Employees May Now Represent a Retailer’s Greatest Business Risk: How Can you Mitigate That?

May 6, 2020

If your business has been deemed essential, has been able to remain open, or if you are able to begin reopening plans, don’t assume that your employees feel valued, engaged, or safe. This disconnect can have a negative financial impact in many ways.

This is particularly evident for retail businesses. The businesses that did remain open or began reopening earlier on may be at higher risk of external, as well as internal theft, fraud, and abuse. In fact, the internal issue can exceed the external threat.

Consider the scenario of a big box home improvement retailer, deemed essential because it sells building materials and other products necessary to secure and repair property.

Not all departments are equal in that assessment of “essential.” Home décor, lighting, kitchen cabinetry – staff in these areas of the store may question why they are on the job. They may be anxious about their safety, particularly if they haven’t been provided with personal protective equipment (PPE).

Employees who feel stressed, anxious, and under-valued are less likely to be diligent and proactive. Customer service will suffer. Panic buying and shoplifting may flourish because employees have no motivation to act or intervene when they spot a problem with a customer.

Retailers have also told us of incidents where whole skids of in-demand products such as hand sanitizer never make it to the store shelf because staff are pocketing it for their own use.

Fast-food and quick-serve employees may be more inclined to treat themselves to a free lunch, or to smuggle out inventory from the stockroom. Shortages of some grocery items, the risks of shopping in-store and delays with online order fulfillment by the local grocery store can encourage this kind of behavior.

The point of sale in any store location of any type – grocery, home improvement, fast-food/QSR, gas station – may also be problematic. Consider the scenario where an employee is concerned about the contagion risks of handling cash money. If they are still expected to accept cash, this may add to their stress and frustration with company policy.

Restaurant takeout icons.

Owners and managers must appreciate the need for improved communications with staff to address these human resource challenges. They must recognize that their employees are a primary audience every bit as important as the paying customer.

Consider the following measures:

  • When those shipments of in-demand items arrive, earmark one skid for employees with clear instructions that the remainder is for retail sale only.
  • Permit restaurant staff a certain dollar value of meals and snacks per day at no cost.
  • At the POS, provide cashiers with factual information on contagion risks and how best to mitigate them with shields, gloves and sanitizer, while of course ensuring these protections are in place and readily available.

These sorts of efforts communicate to staff that management and head office do care about their welfare. It also ensures that employees understand there is a line, and should they cross it, disciplinary actions will be taken.

Having the premises under video surveillance has an important role to play in all of this. Modern digital video platforms include intelligent features such as remote monitoring, heat-mapping, and motion alerts, as well as data integration with frontline systems like POS.

Employee working on the company's digital POS system.

This integration and functionality enables the owner/manager to:

  • Monitor specific product displays where theft or panic buying are likely. Motion alerts can be sent in real-time to any mobile device. This makes it easy to catch hoarders in the act before they cause a ruckus at checkout. Staff from under-trafficked areas of the store can be quickly redeployed to nip an issue in the bud.
  • Monitor inventory locations to ensure staff are not stealing or taking more than their fair share of product that’s been designated for employee use.
  • Monitorpos location to ensure safe distances are being maintained, other store policies are being followed and identify the need to open up another cash. With POS integration, it’s easy to flag and investigate suspect transactions that may indicate cashiers are engaging in undesirable behaviors.

Contact us to learn more about how Solink can help address the increased internal and external risks your business faces during this challenging time.

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