Archives for June 2020

Expectations for Virtual Learning with Queen’s IRC

Queen’s IRC is delivering synchronous virtual learning, where all participants attend the program live as it happens. In addition to the live sessions, there may be some “homework” or offline work to complete before the next session.

For many virtual programs, we will deliver the training in half or partial days. (ie: A two-day program could be delivered in four half-day blocks.) Some longer programs will stay as full day training due to schedule constraints.

What does a Queen’s IRC virtual seat look like?

Our virtual training includes:

  • Programs delivered over Zoom so everyone can participate in live programs.
  • Presentations from facilitators, coaches and guest speakers.
  • All participants joining the conversation via video and chats.
  • Participation in group activities via breakout rooms.
  • A Queen’s IRC program coordinator online during the program to answer logistical questions and help with any issues that may arise.
  • Participation in networking events where applicable.

What do we expect from remote learners?

As a remote learner, we expect you to:

  • Use video, as appropriate, while attending the program and participate actively (ie: join on time, ask questions, complete groupwork, and interact with your fellow participants).
  • Plan ahead. Whenever possible, please have a dedicated working space to participate and engage with the class. We recommend that if you normally use a shared or open workspace, that you make arrangements to use a meeting room, work from home, or other option to give you quiet space for the duration of the course.

We are here for you

In addition to our world-class facilitators and coaches, Queen’s IRC provides a program coordinator onsite for support before, during and after all our in-person programs. This high level of customer service will continue with remote learning. A program coordinator will be online during the program to monitor chats, answer logistical questions, move people into and out of virtual breakout rooms, provide materials/files, and deal with any other issues that may arise.

We are committed to making sure that you can get the most out of the training when participating remotely, and we will do our best to provide the support you.

Credits

Participants must attend the entire program in order to receive the program certificate of completion and any credits towards a Queen’s IRC Certificate. There will be no partial credits granted for any program that is not fully completed. If you are unable to complete the program remotely due to illness or networking difficulties, you are able to reattend in the future (in person or remotely) to complete the program and earn full credits. Additional fees may apply.

Register Risk-Free

Planning for the future has never been more challenging than it is today. If you register for an in-person program that is not able to run in-person, we will convert you to a virtual seat, give you the option to defer your enrolment to a time in which we are able to offer the course in-person, transfer your enrolment to another course offered by the IRC, or you can choose to retain a credit on file or receive a refund, if applicable. Rest assured, if you are sick or have another issue that prevents you from attending one of our programs (in person or online), we will work with you to ensure you are able to complete the training at a later time, receive a credit or refund, or substitute a colleague into your seat.

We are fully committed to delivering the exceptional quality of training that you have come to expect from the IRC, regardless of the method in which the course is ultimately delivered.

Reducing Participant Stress Before a Workplace Investigation

It is normal for participants in a workplace investigation to feel some anxiety, but too much worrying can create barriers to obtaining critical information, which is a challenge for investigators looking to build complete and thorough reports.

Ensuring participants fully understand the process and their role in it can help alleviate unnecessary anxiety during the investigation. With a greater understanding of the process, participants can feel empowered to speak confidently in the interview and provide the investigator with the necessary information.

Where does this anxiety come from?

Participating in an investigation can be stressful. Most people do not have the experience of participating in a workplace investigation and simply do not know what to expect. Without a proper understanding to put their interview in the larger context of the investigation, participants could engage in counterproductive and unhelpful behaviours. They may fear scrutiny falling on their own actions or the consequences of sharing their knowledge of an incident with the investigator. They may feel they have no control over the process and be less than cooperative. They may, intentionally or not, withhold critical information. Some may even refuse to engage in the investigative process at all. All these behaviours act against the goal of uncovering the relevant details of a workplace incident.

These behaviours do not make a participant deceitful but rather it stems from a survival instinct and is linked to the fight or flight response, a mechanism that enables individuals to react quickly to a threat by either facing the threat directly or disengaging it by escaping to a safe place. Viewed in this light, becoming adversarial in an interview or refusing to participate can be seen as rational responses to stress, even if such behaviours are unwarranted. Ultimately, the investigator wants to curb these kinds of emotional reactions from participants’ as they will not be conducive to the investigation.

The investigator must reduce the imagined “threat” in the mind of the participant before conducting the interview. Luckily, there are practical solutions to alleviate anxiety before interviews which will result in a better outcome. This article will provide some tools that will allow the investigator to eliminate some of the unnecessary pressure felt by the participants. This should result in higher-quality interviews.

Although no investigation process is stress-free, ensuring participants understand the process ahead of their interview can greatly reduce their stress. It is clear that some participants like the Complainant and Respondent in a case will likely receive more information than witnesses, but providing information about the investigation to all participants will generally be helpful for the investigator and to the overall process.

Using the following two-step process before conducting an interview will benefit both the investigator and the participants of the investigation.

Step 1 – Introductory Letter or Email

Send a well-crafted letter or email to the complainant(s), the respondent(s), and any witnesses (i.e. all participants).  The letter or email should include the following:

  • the mandate of the investigation,
  • the role of the participant in the investigation (are they the complainant, the respondent or a witness)
  • the expectation of maintaining confidentiality throughout the process,
  • the time and place of the interview with the participant, and
  • request for a pre-interview phone call.

Outlining the process of the investigation in writing from the start will reduce participants’ anxiety level.

