Reality: Not everyone is suited to be an EEO Investigator, but anyone with $800-$1000 can become certified as an EEO Investigator.
The purpose of this article is to highlight an unregulated component in the Federal EEO Investigative process that needs improvement. After years of training both new and seasoned EEO Investigators, it was apparent that lack of training hours recommended, and limited practical experience were prevalent when it came to industry protocol for being a certified Investigator. For the most part, Investigators grasp the applicable theories and laws which is the primary focus of the 32-hour online EEO training courses. However, a vast number of Investigators lack hands on experience which enables them to turn the theory they grasp into an effective work product.
There is not enough time to teach the practical hands on instruction which is necessary to be an effective EEO Investigator. 32 hours is the recommended number of hours to be an EEO Investigator, but it is not nearly enough to cover hands on training such as mock interviews, interview techniques, creating questions, requesting documents, role playing, writing ROIs/MTFs, protocols, etiquette, introductions, and other investigative techniques.
Many training courses are online and self-paced, trainees are provided with extensive theoretical information and then expected to answer multiple choice questions which are akin to taking an open book test. Courses are not being designed to gauge, teach, or adjust to the comprehension of the student; it is an “information dump” of relevant theories, laws, and scenarios.
MD-110 requires Investigators to have a training certificate. Unfortunately, the 32 hours of training has become a “money grab” for many companies offering these types of training services. As a potential investigator, do not fall into this trap, it will only make the learning curve more difficult and limit future employment opportunities. When choosing a training company do your research and ask companies for a syllabus of the entire course. It is important to determine if you will acquire practical skills during the course, not just acquire a piece of paper (certificate). It is important to know if the training company provides mock interviews, written assignments which will be reviewed, and step by step instruction on how to produce a Report of Investigation. It is imperative to find out who will be answering your questions and reviewing your work, their past experience, and their current involvement in EEO related matters.
Simply being an Employment Law Attorney does not necessarily qualify an individual to teach another how to be an effective EEO Investigator. Do not assume that taking a course from a law firm will prepare or give you an advantage in the industry. What matters is determining if a trainer will take the time to review your work, explain your errors, provide customized scenarios for practice, show you how to apply theoretical knowledge, answer questions, and specifically demonstrate how to provide an effective work product. Do not rush through course material, it will be a disservice to yourself and the industry. There are probably only a few companies that realistically attempt to prepare an individual for being a successful EEO Investigator, let alone explain to them how to effectively find work after the course is completed [another article source: Becoming an EEO Investigator]
Very few Investigators are ready to effectively facilitate an EEO investigation after taking the 32 hours of required training, much of their learning will be hands on; however, the Agency expects an adequate work quality from both new and seasoned Investigators. Investigators simply do not have adequate practice for creating effective questions and interviewing respondents. Many Investigators have trouble understanding what is expected of them in terms of drafting a Report of Investigation (ROI) and how to accurately summarize material facts obtained during the investigation. Investigators that have time management and strong written and oral communication skills experience less of a learning curve.
Training recommendations for new Investigators may never be changed to reflect reasonable requirements; however, companies offering EEO training should take some responsibility in comprehensively preparing individuals, rather than only offering an introduction into EEO theory and laws. Spoiler Alert: Being able to regurgitate case law, theories, and terms will not do much for an Investigator during a real investigation. Hint: you need multiple skill sets to be an effective EEO Investigator.
To effectively train students to be Investigators, the mentor/trainer should be active or recently facilitated cases themselves; many problems faced during an investigation are not EEO related and may require current/updated experience to assist in handling those obstacles. Trainers need to be able to teach practical investigative techniques. There is a difference between knowing how to perform a task well and being able to teach another Investigator how to perform a task.
While conducting mock interviews for students, I made sure to test them in every possible way. If investigators made errors, I allowed them to dig a bigger hole for themselves, so they could experience a realistic scenario for their action(s). If they did well, I tested them a bit harder, so they could perfect that skill set. When the students displayed knowledge and skill, I then moved to the next obstacle, so they could practice a different skill set. Some students did not understand the material and I purposely allowed them to fail, which sounds harsh; however, it was necessary for them to learn what would occur if they continued in that manner. The mock interviews were the last chance to practice and learn valuable lessons before a real investigation, if the trainee was still interested in pursing this line of work. During the mock interviews, I took down notes and let the students know the good, bad, and how they could adjust/improve. At this point in the course, training was beyond the recommended 32 hours, but many of the investigators were just beginning to piece together the theories and learning how to effectively apply them.
Prime Contractors (Vendors) receive resumes, cover pages, and new Investigator 32-hour certificates constantly from individuals looking to start their EEO Investigative career. Having had the experience in managing and mentoring new recruits, I understand the effort it takes to get newbies up to speed with the experienced Investigators. There are fewer Vendors that will take on new Investigators. The 32-hour course is the equivalent of a high school diploma, given the Investigator has general knowledge of many areas in EEO case law, theory, protocol. There is nothing wrong with having a basic education or understanding about an industry or certain discipline, however, job opportunities and future success will be limited unless the Investigator has practical experience to supplement that education.
Note: AES is not selling a training course, we are simply providing some insight. Investigators need a high school education (32-hour training), and then they need to attend a trade school that will provide them with hands-on training. Investigators need practice, but they need to know what to practice in order to hone the necessary skill sets. Listen, 32 hours of online training will not prepare you to be a successful EEO investigator, you will need more education, practice, and/or mentorship to strive.
AES has been providing free hands on training and mentorship to Investigators for years, teaching all of the necessary tips, protocols, and providing tools to both new and seasoned Investigators on the contracts facilitated through our consulting services. When the Agency relays that our client’s EEO Investigators are doing a great job, it’s a win-win for everyone: The Agency, Vendor, and the Investigator. AES is able to provide free training and mentorship, because we are in the business of being paid for services when everybody wins.
As always, feel free to provide comments, relevant experiences, or questions in relation to this article.