Fishbowl Investigations: Conducting Visible Internal Investigations

Fishbowl Investigations: Conducting Visible Internal Investigations

Corporations that have seen a decline in their corporate culture are turning to internal investigation and risk assessment firms for help in 2020. The discourse around corporate culture has evolved significantly over the last few years, with employees voicing their desire for work-life balance and how corporate culture directly impacts their decision to stay with a company. Leadership is better-educating themselves on how their actions feed into the cycle of corporate culture, and how they can improve employee retention by making meaningful changes that grease the wheels of success in their business or organization. However, many corporations have their anxieties about conducting internal investigations in a fishbowl—where employees are able to see the methodology in motion—and how this will impact their workforce and their business.

Corporations can find themselves open to scrutiny from both their employees and their customer-base when they announce an impending internal investigation. Some corporations, for a myriad of reasons, opt to have internal investigations under a cloak of classification in order to protect the integrity of the investigation—however, in the interest of transparency, many corporations opt for a visible investigation, warning employees, shareholders, customers, or all of the above, of an impending internal investigation. This means that the investigating bodies will be under a microscope of scrutiny within the corporation, as their methodology, decorum, and their practices will a source of debate around the proverbial watercooler.

Regardless of who is contracted to conduct the internal investigation, or under what level of declassification, if there is visibility of an investigation, there is a delicate balance of transparency and professionalism needed in pursuit of the truth. One of the most difficult tasks an internal investigator has at the inception of the investigation is establishing a rapport with relevant parties, such as leadership and the workforce in order to garner frankness from persons who will be crucial to the fact-finding process.

Investigators must establish credibility with the client and relevant subjects in the case. This means ensuring those individuals are aware that the investigator shares their values and is only interested in identifying problems to improve the business—not damage it—indicating a high level of accountability that will have a ripple effect throughout the corporation or organization.

In tandem with establishing credibility, investigators must be straightforward about their objectives, outlining what the client hopes to achieve and their proposed methods of reaching that goal. Investigators must never make promises they cannot keep by making declarations before they know the facts. Corporate investigators must always pursue a resolution to a business’s problem that does not impair their long-term goals—by the same token, it is imperative that the investigator informs the client that there might be some negative consequences as the result of their findings, such as turnover, further inquiries, or bad publicity.

Objectivity is key in any internal investigation. It’s one of the reasons some companies elect to have a private investigator or risk assessment firm conduct their investigation, as opposed to an in-house investigator or member of house counsel. No employee with a stake in the outcome of the investigation, even indirectly, may be 100% objective in identifying pervasive issues in an organization. In addition to that objectivity, an independent investigator—unknown to the corporation or organization—investigators can move through a workplace undetected. This will take the edge off of the “fishbowl” factor that is common with internal corporate investigations. Private investigators can adopt a persona and conduct their investigations without the eyes of concerned coworkers; interviewing employees, collecting evidence, evaluating the location, and reviewing internal communications can all be conducted in plain sight.

Internal corporate investigations with a “fishbowl” factor can be an inherent challenge for corporations. Above all, it’s important to remember that employees are your greatest asset, as they feed into a cycle of corporate culture that can successfully stimulate your business or organization. An appropriate level of trust and care must always be taken when subjecting your workforce to an internal investigation. When employees feel valued, they will become empowered and engaged to give their best to the benefit of your organization.

8 Signs You Need a Corporate Culture Audit

8 Signs You Need a Corporate Culture Audit

8 Signs You Need a Corporate Culture Audit

How do you know when your business or organization needs a corporate culture audit? The fact of the matter is that you don’t have to be an educated risk assessment investigator to identify the signs. Many employees can trace their workplace woes back to an internal process or another employee they do not like. Sometimes it’s difficult to discern whether your organization needs a corporate culture audit. Here are 8 of the most prevalent signs that leadership should watch out for when it comes to declining corporate culture.

