An unfortunate part of HR processes is that you can’t always be transparent.  Consider the hiring process – some job solicitations yield dozens (or even hundreds) of resumes.  Given that most HR departments are juggling several job openings at any given time, it’s simply not possible to tell every disappointed applicant why they weren’t selected for a role.  It’s also not always possible to keep the candidates who are under consideration informed on how the hiring process is progressing, and when a final decision will be made.

While this impossibility should be obvious to anyone who thinks about it, many people experience that process over and over again and come away feeling like HR is a black hole – the place where information goes to die. Unless those people have an experience that changes their opinions, that’s what they’ll continue to believe as long as they work at your company.  That’s why it’s important for HR to be seen as engaged with employees and interested in their happiness and success.

It’s easier to demonstrate this during some tasks than others.  Questions about benefits can often be answered in a quick and friendly manner.  The same is true for questions about workplace policy.

In other areas, it’s not as easy to be transparent.  Unfortunately, workplace investigations are one of these.  Just because you can’t provide weekly updates to an employee who submits a complaint, however, doesn’t mean you can’t be seen as engaged and appreciative.  Here are three steps to take when receiving a complaint to improve employees’ perceptions of your department, and your company.

Thank Them.  Most employees have to overcome some significant fear of risk when submitting a complaint about another employee or a company policy or process.  Will the other employee learn about it?  Will company executives be told? Will they face retaliation?  Given the risk, why bother registering a complaint if there’s little in it for them?  Acknowledge this leap they’ve taken by personally thanking them for the information they’ve provided.

Provide Process Detail.  This initial conversation is a great time to tell them about the process that all investigations go through.  Help them understand that this issue isn’t likely to be resolved in 24 hours and set their expectations for when there will be a resolution. It’s often best to underpromise, while still providing a reasonable timeline, and overdeliver.

This is also an opportunity to tell them what will be held confidential.  The reality is that this process won’t be transparent for them – but if you acknowledge that and explain why, they’ll feel much better about it.

Process the Complaint.  The worst thing that can happen when a complaint is submitted is that it stalls and remains unresolved for months.  If complaints aren’t processed quickly and thoroughly, it will become obvious to employees that they aren’t valued.  It will also expose the company to risk – issues left unresolved tend to find their way to regulatory bodies or the media, and if a company has received a legitimate complaint of unethical or illegal behavior and not followed through on that information they are much more likely to face penalties.

To learn more about how CMTS:HR can support your workplace investigations, call us at 919.600.5102 or email us at