Like most effective processes, the investigator’s effort should also produce measurable results. First and most immediate, is the return on investment, or ROI. The properly engineered investigation will often produce tangible, measurable results such as the recovery of stolen property or money; the termination of dishonest employees or vendors; and of course, successful prosecution when appropriate.
When properly conducted, workplace investigations are complex affairs. They typically involve the convergence of many disciplines and an assortment of uncommon skills. More often than not, the investigator must have a comprehensive understanding of criminal, civil and employment law. They also require a considerable investment of time, money and patience by the employer or client. Then finally, to ensure success, the process must be highly structured and flawlessly executed. Even the most sophisticated organization can find the task consistently challenging. Thus, workplace investigations of even the simplest variety are not for the faint hearted.
By definition they involve the investigation of people who have a relationship with the organization. Most often those people are employees. They are insiders. They are people with whom the organization employs or does business. As such, they have special rights, expectations and very often they carry a sense of entitlement. These considerations significantly add to the complexity of the fact-finding process and the manner in which the subject may respond to the investigation’s findings and management’s corrective actions. Regardless, the path is filled with legal obstacles and challenges. For the unknowledgeable and unprepared employer it is a virtual legal minefield. On the other hand, the totality of these complexities gives the properly prepared and equipped employer a decisive competitive advantage. The employer that is able to efficiently bring an end to a workplace substance abuse problem, catch thieving employees in the act or obtain restitution from a dishonest vendor, without litigation or a public relations debacle has a significant competitive advantage over the employer that cannot.
The sophisticated investigative process however, goes beyond this and can even be engineered to allow the employer to recover the actual cost of the investigation from the transgressor. Experienced investigators know this and craft their investigations such that the ROI they produce often includes recoveries beyond the actual losses. This is generally accomplished in five distinct steps.
Make a decision to recover the loss and the cost of the investigation. This decision will shape the investigation and drive the amount and type of documentation you collect.
Keep detailed records. Collect and preserve evidence consistent with any proper investigation but also retain detailed records of the hours invested and all expenses.
Obtain an admission of guilt. A properly obtained admission will be the foundation on which the request for restitution will be based.
Make a formal request for repayment of the loss and cost of the investigation. Craft a formal agreement detailing the terms of repayment and the penalties if repayment is not made. If necessary, accept repayment in installments but insist that interest be paid on any unpaid amounts.
Enforce the agreement. If the subject fails to perform, enforce the penalties and pursue the subject civilly.
Remember: if the loss is worth investigating, it will always be worth covering.