8. High-Pressure Environment

There is a plethora of high-pressure jobs that can create tension in the workplace, like media conglomerates, financial firms, and law offices. When stress is part of the job, many employers go the extra mile to ensure that their employees can have good work-life balance, such as paid-time-off, vacations, and comprehensive benefits. In high-pressure jobs where these things are not available to employees, the workforce regularly experiences burnout and lack of engagement. When leadership is ignorant or inattentive to these issues within their corporation, it drives corporate culture down and contributes to the overall detriment of the workplace.

7. Employee Apathy

Every employee has substandard days for a myriad of reasons, but when the workplace is constantly plagued by low energy and low morale, it spreads like a cancer throughout the organization. Employees who are engaged in the workplace increase productivity and customer experience. When apathy spreads throughout the workplace, it usually indicates that the root cause is pervasive, effects everyone, and needs to be neutralized as soon as possible.  

6. Pervasive Problems

If your organization is running into the same problems quarter to quarter, this is a major red flag. The nature of the problems are insignificant—whether it’s a problem with internal processes or multiple complaints of harassment, the fact that the problem continues to thrive within the workplace indicates that there is a fundamental issue with internal processes or personnel. While each issue may have resolved initially, the root of the problem was never identified or addressed. A healthy cycle of corporate culture cannot grow in such an environment.

5. Poor Investments in People

When it comes to hiring and promoting employees, sometimes leadership does not always make a sound investment in a single employee. It happens in every business, where a new hire or promoted employee does not meet expectations as predicted. This can bring internal operations to a screeching halt, whether executives elect to correct this poor investment via termination and turn-over, or to ignore the issue and allow that employee to continue stalling the corporation’s mission.

4. Questionable Ethics

“Questionable ethics” does not mean that it’s apparent that there is illegal or ethically unclear practices taking place within the workplace—otherwise it would be much higher on this list. “Questionable ethics” actually refers to individual employees’ understanding and ability to explain their company’s values. Regardless of intent, corporations are sometimes vague about their mission or values, using rosy words that denote a company with integrity and passion for bringing their products and consumers together. This can make it difficult for employees to intellectualize company goals and vision. When the workforce does not have a clear, common goal to achieve as a whole, employees can easily become detached and apathetic.

3. Lack of Accountability

When corporate culture is healthy, there is a mindful unity throughout the workforce, in which individual employees are content, engaged, and working towards the same goal. When the corporate culture is poor, individual employees at all levels refuse to take responsibility when something goes wrong. Lack of accountability for a mistake or oversight leads to a great deal of finger-pointing and shrugging in meetings and over email, and slows down the wheels of progress within a corporation or organization.

2. Bad Behavior in Leadership

Corporate culture audits can catch some of the most elusive culprits of tainting corporate culture: Executives and leadership. The old adage goes, “The fish stinks from the head,” meaning that most distasteful things within a company or organization can be traced back to leadership. Whether it is a supervising manager or an executive, bad behavior on behalf of leadership always trickles down into the rest of the workforce, because the supposition is, “If the boss is doing this, it must be okay.” This applies to all levels of bad behavior, from theft to malingering and everything in between.

1. Lack of Diversity

The number one indicator that your company or organization might need a corporate culture audit is a lack of diversity in the workforce. Any corporate culture that is homogenized with regards to race, gender identity, sexual orientation, or even age lacks the inherent ability to grow and change. Leadership in the workplace—management and executive positions—are dominated by cisgender, straight, white men, who are statistically projected to hire other individuals who are also in this category. Individuals in this category are hired, mentored, and promoted more than others, which feeds into a cycle of stagnation that will ultimately disbenefit the company or organization. The value of diversity comes with the support of trusted employees from many walks of life—employees who have had different life experiences and have a perspective that can reinvigorate an organization’s vision or mission—ensuring that the pursuits of the workplace are growing and changing along with the rest of the economy.

