I was talking the other day with a colleague of mine and along with trying to figure out how we could change the world and solve its problems – we were wondering why it is that human nature is such that proactive measures were pushed aside in favour of reacting when things occurred and investigations are required to find out why things went sideways.

The discussion arose primarily around the cost involved in conducting investigations properly versus the grief that can result when clients want us, as investigators, to move more quickly through the process or cut down on collecting evidence. 

We both appreciate and acknowledge that investigations are costly affairs but we also both recognize the danger of cutting corners.  As investigators, we must be able to stand by the determinations we make and we must have evidence to support those determinations.  When we don’t, we not only damage our reputations as investigators and leave ourselves out for claims of flawed or inadequate investigations; we also put our clients at risk of making the wrong decisions based on those flawed investigations.

With respect to a workplace investigation, the costs can range anywhere from $5,000.00 to $40,000.00.  The higher end of the scale would be for something quite complex and could include violations of several policies as opposed to one or two.  That is a lot of money – we fully acknowledge that – but let’s take a look at what the costs could be if an investigation was conducted shoddily and decisions were made on inadequate or inaccurate information.

You will still pay something for the investigation whether it’s conducted internally or externally.  Investigations can cause a lot of upset in a workplace and even employees not directly involved will be watching to see how the organization lives up to its policies and how seriously they take allegations against respectful workplace violations.

Production time is lost because time is spent to conduct interviews and collect evidence. If the employer decides to engage an external investigator, his or her costs will typically be based on an hourly rate.  Regardless of whether an investigation is conducted internally or externally, if it is not handled properly reputational damage can result (you don’t need to look too much further than the RCMP or CBC in recent times to understand that).

An employer can end up with toxic workplaces where gossip and rumors run wild because you’ve demonstrated you don’t take respectful workplace policies seriously.  The business will probably result in having increased conflict and sick time, which impacts production as well. Of course, there are always concerns about lawsuits but mishandling an investigation can end up with a claim of constructive dismissals or wrongful dismissals in cases where someone is terminated based on a decision made on the heels of a flawed investigation (see Vernon vs BC Liquor Distribution or Elgert vs Home Hardware).  If you think an investigation is a big expense now – just wait until the legal bills begin to mount up. There could be human rights claims made against the organization because the wrong determinations were made or an investigation wasn’t properly managed.  Depending on the province you have your business in, you could also be faced with worker’s compensation claims resulting in potential increases to your rate; or orders could be placed on the company for violating occupational health and safety regulations.

Also consider that once an organization has made errors such as these, it takes a long time to recover and build trust again.  Businesses can have problems in recruiting good people or if you manage to get them in; problems in retaining them.  When you don’t have good people, you often won’t have good production levels or quality products.

It never ceases to amaze me (or my colleague) how often human beings say, “That wouldn’t happen here – or – “We’ll cross that bridge if and when we come to it.”

Yes, it costs money to manage people and be in business but it costs far more to wait for things to happen.  If you are a business that wants to manage investigations internally; that’s great!  But you should still think proactively and get those people tasked with conducting investigations trained up to adequately conduct them.