Investigation plans | WISE Workplace

Recently during a discussion with HR practitioners WISE made the comment: “that should be in your Investigation Plan.”

This comment was met firstly with silence, and then guffaws. One investigator stood up and said: “Well, you may have the luxury of doing a plan but I’m way too busy.” The WISE team were sitting with open mouths, shaking their heads. 

When we left, the comments flew.
How do they know where an investigation will go without a plan?” we questioned.
An investigation is volatile enough without having a plan!” “How do they ascertain risks?” “What do they give their project managers?” “How do they know if they are following policy and procedure?” “What about process?” “How do they scope the investigation?

Such comments continued as we walked the four blocks back to our cars. It became apparent that few investigators do, or project managers require, Investigation Plans.

So what is an Investigation Plan?

Simply, it is a plan outlining how you or your investigator intends to conduct the investigation. For project managers it can be a critical tool. It will outline what is to undertaken, how it is to be done, processes, procedures and policies to be used, the order of interviews, and risks.

Investigation Plans are taught as a matter of course to investigators. They are an integral part of professional investigations courses – especially detectives and investigators’ courses and investigations tertiary degrees. They are not taught in general duties police courses or in non-professional investigations courses. If you are not a “natural” planner – and not everyone is – they can be a difficult habit to embrace.

Why do an Investigation Plan?

An Investigation Plan is as critical for the Project Manager and Investigator as the Terms of Reference. It will allow both parties to ascertain if they are on the correct path. The Investigation Plan will ensure investigators do not “chase rabbits down holes” which can be tempting, as a good investigator is a naturally curious being!

What should it contain?

An Investigation Plan for a workplace investigation is similar to those used by police or internal investigators. It should contain, but not be limited to, the following:

  • Investigation objectives (these should be aligned to the Terms of Reference)
  • Legislative authority and policies to be used (this allows the allegations to be placed against the correct policies)
  • Person or people subject to the allegation
  • The investigation summary based on the information provided by the project manager
  • Dates and investigation activities – in chronological order with any identified risks against the investigation activities
  • Costings and any ancillary costs such as transcripts, flights, travel and expenses
  • Considerations and risk factors
  • The name of the investigator, the supervising investigator and legal officer (review by corporate counsel if needed)

Is the Investigation Plan rigid?

The Investigation Plan is not a rigid document but should be reviewed periodically by the Investigator and Project Manager. If the investigation looks like taking longer than anticipated, or a witness or respondent is dragging out the process, then the Plan should have sufficient flexibility to be amended.

An Investigation Plan does not take long to complete, but it allows an investigator to thoroughly digest the logistics and possible risks of an investigation. It also allows a Project Manager to see that the Investigator has thought through the process and identified any risks that may arise.