When you own and operate a brick-and-mortar establishment, your business is at risk for theft by your workforce. No employer wants to believe that employees are stealing from them, but it’s more prevalent than you may think. According to Compare Camp, “95% of all businesses have experienced employee theft.” What an employee can steal will vary from business to business. But losses can take many forms, and you should know what they are and what measures you can take to try to prevent them.
Common Types of Employee Theft
Employee thievery doesn’t just include the obvious, such as money. Insider crooks may go after something else entirely. Below are some things a devious employee may be interested in taking from you.
- Supplies: These may include low-end office items such as pens and paper clips, or they could include restaurant items like food and utensils. They may also include higher-end items, like computers.
- Merchandise: This is any and all items intended for sale.
- Time: Employees can even steal time from you. They may be “on the clock” at times they are not actually working. For instance, a worker may go to lunch but “neglect” to punch out before leaving the premises so they get paid for the time off.
- Data: A worker with access to electronic files may steal confidential information, such as proprietary secrets, financial information, or even personal customer data.
Sometimes, a company might offer a unique or unusual opportunity for theft. You’ll need to evaluate your place of business, determine what may be tempting to thieves, and come up with a plan to safeguard your assets. Here are some tips to get you started.
1. Perform a Background Check on New Hires
According to EMC Insurance, “Almost 10 percent of job applicants have criminal convictions, and up to one-third of resumes contain serious falsehoods or omissions.” Any candidates you’re considering for hire should have no problem agreeing to a background check. If they do, it’s a red flag you don’t want to ignore. If the job seeker does agree to a background check, be sure to have them sign a written agreement to that effect.
2. Implement a No-Theft Policy
Make sure employees know what to expect if they take anything from your establishment without permission. Create a new hire handout that spells out in no uncertain terms what will happen to employees who steal from your business. This might naturally include termination and/or prosecution details. Be clear and convincing. Also, include this information in the Code of Conduct section of your employee handbook.
3. Ensure Proper Supervision
Make sure employees are properly supervised. You may designate someone you trust to watch over them, but you should also take a hands-on approach and do some of the supervising yourself. It’s best if you don’t set particular times to do this. Your presence should be sporadic. If an employee who’s thinking about committing a criminal act knows you could show up at any time, they’re more apt to think twice about it.
4. Install Security Devices
A good security system will go a long way in deterring employee theft. Monitoring equipment is especially essential if you find yourself experiencing inventory losses. Strategically placed cameras will be able to catch any merchandise that’s “walking out the door.”
5. Lock Down Computing Devices
Though maybe not typical, some employees will even steal heavy items if they’re not nailed down. Secure your computers with locks that tether them to a desk or table. There are plenty of these on the market made specifically for this purpose.
6. Keep Strict Password Protocols
To reduce your risk of employee data theft, limit electronic file access to only those who must view them to do their jobs. Furthermore, ensure that individuals can’t get into your files remotely after termination or resignation by deleting their passwords immediately for every platform and account they were able to access.
7. Hire an Outside Firm for Your Physical Inventory
When it’s time for inventory, don’t make the mistake of having the same people with daily access to the business’s retail merchandise do the counting. This could lead to losses you won’t immediately realize. It’s too easy for dishonest employees to fudge the numbers to make everything look balanced when they have this kind of control.
8. Divvy Up Financial Responsibilities
Nobody in your organization should control the entirety of any financial task. For example, the preparing, receiving, and paying of purchase orders need to be handled by three different people to remove the temptation for employee theft.
9. Encourage Employees to Report Suspicious Behavior
Make it easy for your employees to report any suspicions they have or crimes they may witness. Oftentimes, workers behaving badly will share what they’re doing with others to try and get them to become cohorts. Let your workforce know that your door is always open and that they can remain anonymous if they are worried about retribution.
10. Use the Right Technology
Technology has made great strides in recent years, especially in areas of security. NMA’s retail equipment features inventory tracking so you can stay on top of your merchandise levels, plus a time clock so you can monitor your employees’ time on-premises. These and other tools will help your brick-and-mortar business reduce employee theft and enjoy a larger profit margin.
It’s no fun to think about your workforce ripping you off. However, when you put safeguards, deterrents, and the right technology in place, you can cut your losses considerably. Ensuring your assets remain where they belong will contribute to a pleasant workplace and a profitable business.
About National Merchants Association
National Merchants Association (NMA) is a merchant advocacy group dedicated to reducing or eliminating the unnecessary fees associated with accepting credit card payments. Since 2004, NMA’s payment processing solutions have been delivering tailored solutions, best-in-class customer service, and high-quality service offerings for businesses across multiple industries. Whether it’s high-risk or low-risk, brick-and-mortar or e-commerce, NMA will create the best processing experience for your company. For more information, visit us at www.nationalmerchants.com or call (866) 509-7210.