Hiring a Private Investigator for Your Internal Investigation

Hiring a Private Investigator for Your Internal Investigation

Private investigators can bring down the costs of internal corporate investigations.

There is a wide variety of events that could trigger a corporate investigation. Perhaps an employee files a sexual harassment complaint against another. Perhaps a whistleblower brings attention to a pervasive internal problem. Whatever the cause, it’s up to leadership within the corporation or organization to ensure that the problem is addressed. While some entities have the budget for an internal investigation team, the investigation itself still places a strain on a business and its resources.

In the interest of due-diligence with a corporate investigation, thousands of documents must be reviewed, processed, and itemized. Internal processes must be reviewed and evaluated by an internal investigator. It may be necessary to interview employees regarding their knowledge of the matter—those accounts must be cataloged, transcribed, and placed in context within the investigation. In addition to the tangible resources that are expended during the investigation, there’s hundreds of hours of labor hours that must be invoiced and paid out. The Fulbright Litigation Trends Survey presented data that indicated internal investigation costs were already on the rise back in 2011. Excluding the cost of settlements and judgements, they reported a median spend with American corporations of $1.4 million. Almost a quarter of those businesses reporting spent an excess of $5 million or more regarding internal complaints. For large companies with a wealth of resources, $5 million may seem like a drop in the bucket, but there are many smaller businesses who could easily be bankrupted by such a price tag. Those same companies also do not have the budget to maintain a specialized internal investigations team to address internal complaints when they arise.

Private investigators are the perfect professionals to conduct your corporation’s culture audit for a number of reasons. Just to name a few, private investigators have similar skill sets to investigators who work in risk assessment, can conduct internal investigations without disruption, and can offer you a more customizable program that will fit your business.

Private investigators build successful practices because they have a detailed eye for human behavior. When it comes to private investigation, it’s not always just about what a subject is doing, but also why they’re doing it. Because they have a wealth of experience in rationalizing and predicting human behavior, private investigators might have an edge over traditional corporate culture audits performed by risk assessment investigators. What we know about the cycle of corporate culture indicates that there is a cause/effect relationship between an employee’s level of engagement and how successful the company or organization is in their internal operations. We also know that an organization’s structure can directly affect how engaged employees are. This is why private investigators are so invaluable. They can look at characteristics of the workforce on paper and in real life to assess how employees feed into the current cycle of corporate culture.

Risk assessment firms specialize in internal investigation, but too often, leadership will neglect undergoing an audit because they believe that it will be too much a daily disruption to internal operations. By virtue of their profession, private investigators excel at blending in to their environment, whether it’s in a busy street, or a quiet library. Whatever the nature of their investigation, private investigators know how to conduct their due-diligence without drawing attention to themselves or others. This skillset is especially valuable if leadership wishes to conduct a covert internal investigation. After all, people behave the most naturally when they believe they aren’t being watched. In this way, private investigators can infiltrate businesses and obtain necessary information without piquing the curiosity or suspicion of current employees.

Another hallmark of a private investigation’s profession is their flexibility and autonomy. Sometimes private investigators can very quickly pick up leads that other investigators cannot because they have autonomy other types of investigators do not. This flexibility gives private investigators the ability to customize any corporate culture audit program to fit your business’s needs. Some companies may be small, but do not have the traditional structure of a brick-and-mortar business. Other companies might be large, but have a workforce where millennials dominate the majority. This is where a private investigator’s diverse experience can allow them to identify the problems and prioritize the most prevalent problems to right the ship of corporate culture.

If your business or organization needs a corporate culture audit, call Lauth Investigations International today for a free quote on our corporate culture audit program. We have an A+ rating with the Better Business Bureau, 5-star ratings with Google, and we are staffed by former military and law enforcement personnel. Call 317-951-1100, or find us online at www.lauthinvestigations.com

Corporate Culture Audits: Why Hire a Private Investigator?

Corporate Culture Audits: Why Hire a Private Investigator?

