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The benefits of using an external investigator

A guest blog by Sneha

Investigation 2nd October 2013

I recently worked for a client who was dealing with a grievance against a senior manager who had been put was on gardening leave and who was looking for a large pay-out following the initial grievance.  Before I was brought in, the organisation was minded to uphold his grievance.

After I produced a very thorough and strong report, the organisation was able to show that they had done everything by the book and that the employee didn’t have a leg to stand on. This evidence allowed the case to avoid both an employee tribunal, and paying the compensation the senior manager was demanding – saving a considerable amount of money.

So when, as an external investigator, I am asked “why have we employed an external investigator as opposed to using our own HR department?” my answer is simple: grievances which are poorly handled can end up costing the organisation a considerable amount of time and money.

Any organisation benefits from using an external investigator. Here are 10 benefits that clients have given about their experience of outsourcing an investigation.

10 benefits cited by clients

  1. The fact that I had brought in an external investigator meant that the Employment tribunal will look upon  the organisation in a positive way
  2. When an internal manager was used, the manager was not as competent in terms of the complexities of grievance investigations.
  3. When we employ you, become a full time employee working on that case, not distracted by other duties like other HR Personnel
  4. The external investigator was independent, objective and impartial.
  5. Because you didn’t work here, you didn’t bring the assumptions and baggage that are too often brought in by internal managers
  6. Because [the report] was thorough with strong analytics, it was not necessary to interview anyone further or again.
  7. We didn’t have an internal person with the rank to investigate a complaint against a C- level manager. You were on a more equal footing with her, and were confident enough to ask all the questions that an employee might have been uncomfortable asking!
  8. Thank you for pointing out our policies needed updating and for your input. It saved us potential embarrassment at a future employment tribunal.
  9. We outsourced this partly because you are only there for the investigation, not going to be present in other meetings which might make our investigator think about asking probing questions and inflaming a colleague – we have to live with the people we investigate!
  10. It gave a “Clear cut message that the organisation is considering the complaint both serious and seriously”

The benefits of hiring an external investigator outweigh the costs in the short and long term.  It is very hard to measure the benefits of goodwill and improved morale from staff, but these are also a key benefit gained.

Here’s a cost-benefit analysis of using an external investigator like CMP Resolutions

Experience of using an internal investigator

Experience of using an outsourced investigator

HR or manager time say 10 days (CIPD est.) at £150 average salary cost pd = £1,500 Pick up the phone. Scope the case. Receive a quote. Handover the documentation. Set up the meetings. Wait…
Opportunity cost of that time – could be enormous if a deadline is missed for eg funding, review.  More £
Receive draft report – have a meeting with the investigator.
If competency is not strong the potential for an appeal or grievance about the grievance-handling is high. More £
Receive final report.
If not done rigorously enough, a successful ET claim would be very costly. More £
Pay invoice – say 5 days at £1000 per day – total cost: £5000
Garden leave is common, costing a great deal if C-level managers are involved.   More £
Sleep easy knowing the investigation was done by someone who is up to date with legislation; who’s living is requires them to have the skills and professionalism to do a fair, rigorous, sensitive and robust job
Employees might feel that they aren’t being taken seriously if their complaint is sent to an internal investigator. They complain again and again about the process used. More £