Workplace complaints are serious. Even if a claim doesn’t lead to disciplinary action, the fact that an employee has made an accusation usually indicates workplace problems that need to be addressed for productivity, morale, and quality of work life.
Internal conflicts often brew slowly beneath the surface, and the human resources (HR) department usually doesn’t become involved until things have become a full-blown crisis. To reach a quick resolution to any HR complaint, data and solid evidence are key components of the investigation. Getting to that information as soon as possible is vital.
Early detection of a problem could mean the difference between a teachable moment resulting in a training seminar versus demotion, termination, or costly litigation. And if the investigation should lead to litigation, having defensible evidence at the ready will protect your organization.
One of the biggest challenges for HR departments when it comes to evidence is the numerous communication channels employed in today’s modern workplace. Email is still one of the largest sources of enterprise communications data, but with the rise of a global remote workforce, HR investigation teams need an easy-to-access view of their company’s data, including chat, social media, and SaaS-based collaboration tools.
To reach speedy and satisfactory resolutions to internal investigations, HR teams should combine clearly defined and repeatable processes with technology solutions that enable quick responses (and sometimes even give preemptive insights) to complaints.
Technology Can Streamline And Simplify Workplace Investigations In Several Ways
First, organizations can choose to use an online complaint portal or an app that permits anonymous reporting to uncover problems that employees may be afraid to bring to light. While anonymous reporting can make it more difficult to investigate a matter, it may surface systemic problems that would otherwise go undetected. This is particularly helpful for conflicts that have been slowly simmering, where HR might not be aware of the situation until it has turned into a full-blown crisis.
Technology can also help preserve information in place. Organizations can identify potentially responsive information and request that all records retention protocols be temporarily suspended. This can be particularly critical in internal investigations, because parties implicated in an investigation may be tempted to hide or delete information.
Another benefit of technology is the speed with which modern legal tools can evaluate data. When legal and HR teams can quickly access communications data from a wide array of collaboration tools and can immediately home in on relevant conversations—thanks to advanced keyword and concept search and language-analysis tools—they can often resolve complaints in a matter of hours rather than days or weeks. They can reduce duplicate documents and remove documents that are less likely to shed light on their investigation. Best of all, they can take all of these steps without the cost of involving a third-party vendor or outside counsel or the risk of transferring data back and forth to external service providers.
Technology also makes it easier than ever to isolate information that collaborators store in a variety of data sources, especially when those data sources are hard to capture. Some eDiscovery platforms are capable of collecting data from Slack, Google Workspace, Jira, and other SaaS-based platforms and internal systems. Better yet, these systems are capable of maintaining a conversation’s context, including any metadata, attachments, and even emojis.
In the most advanced platforms, investigators can collect, view, and interact with collaboration data just as if they were looking at the live site. With this information at their fingertips, investigators can quickly get to the bottom of even the thorniest situations, allowing them to come to a fair resolution.
Investigations Are Hard, But Technology Can Make Them Easier
Investigations are hard enough—and that’s before you even consider the complexities of today’s data, systems, and networks. Fortunately, technology can make it easier to preserve, collect, and review all information relevant to an investigation within the tight timeframes required by the law.
Technology can also preserve data in place at the point of creation, avoiding intentional or unintentional deletion and giving HR teams insight into communications without collection, leading to speedy resolutions, while reducing risk and cost. And with all data automatically synchronizing across platforms, there’s no need to re-pull or deduplicate data for future matters.
In today’s digital world, manual processes aren’t going to be enough during an HR investigation. With the right technology platform, organizations can load documents securely into a document review platform, build a thorough report, take defensible action, and reduce the risk of liability.