Employee theft in the workplace is a larger concern than many people realize, and it can affect any type of workspace. In fact, research shows that employee theft costs businesses within the United States alone $50 billion each year. Additionally, one out of three retail employees has been arrested due to internal theft. Much of this theft is related to stealing from the company itself, but workplace theft can also involve stealing from a co-worker. Be it in an open coworking office or one that is more private, this is a concern. Working toward employee theft prevention should tackle all types of theft, including stealing from the company and between employees.
Any savvy business owner will take the time to get to know their employees so they can look for warning signs that a theft is possible. Some indicators of a potential future theft include suddenly working late, living a lifestyle above their salary, abusing drugs and alcohol, and strong objections to changes regarding inventory and financial procedures.
As a general rule of thumb, the more supervision employees have, the less likely they are to have an opportunity to commit workplace theft. While you do not need to constantly watch employees, you should keep track of what they do and avoid long stretches of time where you do not know where they are.
In most cases, an employee is less likely to steal if they feel like a valued member of the team, as they will not want to risk their position. Do this by offering sufficient pay, recognizing achievements, rewarding employees with perks like office lunches, and simply delivering praise for work.
In many cases, theft occurs because people have access to areas that they should not be able to get into, such as where money or other valuables are stored. A simple way to resolve this potential cause of employee theft in the workplace is to use an access control system to let you easily provide access on an as-needed basis.
Computers are a useful tool for thieves who try to divert inventory or money. You can help avoid employee theft in the workplace by limiting access to programs on computers that access this information or even just the terminals in general if they are not necessary for everyone.
Assuming your business uses checks, ensure that they are always tracked. They should not only be pre-numbered, but you should also ensure that any payees and amounts are written in a permanent manner. For the best method, lock up the signature machine and blank checks, and track all checks via your financial software.
In addition to regular audits, you should prevent theft by having a policy of unannounced internal audits. Thieving employees will know a scheduled audit is coming up and will be able to hide evidence by then, but this is much harder to do if they do not know when the next audit will be.
It is not uncommon for the reason that an employee gets caught stealing to be another employee. The problem, however, is that employees do not want to tattle on each other. Alleviate concerns of retribution from the thieving employee by creating a confidential system that lets whistleblowers share information.
For businesses that sell a physical product, take care when managing your inventory. Ensure that you have someone who is not in charge of inventory records conduct a physical inventory at least annually. If you have strong concerns about employee theft, consider installing a security device to track the inventory.
It can also help to be clear as to what will happen to employees if they steal. Employee theft may occur because someone thinks you do not have the resources to prosecute them. Letting them know otherwise may discourage theft.