letters of allegation
- Who will the report draft be reviewed by?
- What policies are in place for the electronic copy of the report?
- Who should have access to the final report?
How Can Polonious Help?
Polonious’ case management software is the perfect tool for generating investigation reports. Information such as scene or surveillance photos, case notes and actions can be automatically added to the report, cutting administration time and improving overall productivity.
With one click an entire report can be generated from your updated case information.
A number of other benefits of using Polonious to generate your investigative reports include:
- Avoiding repetition: Once data is entered into the system, it can be used over and over again. This can save hundreds of hours of time, letting your staff focus on the more complex and important aspects of the case.
- Consistency: Everyone in the organisation will be using the formats they should be using and the formats appropriate for a particular case or client.
- Quality improvements: Case reports will reduce error rates in documents due to copy and formatting.
Want to learn more about what to include in an investigation report? Check out this blog.
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