If you’re running a small business, there is a good chance you’ve already had to deal with an employee theft incident. In fact, according to a recent survey conducted by a University of Cincinnati criminal justice researcher, 64 percent of small business owners reported experiencing employee theft. Theft of cash was most common, with 40 percent of incidents involving money in amounts as small as $5 to as large as $2 million. Eighteen percent of incidents were theft of products sold by the business, 8 percent of tools, 6 percent of equipment, and the rest of office supplies or in the form of time-card manipulation. It’s important to takes the necessary steps to prevent employee theft.
How can you keep your company’s hard-earned dollars and essential products and supplies safe from unscrupulous workers? Taking these specific steps will certainly help.
1) Don’t skip the pre-employment background check. Your first line of defense to prevent employee theft is a qualified employment screening service. may be the only way to reveal such issues. Make sure you enlist the help of one that will verify your applicants’ education, credentials and past employment as well as conduct a thorough criminal history and reference check. While these services are not free, the expense is minor compared to the average $20,000 in losses over time found by the survey mentioned above.
2) Make your anti-theft policy very clear. Employees need to know exactly what you do and do not allow at your workplace. For example, if an employee uses the copier to print fliers for her son’s little league game, is that a theft of resources? If one of your staff borrows a tool to use over the weekend on a non-work related project, is that the same as stealing? If the receptionist runs to the nearest fast-food joint to grab lunch for the rest of her team without clocking out, is that a theft of time?
3) Encourage reporting of dishonesty. Set up a hotline or another anonymous means for employees to report theft in the workplace without fear of repercussions. Additionally, cross train workers so they can alternate duties. If one person is always responsible for the same thing, they may be able to hide their thefts. When others handle the same tasks it becomes a type of audit—and makes it more difficult to hide dishonesty.
4) Consider internal surveillance. Video surveillance and computer monitoring can be very helpful for catching employees who are breaking the rules. However, you must inform your workers that you plan to observe them if you want to avoid potential lawsuits. You should have a workplace policy pertaining to monitoring; you should also word it clearly and communicate it regularly.
5) Enforce the consequences. According to the survey mentioned earlier, only 16 percent of the small business owners who experienced employee theft bothered to report it to the authorities. Even if you choose not to report a worker’s theft to the police, you must still enforce the consequences outlined in your anti-theft policy. If you do not, you send the rest of your staff the message that you’re willing to tolerate rule breakers.