Step 2 – Pre-interview phone call

This step is significant in decreasing anxiety of participants involved in the investigation. The pre-interview phone call allows the investigator to provide further details, including introducing themselves, the mandate, and explaining the investigative process in more detail.  This call also provides the participant a chance to ask questions about what is expected of them during the process.  Having this take place ahead of the interview establishes rapport between the investigator and the participant early on and it also humanizes the process. In this phone call, the following issues should be addressed in more depth:

1. Introduction of the investigator

It is important to explain that this call is not the actual interview, but serves as an opportunity for introductions between the investigator and the participant. The investigator should explain that the interview will take place at a later date, and most likely in person. Information provided to the participant can include the professional and educational background of the investigator, the investigator’s role as a neutral third party, and the expectation of the participant to provide truthful answers during the interview.

2. Explain the mandate in general terms

Explaining the mandate during the pre-interview phone call is critical.  If participants understand the purpose of the investigation, they will be able to identify what information is relevant to the matter at hand. This gives the participants confidence ahead of the interview and it helps the investigator as well, since the participant will think more critically about the information that is required.

3. Explain why the organization is investigating the matter

Participants can often be critical of the reasons why organizations conduct investigations in the first place. During this call, the investigator can explain that organizations have a legal obligation to investigate alleged instances of harassment, discrimination, and violence in the workplace, pursuant to legislation in most Canadian jurisdictions. To allay any further skepticism about the investigation, the investigator can also explain that workplace investigations are ultimately conducted with a hope to correct some workplace problem that exists. Again, this explanation should help the participant to understand the process and reduce some stress.

4. Explain what to expect with the investigative interview

Participants often fear the interview, and in particular, the questions that will be asked by the investigator. The investigator should explain that the participants will be asked questions in good faith and will be expected to provide truthful responses. It might also be helpful for the investigator to explain that they will not be trying to “trip up” the participant or trick them with difficult questions. It is important to note that the investigator is not interested in being deceptive but is interested in getting to the truth. Tricks and traps are counter-intuitive to this end. Explaining this to the participant will go a long way in establishing a level of trust prior to the interview.

5. Reconfirm the importance of confidentiality

This might be the most important part of the call with the participant as it is vital the investigator gets commitment from the participant to maintain confidentiality throughout the process. The investigator should relay that ensuring confidentiality protects the integrity of the investigative process. Participants should also be advised that if confidentiality is breached and information leaked to other employees, the entire investigation may be compromised. Depending on the organization’s policy or process, a breach of confidentiality could also result in a disciplinary penalty to the participant culpable of that action

Conclusion

The interview of participants is critical to producing a high-quality investigation. The accuracy and completeness of the information provided by participants during an interview can be skewed, or even incomplete, when participants experience stress and anxiety about the process. This negatively impacts the legitimacy of the investigation. The two-step process outlined above will go a long way to reducing participant anxiety by building rapport and trust between investigator and participant, resulting in higher quality interviews and a more complete investigation.

 

About the Author

Devan Corrigan

Devan J. Corrigan is the Founder and Principal of an HR consulting firm, which provides consultancy services in the area of human resources and labour relations. He specializes in conducting workplace investigations in both the provincial and federal jurisdictions. Devan holds an Honours degree in Psychology from Saint Mary’s University and a Master of Industrial Relations from Queen’s University.

Leveraging Pandemic Learnings (Part 3)

Building Capacity

A blueprint for the future is beginning to emerge: one that will involve greater use of interactive technology, system-wide collaboration, widespread innovation, improved systems thinking capacity, and stronger recognition and appreciation of the female leadership brand.

Interactive Technology

‘Necessity is the mother of invention’, declared Greek philosopher Plato, in Dialogue Republic, and COVID-19 proves him right. Inventive technology applications are emerging in droves. Here are examples from various sectors.

Download PDF: Leveraging Pandemic Learnings (Part 3) The Future: Blueprint for Sustainable Success

Leveraging Pandemic Learnings (Part 2)

This is not the first time Canada has faced pandemics. What have we learned from past experiences? How can we leverage these learnings, now and for the future?  How can we continue to evolve and improve? Here’s a summary of our experience so far.

Overview

Pandemics: Definition

A pandemic is an outbreak of an infectious disease that affects a large proportion of the population in multiple countries, or worldwide. Human populations have been affected by pandemics since ancient times. These include widespread outbreaks of plague, cholera, influenza, and, more recently, HIV/AIDS, SARS and COVID-19.[1]

Pandemics Response: Public Health

Initially, it was about defining Public Health, shaping a national vision for it, and putting in place infrastructures to deliver and manage services:

In order to slow or stop the spread of disease, governments implemented public health measures that include testing, isolation and quarantine. In Canada, public health agencies at the federal, provincial and municipal levels play an important role in monitoring disease, advising governments and communicating to the public.[2]

Download PDF: Leveraging Pandemic Learnings (Part 2) The Past: Learning from Experience and Building Capacity

 

 


[1] Bailey, P. (2008, May 7.) Updated Marshall, T. (2020, March). Pandemics in Canada. The Canadian Encyclopedia. Retrieved May 23, 2020, from  https://www.thecanadianencyclopedia.ca/en/article/pandemic

[2]  Ibid.

Leveraging Pandemic Learnings (Part 1)

Emergencies and crises often create the perfect storm for transformation, as change is primarily driven by the powerful winds of Pain and/or Gain.

Not surprisingly, up to 80% of change is propelled by Pain, a wake up call that pushes us out of complacency, providing opportunities to raise the bar, innovate, shift paradigms, modernize, and make systems work better for more people. Pain compels us to face outdated realities and systems that we are otherwise reluctant to contemplate, infusing us with the courage to do so.

 

Download PDF: Leveraging Pandemic Learnings (Part 1) The Present: Facing the Storm

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