How to reduce the risks associated with workplace investigation practices?

When faced with a complaint in an organisation, employers will often try and resolve the complaint themselves or will delegate the task to a junior manager. Resolving the matter can take many forms but if not handled correctly it can have significant financial, legal and reputational implications. Some of the most common mistakes that employers often make during the course of an internal workplace investigation can include:

  1. The forgoing of the pre-investigation planning stage and moving straight into investigation.
  2. The investigator chooses to morph the investigation and disciplinary steps into the same process.
  3. The investigator chooses to rely on "untested" information and therefore unduly favours one version of events and ignores discrepancies.
  4. Due to the fact that this is an internal investigation they are unable to establish a process that is perceived as independent and free of bias.
  5. Internal investigations can often be delayed, due to a number of reasons however, this "delay" can often fuel speculation and gossip therefore jeopardising appropriate disciplinary action.

Mistakes in investigations can end up being very costly for the employer and employee. The employer needs to consider what is the best approach and always take into account the needs of the business. One of the most significant considerations for employers is whether to engage an external investigator.

It may not always be appropriate or beneficial for the employer to engage an external investigator however a good investigator will induce confidence for both parties as the findings will be unbiased and independent.

Maighréad Kelly Management Consultant offers a range of supports for employers in the area of HR and Workplace Investigations. Maighréad is an experienced external investigator and is available to carry out investigations into complaints which can arise within an organisation from time to time. For more information on the services that Maighréad offers provide go to or check out Maighréad’s experience on LinkedIn at

Common pitfalls that employers experience when undertaking interviews…..

One of the biggest challenges facing employers in today’s employment market is the ability to be able to hire and retain good and loyal workers who are willing to take on the responsibilities of the role. Most Senior Managers within the health and caring sector state that a significant amount of their time involves sitting on interview boards trying to hire employees for the same positions over and over again. It must be acknowledged that demand for services within the health and care sector is growing year on year therefore a high level of turnover is to be expected. But the first thing I like to ask is: What information did you give the prospective employee at interview and how skilled was the person who carried out the interview?

A good interview is essential and it cannot be a one-sided. Every interviewer likes it when they interview people who are clear about their experience, can answer every question effectively and demonstrates the competence to undertake the role. Great job done, person leaves the room and everyone is happy. Twelve months later the employee resigns or the employer observes that the answers that they gave at interview does not match their work performance. What went wrong?

Well in my experience it can often be at the interview stage where it went wrong. The interview is the most important step towards hiring good employees as this is where both the employer and prospective employee establish their future working relationship. In the past I have been accused of being too direct in interviews and some of my fellow interviewers have expressed concerns that “I might put the person off…” In some cases it did but in most cases it did not. It is always important to remember that both the employee and the employer sign the contract therefore it is important that both sides on clear from day one what they are agreeing to. Good and Loyal employees know their role, their responsibilities and who they are accountable to.

Here are some tips for employers when carrying out interviews:

  1. Members of the Interview Panel are not skilled in effective interviewing: There is a common assumption that interviews are easy and once you use the correct paperwork and ask the questions on the form you will be fine. Some managers within the health and care sector are very skilled in their area but will often only have received cursory interview training and don’t know the pitfalls that can lead to bad interviewing and hiring results. Also there is an assumption that the more interviews you do the better you will get at them. However a bit like learning to drive, if you pick up bad habits in the beginning it is very hard to change them later down the line. Also it is very difficult for HR managers to know who is effective and who requires more support as they are often not on the interview panels and therefore have no way of knowing what might be happening during an individual manager’s interviews.
  2. Contrasting Candidates when interviewing large numbers in a row: Due to time constraints it is often necessary for managers to schedule one to two days of interviews in a row. Whilst this is often unavoidable the interviewer needs to be careful not to contrast one candidate over another. If an interviewer has several bad interviews in a row, the next person who performs much better may be inaccurately rated as outstanding, simply because they are so much better than the recent poor performers. Interviewers will often notice this at the end of the day when it comes to the scoring. The first couple of candidates might score lower in the morning for certain competencies compared to the candidate who comes in after two or three candidates who performed badly or who comes in straight after lunch. The reverse effect is also possible.
  3. Don’t get fooled by the enthusiasm of the Candidate: If the interviewers have had a long run of candidates who don’t perform well they can often get smitten with candidates who demonstrate enthusiasm and passion. This can result in the interviewer failing to accurately assess other important competencies and job requirements.
  4. One-way conversation: Something I have been guilty of in the past as an interviewer – is spending more time talking during the interview rather than listening. Most interviewers don’t leave equal time for the candidate to ask questions and to present information that they want to present, which can frustrate them, and then limited information is used to make the decision.
  5. Focusing too much on past experience: Interviews are mostly based on the past but whoever you hire will be working in the present and future. Most interviewers fail to ask candidates to forecast the future and to provide an outline of the plans that they will use to identify and solve upcoming problems.

Maighréad Kelly is a management consultant and offers a range of supports to employers in the area of HR and Operations. Maighréad is an experienced interviewer and is available to sit on interview panels as an external and impartial interviewer and advisor. She also works as an external investigator and is available to carry out investigations into complaints which can arise within an organisation from time to time. For more information on the services that Maighréad provides go to or check out Maighréad’s experience on