For employers, the completion of a workplace investigation can feel like the end of a marathon. The relevant issues have been aired and discussed, a report delivered and decisions made. However, it is also important to effectively share relevant information with affected parties and the broader organisation as the investigation process draws to a close.
It is likely that employees and other stakeholders affected by the workplace investigation will need feedback in order to comfortably move on from this often unsettling time in the workplace.
Before commencing post-investigation communication, management should consider issues of confidentiality, the rights of all the affected parties and the best ways to share information across the broader organisation.
The period after a workplace investigation can be an excellent opportunity for both staff and management to make changes and move forward confidently from a difficult situation.
Providing key stakeholders a broad summary of the investigative findings and a plan for improvement often fosters a sense of understanding and closure. For affected parties, a clear and concise summary of individual outcomes and actions will of course be appropriate and necessary. At every level, the goal is to communicate honestly and with a positive eye to the future.
Management should meet individually with those affected by the findings of the investigation. The process can be uncomfortable for those who are personally involved. There will often be a sense of apprehension, and in some cases, a curiosity about the decision-making process.
Affected parties deserve a chance to have the outcomes and the decision-making process explained on a one-on-one basis. However, it is also important to ensure that only the appropriate amount of information regarding the investigation is shared.
In particular, confidentiality will be necessary in relation to the statements of witnesses and other affected parties. Sensitive information, claims and descriptions have the potential to cause unnecessary harm and can jeopardise the integrity of the final report.
A copy of the full report should not be released to those involved with the investigation. This document is accessible only by the employer at this stage. The affected parties to an investigation have a legal entitlement to be informed in writing of the findings, conclusions, recommendations and the basis of those findings. The parties therefore could be provided with a written summary of the full report, including the allegations and findings, as they relate to each individual party.
A witness is not an affected party and should not be provided with the report or a summary unless they are also an affected party, such as a complainant or respondent.
Confidentiality is of course of paramount importance. Neither witnesses nor staff want to be fed vague explanations about the outcomes of the investigations. A workplace investigation will commonly reveal deficiencies in policies and procedures, and/or the state of organisational culture. In clearly explaining the outcomes of the investigation, management can allay fears, dampen any gossip and provide a positive statement about any changes to come following the conclusion of an investigation.
The investigation might well have been an unsettling time within the organisation. Post-investigation communication can be a valuable means of restoring confidence and providing a clear vision for future activities. For example, policies might need to be updated or individual procedures changed for the better. Positive communication about findings and the actions to be taken will help to restore staff equilibrium.
It can be a challenge for management to know exactly where to start when explaining and implementing decisions following an investigation.
At WISE Workplace we have significant experience with workplace investigations and helping to manage the aftermath of these processes. Should you require assistance in conducting workplace investigations and communicating outcomes, contact WISE today.
WISE Workplace is a multidisciplinary organisation specialising in the management of workplace behaviour. We investigate matters of corporate and professional misconduct, resolve conflict through mediation and minimise the impact of inappropriate behaviour through our whistleblower services.
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