Trendspotting: Investigation insights from 2023 and the path ahead

It’s that time of year again, and amongst all the end-of-year functions and holiday preparations, it is a good time to reflect on the lessons from 2023 for workplace investigations and look towards what may be on the horizon in 2024. Here are some trends our team has noticed over the last 12 months and where we think things might be heading.

  1. Employer emphasis on effective complaint handling
  • In 2023, the trend that has been unfolding for the past few years continued, with employers increasingly recognising an effective, holistic complaint-handling process is a necessary and beneficial part of any business.
  • This has led to a growing acceptance of the importance of complaint reporting, both internally (for example to the Board), and externally (for example to regulators or shareholders).
  • It has also led to an increased awareness by employers of the importance of a people-centric approach across investigations and the need to support employees participating in the process.
  • The vast majority of investigations continue to be conducted internally. For many employers, 2023 has seen further growth of skilled internal investigators, both in numbers and commitment to ongoing professional development.
  • With increased awareness of the impact of mental health concerns, many employers have introduced support roles as part of the complaint-handling process to provide welfare and other support to participants.

Looking to 2024, we expect the rise of skilled internal investigators to continue and for investigations to increasingly form distinct business units within organisations (as opposed to being part of HR, legal or safety). We also expect that a significant and growing part of our practice will involve supporting internal investigation teams in conducting investigations (for example, where there is a conflict, or assisting with resourcing, etc.), independent reviews of internal investigations, external audits of investigation and complaint handling processes, individual investigator support, and investigation skills training.

  1. Investigators focus on Diversity, Equity and Inclusion
  • The past year has seen a greater expectation of investigators to understand diversity, equity, and inclusion (DE&I) and how DE&I can impact the investigation process.
  • This means an expectation that investigators have an awareness of our own biases, as well as a recognition of the lived experiences of the participants we meet and how we can make accommodations for their needs in the process.
  • There are a range of ways investigators seek to better understand and accommodate the lived experiences of participants, including:
    • Asking a participant if any accommodations may help them to provide information (for example, the way information/questions are communicated and physical accessibility),
    • Ensuring communications are respectful, culturally responsive and trauma-informed, and
    • Liaising with third-party advisors, such as cultural engagement advisors, translators, psychologists, and occupational therapists.
  • A growing awareness of DE&I has led to innovative approaches accommodating participant needs. For example, some QWS investigations have included conducting an interview outdoors, in the presence of the participant’s treating psychologist, or providing documents in a particular format.

Looking to 2024, we hope to see continued growth in the awareness of DE&I in investigations, including culturally responsive and inclusive practices, and proactive accommodations for people with disabilities.

  1. The rise in sexual harassment investigations continues
  • The rise in sexual harassment complaints continued in 2023. This may be due to the public focus on the topic leading to greater knowledge within organisations about what constitutes sexual harassment and an increased willingness of those impacted to come forward.
  • QWS Training has noted a strong appetite for training on how some areas addressed in new legislative changes impact workplace investigations (e.g. psychosocial risks and the positive duty on organisations to take ‘reasonable and proportionate measures’ to eliminate sexual harassment). However, others, such as the new offence of harassment on the basis of sex and hostile work environments, remain less well understood.
  • Some of the complex issues that have increasingly cropped up in QWS investigations into complaints of sexual harassment include bystander complaints, sexual harassment said to occur in or against a background of intimate personal relationships, crossover with complaints of domestic violence, issues relating to connection to work, the use of social media, and issues relating to gender identity.

Looking to 2024, QWS anticipates that sexual harassment complaints will continue to rise, and employers will continue to grapple with the application of new legislation in this space, with an influx of key decisions likely.

  1. A virtual world
  • 2023 has marked a consolidation of the post-COVID trend towards virtual interviewing becoming the norm rather than the exception.
  • QWS has noticed many positives in this respect in investigations across the board, including interviewees feeling more comfortable and open when interviewed virtually from the comfort of their own space and improving efficiency for the organisation.
  • The past year has also provided huge opportunities for AI to enhance investigations, including virtual interviewing applications (document sharing, captions, instant transcripts), automated interview bookings, document management applications, and improved automated editing processes.

Looking to 2024, QWS sees key opportunities to utilise technological developments to enhance investigation processes and improve efficiencies. Conversely, AI also means investigators need to be alert to the risks of AI, including potential breaches of confidentiality.

Conclusion – the dawn of a complex and nuanced profession?

The past few years have involved a significant leap forward in the complexity and nuance expected in the work of investigators, requiring a considerable amount of up-skilling and training to remain at the forefront of best practice.

As our profession grows and evolves, we are interested in seeing where the cutting edge of investigative practice will take us – perhaps towards the splintering of investigators into specialty areas? Hopefully, 2024 is the year we move towards a national licensing regime.

We can’t wait to come back refreshed in the new year and find out!

Share this post

Investigations Toolkit

Best Practice Templates For Your Next Investigation

Easy-edit templates and guidelines, created by legally trained expert workplace investigators

Related Posts

Subscribe for updates

Recent Posts

Investigations Toolkit

Best Practice Templates For Your Next Investigation

Scroll to Top

Add Your Heading Text Here