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Part I: Getting Started

For some companies, the strategic planning around the workplace investigations process is preparing for the day when the company receives a catastrophic misconduct allegation, such as the apocryphal whistleblower reporting that the CFO has been shredding financial documents. Otherwise, not enough thought is given to its role in the company’s operations. This shows both a poor allocation of company resources and a lack of imagination. If a critical incident occurs, the company’s response will take on a life of its own regardless of how much advance thinking tried to plan for it. If the situation happens a second time, the company may not survive, regardless of how the investigation is managed.

The truth is that employee misconduct is usually of a lower magnitude. It arises in the ordinary course of business. It is comparatively minor and foreseeable from a personnel-management perspective. But employee misconduct, especially when repeated elsewhere in the company, quietly bleeds the company dry one drop at a time.

The success of the workplace investigations process depends, in great part, on the role and profile of the compliance program in your company. The challenge for resources comes from the fact that compliance programs are not profit centers. And like other cost centers, there must be some legitimate business purpose for funding the program. If your company funds the compliance program simply out of fear of prosecution or because your competitors have these programs, the future of the workplace investigations process is precarious. Created in that context, the group’s continued existence within the company depends on factors outside its control. Similarly, if the program exists without concrete expectations and metrics to measure its business value, the group is also at risk because its value depends on the perceptions of business leaders that will necessarily change over time.

Process Pointer: Devote some thought to the improbable goal of putting yourself out of business in your company. It will never happen, but it is a worthy goal. If you have such ideas as goals, it is more likely that you will get closer to that goal than if you do not.

Compliance officers and investigators must, if for no reason other than self-preservation, remember their obligation to contribute to the equity value of the business—increasing the returns to its shareholding owners—and this must be a fundamental operating principle. But remembering is not enough. Your executive management is going to have to be persuaded and periodically reminded that you are not just another layer of bureaucracy to be endured.

Process Pointer: Investigators and compliance officers need to demonstrate their value to the company constantly. They need to understand how business executives think. A discussion of the management mindset and ways to highlight your value may be found in Appendix A.

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