Private investigators can be the best candidates to perform corporate culture audits

When corporations make the investment to evaluate their corporate culture, it’s important that they choose a vendor who offers a comprehensive audit program. With the rise of the #MeToo movement, the Equal Opportunity Commission (EEOC) saw an overall increase of 13.6% of sexual harassment filings in 2018. That’s not counting other filings for discrimination based on age, race, and sexual orientation. This has placed corporations on high alert as the nation’s capitalist climate gears up for change in their workplaces. This means that when leadership opts for a corporate culture audit, it’s important that their money is well-spent, and one of the best moves to make is hiring private investigators to handle the audit.

Many corporate culture audits are performed by independent risk assessment firms, which is to be expected. Risk assessment firms specialize in identifying the weak points in a business from their workforce background to their brick and mortar security. However, if leadership is going to invest in improving their corporate culture, it’s important that they pick a program that offers comprehensive services. While risk assessment firms might employ highly capable auditors capable of identifying security oversight or performing background checks, every business is different, and it’s important that the program selected fit every business true-to-form. That’s where a private investigator can be an invaluable asset.

Private investigators as a profession have a lurid reputation for following philandering spouses and people suspected of worker’s compensation fraud. The same tool chest that allows them to perform those services is the same one that makes them ideal candidates to perform corporate culture audits. Private investigators have an eye for detail, diligent drive, and a meticulous ability to evaluate and make recommendations based on what they’ve observed. These are the types of professionals you want when it comes to assessing the culture of your business or organization.

Independent risk assessment firms are just as excellent in identifying the risk factors that put a business or organization at risk, such as vulnerabilities in their securities, faulty hiring processes, and at-risk employees based on their history—but what about the human element within a corporate culture audit? Corporate culture audits are so much more than comparing documents and surveying brick-and-mortar locations. It’s also about understanding how current employees function in a workplace ecosystem. Private investigators, with a wealth of experience in evaluating human behavior and emotions, can be the boots-on-the-ground investigators who can speak with current employees and collect data on their impressions of the current work environment and how the culture can be improved. Some of the questions private investigators may address include, but are not limited to:

  • Is everyone in the company invested in the same things?
  • What are the valued differences between your corporation and the competition?
  • What are the key measures of success within your company?
  • What is the functionality of the leadership in place versus the leadership required for success?
  • What are the environmental factors that are contributing to the decline in culture?
  • What is the history of your company’s culture from its foundation?
  • What are the subcultures that have formed in your organization and what is their role within the company?

By answering these questions and calculating the human responses, private investigators can provide executive leadership with recommendations based on more than what exists on paper; for example, the last item on that list regarding the identification of subcultures. Private investigators do not only look at the behavior of individual employees, but also how those employees relate to each other. In workspaces where there are employees of 10 or more, it is hyper-common for subcultures (or groups) to form. This happens when individual employees gravitate towards one another as a result of their shared interests, goals, or gripes. Their comradery can either contribute to the cycle of corporate culture, or undermine it. When a subculture forms because the employees all have similar degrees of dissatisfaction with their job (regardless of the reason), their validation of one another in solidarity can be a cancer within the organization. This is why it’s imperative to hire corporate culture auditors who have a high level of understanding of human behavior—they can provide a comprehensive picture of how their current employees are contributing to the cycle of corporate culture.

While private investigators may not be able to dismantle subcultures, they can change the conversation within those subcultures. Groups of employees who bond over poor treatment from a supervisor or frustration with current internal processes will have to find other things to talk about once these issues are addressed and remedied appropriately. This is one of the ways that we improve the cycle of corporate culture. When employees see pervasive issues being addressed by leadership, they are inherently more engaged in the process, which can increase the quality of communication, the level of productivity, and the overall health of the workplace. Private investigators are some of the best professionals to perform these audits ultimately because they have a grasp of human behavior that allows them to accurately pinpoint the issues and make recommendations to leadership.