A pen here, some batteries for the remote control, fifty copies for a school fundraiser on Friday. A notepad for the grocery list, a stamp to mail the cable payment. These items may not sound like much, maybe they cost a business a few nickels and dimes, but widespread petty theft adds up quickly and can seriously damage your company’s bottom line. In fact, the Association of Certified Fraud Examiners estimates businesses lose an average of six percent of their revenues to employee theft.
According to the FBI, employee theft is the fastest growing type of crime. The U.S. Department of Commerce estimates 75 percent of employees commit petty theft in the workplace, and most do so more than once. They also estimate that $50 billion is lost nationwide to employee petty theft each year. This figure does not take into account time theft. The Denver Post reports that U.S. companies lose as much as $400 billion in productivity each year due to the falsification of time cards and Web surfing on the company dime.
While most employees would think twice about taking cash, products, a laptop or computer monitor from the office, those who take office supplies or use office equipment for tasks unrelated to work probably don’t even think of it as stealing –it’s merely convenient. This is where you, the employer, come in. It is an employer’s responsibility to define the actions that constitute theft in the workplace.
Communicate this information to employees both verbally and in written form. Outline the consequences an employee can expect if he or she is caught committing theft, petty or otherwise. Ensure your employees understand how much petty theft can hurt a small business. Encourage the anonymous reporting of suspicious activities and investigate each report promptly.
For best results, don’t focus on apprehension and discipline alone. There are steps any business can take to reduce the incidence of employee petty theft proactively.
• Create a positive work environment. Happy employees, who believe they are receiving fair treatment, are more likely to think twice about taking office supplies or using office equipment for personal business.
• Implement access controls. If you have reason to believe employees are raiding the supply cabinet, limit access. If you think employees may be wasting company time on the Internet, limit its availability.
• Hire only honest people. Conduct pre-employment background checks on all potential employees. Advanced Research Systems provides background screening and criminal check services that are convenient, cost-effective and legally compliant.
Petty theft occurs in all departments, from entry-level employees to upper management. However, the more you talk about petty theft with your employees, and implement the measures above, the fewer nickels, dimes and dollars of revenue and productivity your business will lose.