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The Top 10 Emerging Trends in 2024’s Investigative Practices

Posted - January 10, 2024

As we look ahead to 2024, the field of investigations is poised to undergo significant changes due to evolving technologies, shifting legal landscapes, new organizational practices, and a louder demand for trust, fairness, sensitivity, and reliability of investigation processes. Here are the top 10 trends expected to shape both professional regulatory and workplace investigations in the coming year:

1. Remote Work and Digital Investigations
With the increase in remote work, investigations will need to adapt to a whole new set of concerns to be investigated. Environments change, which can lead to behaviours changing. In addition, investigating misconduct or practices of individuals in a virtual environment will requires new techniques and tools such as increased digital communication efforts, methods for tackling identification challenges, and adapting interviewing techniques.

2. AI and Machine Learning Integration
Artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning will play a larger role, assisting in the analysis of large volumes of data, identifying patterns of behavior, and predicting potential issues before they escalate, all leading to more efficient and comprehensive investigations. These technologies will have a learning curve, and need to be introduced carefully to avoid errors and ensure fair investigations are paramount. As new technologies become more integrated into business operations, regulatory bodies will face the challenge of keeping up with these advancements and ensuring that their use complies with existing laws and ethical standards.

3. Enhanced Focus on Data Privacy
As privacy laws become more stringent globally, investigators will need to carefully navigate privacy rights while ensuring thorough and effective investigation processes. There will be a heightened focus on ensuring that organizations comply with data protection laws. This will lead to more investigations into data breaches, misuse of customer data, and cybersecurity practices.

4. Psychological Safety and Mental Health
Investigations into workplace culture will increasingly consider psychological safety and mental health. There will be a focus on identifying and addressing systemic issues that contribute to a toxic work environment. In the regulatory realm, the need for, or lack of psychological safety in workplaces bleeds into the matters that regulators will be investigating. These become significant factors for consideration in the substance of their investigations, and the investigative process. All investigations in regulatory or workplace matters will need to continue to enhance their trauma informed practices.

5. Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI)
DEI will continue to be a priority, with investigations increasingly looking into complaints of discrimination, harassment, and inequity. Ensuring fairness and inclusivity in investigative processes will also be a key concern.

7. Whistleblower Protections and Ethics Hotlines
Stronger whistleblower protections and the prevalence of ethics hotlines will encourage more employees to report misconduct. This will increase the volume and complexity of cases that need to be investigated. The same is true for regulators, who will no doubt see continued increases to their volume of complaints and concerns that require investigation.

8. Use of Social Media in Investigations
Investigators will increasingly turn to social media to gather evidence and understand the context of workplace issues. Balancing the insights gained from social media with privacy considerations will be important. Social media and its link between professional and private lives will continue to be an issue where blurred lines have created debate over where professional accountability and opinion or action cross. This will result in a greater complexity to many investigations undertaken by regulatory and workplace investigators.

9. Cross-Jurisdictional Investigations
The mobile workforce, remote technologies, and evolving employment relationships will lead to many questions about cross-jurisdictional investigations, as they become more common. Regulators in different provinces will need to continue to develop, or to look to how they can develop greater cooperation with one another. Navigating different legislative rules province to province, and federal vs. provincial will be important to understand. As challenging will be the varying cultural norms to understand and adapt to. Even within Canada there can be differing emphasis on acceptability of some behaviours. In the coming year these differences will be highlighted more and more.

10. Training and Development in Investigation Skills
As the landscape of investigations evolves, there will be a greater emphasis on training and developing investigators. Tolerance for mediocre investigative work is lower, as it should. In fact, it should be at zero. People who choose to hold themselves out as investigators, in any type of investigation will be held to account, when they demonstrate they are lacking the ability to complete fair, unbiased, and accurate investigations.

2024 is set to be a transformative year for investigations, with a shift towards more digital, inclusive, and legally compliant practices. Investigators will need to adapt to these trends to effectively perform their work in a manner that instills trust from all stakeholders. 2024 will be marked by a more nuanced approach to investigative work, driven by technological advancements, an evolving working world, changing legislative and regulatory requirements, and the demand for more humane approaches to investigative work.