We have an investigative process. Our investigators have been trained. Our investigations though are still somewhat sub-standard. What can we do?
I am often asked how companies can improve the quality of investigations in the workplace. I often answer that question with a question. “Tell me where the majority of your evidence comes from?”The interviewing of witnesses is one of the most important aspects of any investigation as on most occasions the successful outcome hinges largely on the information obtained from witnesses.
In the early 1990’s, the police in the United Kingdom came under intense scrutiny in the way officers were conducting interviews. As a result, a Steering Party co-ordinated by the Home Office (UK), conducted research to gauge why police conducted interviews so poorly.
Following the outcomes of this research, a National (UK) interviewing training package, (called “Investigative interviewing”) commenced in 1993 with its theoretical structure now adopted worldwide, including policing jurisdictions within Australia.
In 2006 as the senior interviewing trainer at Detective Training School, I represented WA Police at the 2nd International Conference on Investigative Interviewing at the University Of Portsmouth, U.K. The conference was attended by university and law enforcement fraternity worldwide and highlighted the benefits of using this style of interview when gathering information from witnesses. The concept appeared to be adopted across the globe and is almost certainly used by law enforcement agencies across Australia.
Since leaving law enforcement, I have packaged this style of interviewing for the corporate sector and continue to train staff across industry sectors on how to interview. Whilst many have been trained on various investigative processes, very few have been taught to interview beyond the understanding of “ask open questions”. In fact, the reason why most interviews fail is because it is adhoc and there is no set structure.
The key to improving the quality of investigations therefore is the need to learn the art of conducting interviews. Many OHS, HR and other compliance staff from the government sector right through to the private and resource sector, are fast learning how effective interviewing can be with set structures in place.
(By Oscar Persichitti)