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What is the Best Approach to Early Intervention?

What is Early Intervention?

Early intervention systems are evidence led methods of identifying opportunities to interject and disrupt performance concerns. Early intervention uses feedback and data gathering mechanisms to allow analysis and identification of patterns and trends.

Separate from formal disciplinary or investigation systems, a successful early intervention system can engender trust and participation from employees where the system is perceived to be fair, effective, and welfare-based.

A robust early intervention system is also self-perpetuating—the more feedback mechanisms in place, the more information is gathered. Each intervention contributes knowledge and information to understanding of risk in an agency’s operational environment. This provides a continuing evidence base for identifying emerging patterns and trends.

The greatest advantages of early intervention are:

• the prevention of serious misconduct and corruption by identifying patterns of at-risk behaviour and intervening before misconduct occurs—this can have both a positive employee wellbeing impact and reduce the financial implications of investigation and performance sanctions

• breaking down data silos by building mechanisms for reviewing employee data across an agency’s data-holdings

• legitimising asking questions and empowering frontline supervisors to engage with staff about issues that may be impacting their wellbeing or performance.

ACLEI’s view about Early Intervention is there is no one ‘best practice’ solution. What is effective for one agency may not suit another.

Rather, ACLEI supports a ‘best fit ‘approach, where a combination of strategies is employed contingent on the organisation and its environment: a “purpose, place, person” solution contingent to environment and risk.

  • Person

  • Place

  • Purpose



Using an evidence based approach to intervene at a systems and process level.

Approaches can include:

  • using data to examine a particular business capability or function
  • aligning integrity management with risk assessment management.


  • can more effectively use resources to target high risk areas
  • receives cyclical attention in terms of integration with integrity frameworks and functions
  • often observe a maturity continuum in this space—from folders on shelves that are revisited once a year to dedicated units who conduct pressure testing on systems.


Operation MYRRH:

This investigation demonstrates where a ‘purpose lens’ could have assisted in identifying risk associated with set rosters and employees timing use of illicit substances with rostered days off.

An ACLEI investigation into illicit drug use by employees of the former Australian Customs and Border Protection Service identified a group of officers were regularly engaging in the use of cocaine. These officers performed frontline border functions, with responsibility for the detection and prevention of importation of illicit drugs. One officer had supervisory and training responsibilities. The officers’ drug use represented a critical conflict of interest with the expectations of their roles.


Useful for agencies with disparate geographical work locations to identify hotspots or sites of interest.

Approaches can include:

  • HR or workforce planning traffic light reporting or consultancy models
  • use of integrated data from across an organisation (HR, security, fraud, case management) to look for patterns.


  • can assist in identifying emerging subcultures or counter-normative reporting levels
  • employees may feel unfairly targeted based on their work location
  • may normalise counter-productive workplace behaviour—“everyone  else in my office is doing it”. 



This investigation demonstrates where a ‘place lens’ may have been useful in identifying emerging risk at a particular operational location.

Operation Heritage-Marca was a joint ACLEI investigation which uncovered serious and systemic corruption at the Sydney International Airport. Twenty six individuals were prosecuted for offences relating to the facilitation of border controlled substances through the airport, the disclosure of operational methodology, and accepting bribes.


 Classic early intervention focus, typically using tools or psychometrics or red flag checklist approaches.   

Approaches can include:

  • comparisons between peers
  • use of organisational, site or capability averages
  • thresholds for tolerance—what level of risk is the organisation willing to accept?
  • retro fitting from “what does good or bad look like?”
  • confidential employee networks. 


  • creates and enhances a reporting culture
  • can be subjective as assessment can rely on other employees
  • can perpetuate the ‘myth of the average fraudster’ where assessments are based on stereotypes or averages.


Operation MARLOWE:

This investigations demonstrates how a ‘person lens’ could have assisted in identifying a high-risk individual, where information was held by different business areas of an agency. 

An ACLEI investigation into unauthorised disclosure of classified AFP information by an AFP Protective Service Officer observed that the officer had exhibited a history of adverse behaviour. The officer was engaging in regular illicit drug use and associating with people involved in criminal activity. He had been sent home from an overseas deployment because of alcohol abuse but this information wasn’t known to Professional Standards. The siloing of information, in this case, meant there was no oversight of the officer’s wellbeing or consideration of potential opportunities for intervention.