Practical Ways to Prevent Employee Theft
Business operations at almost all levels present temptations and opportunities for employee theft. Cashiers handle large sums of cash every day. Retail stock personnel move substantial amounts of inventory and other material, some of which could easily be pilfered. Even in the executive offices mishandling of funds or theft of equipment is a possibility. To keep your business solvent, you must prevent employee theft while still maintaining an environment in which trusted employees can do their jobs. Here are some practical ways to prevent employee theft in the workplace.
Screen applicants before they are hired: Carefully evaluate applicants for any jobs in your organization, especially those who have applied for a position that involves handling cash or easily stolen items. Conduct a background check that includes checks of criminal records. Contact references and previous employers to get an idea of the applicant’s work history and reputation.
Provide thorough training and supervision: As part of new-hire procedures, include training on theft prevention and how your company will prevent employee theft. Include information on how allegations of employee theft are handled and the consequences if an employee is caught stealing. This training does not have to be heavy-handed or intimidating, but should clearly communicate that theft will not be tolerated. Ensure supervisors know how to watch for potential theft and that they follow all procedures in cases where theft is suspected.
Maintain security: Ensure security practices are known and followed, including procedures for handling and transferring cash, securing valuable objects and equipment, and locking doors, storage areas, drawers, and containers. Limit the number of keys to the facility and give keys only to employees who truly need them. Install alarm systems, time locks, or surveillance cameras if the situation warrants. Establish and enforce rules for when, or if, employees should be in the facility after normal business hours. Lock doors to shipping and receiving areas, stock areas, and other places where merchandise is stored and open them only when necessary.
Monitor inventory: Conduct regular audits of inventory and compare the actual holdings with information on inventory records. This will help you determine if and how much theft is occurring. Regular inventory audits–quarterly or every six months–will increase your chances of finding and stopping thefts as soon as possible. Establish inventory check-in procedures, such as having two employees verify the receipt of incoming merchandise and cross-check shipments against invoices or packing lists. Ensure shipping boxes and containers are broken down and flattened before they are discarded and that there is no opportunity for items to be left in an “empty” box to be picked up by the dumpster later.
Document cases of suspected theft: If you believe someone is stealing from you, keep detailed records of what items you believe have been stolen. Carefully document the identities of employees who were working on days when you believe the theft occurred. Whenever possible, include information on where employees were working, areas of your facility they were in, and whether they could have had the opportunity to steal.
Handle cases of suspected theft discreetly: Before making any accusations of theft, make sure your documentation is up-to-date and that you have covered all legal or regulatory requirements for such a situation. Do not make overt or public accusations that could tarnish an employee’s reputation if they turn out to be innocent. Openly accusing someone of theft could also have legal implications for you and your company. Handle suspected theft cases privately and according to established company procedures. Involve the police if necessary, both as a deterrent and to ensure real-world consequences for actions.
Our goal is to help educate our customers about Plumbing, HVACR, Fire Protection, and Alarm Systems in Mechanical, Commercial, and Residential settings. For more information on how to prevent employee theft and deal with the consequences of discovering a thief in your organization, and to view projects we’ve worked on, visit our website!