Although in most organizations the human resources department does it’s best to present an unbiased approach to most employee matters it is still perceived as carrying out the direction of management. This also applies to dealing with harassment/sexual harassment and discrimination complaints. This perception occurs not only by the employees but also by those outside the organization as well. This is no reflection on the job they are doing it is simply human nature.
Imagine the opportunities for influence in a situation where a junior person is asked to perform an investigation in a situation where an executive of the organization has been accused of sexual harassment. It doesn’t take much imagination to foresee some major issues or at the minimum, the perception of them. The internal person doing the investigation could be doing a fine job with no influence or the investigator could be at the same level of the organization as the accused but again you are dealing with human nature.
Experience and training
Investigating these types of complaints is very delicate. The privacy of the people involved needs to be protected. The investigator could be dealing with a number of witness or just the complainant and the accused. What are the signs or cues that someone is not being wholly truthful? How do you plan the investigation?
What is good evidence and was is not? Your HR team has many responsibilities and it likely does them all well, especially those that it does on a regular basis. The same goes for investigative work the more you do it the better you become.
These are the top three reasons to bring in an outside investigator when you receive a complaint. At the end of the day, as an employer, you want to get the job done in an unbiased and professional manner that is respectful of the individuals involved, gets to the facts of the matter, protects your brand. I recommend connecting with an investigator that has an HR background as it gives them a better understanding of how business works and they have likely been on the other side of the situation and that goes a long way.
Rick Filsinger, CHRL, PI