Tips for addressing employee theft proactively
It’s hard to tackle topics that make us uncomfortable, especially when we think those topics may also make our staff uncomfortable. The reality is, talking to staff about employee theft is important enough to make the effort worthwhile. When internal theft accounts for up to $6 Billion of loss each year, the need for a candid talk becomes obvious.
Why don’t we address employee theft with staff?
There are several reasons why business owners and managers are reluctant to address this hot topic head-on.
- No one wants to give the impression that they’re accusing staff of dishonesty.
- No one wants to admit that theft happens in their business-or worse, they don’t realize that it does.
- Some believe that simply stating, ‘Don’t steal!’ is as far as the conversation needs to go.
These three issues can be addressed by writing a formal employee theft policy, which makes this conversation less personal.
Why don’t employees talk about theft with management?
Employees are hesitant about talking with their superiors for a number of reasons:
- Staff don’t want to believe that their own favorite coworker could be doing something dishonest, so they doubt their own observations and choose not to mention anything.
- Associates may be afraid to be deemed a “snitch” or treated differently by their colleagues afterwards.
- Staff are worried it will change the “vibe” of the workplace if managers suddenly become paranoid and vigilant.
- Sometimes theft is executed by a supervisor or manager, making it difficult for a staff to talk with the right person about what’s happening.
A way to report employee theft anonymously is one way to prevent employee theft that all companies should be using today.
"Personalizing the concept of theft makes it more relevant and 'real' to staff who may otherwise view it as an abstract idea."
Tips on how to finally have that talk about employee theft with staff:
You’ve educated yourself on the topic of employee theft, and now you’re ready to implement with staff.
1. Make a connection for staff.
Personalizing the concept of theft makes it more relevant and “real” to staff who may otherwise view it as an abstract idea. Try talking to staff about short-term versus long-term gain: no one should risk a permanent job with a great team just to make a couple extra dollars off a cash register scam.
Being a kind and relatable manager or owner reduces the chances that an employee will be able to rationalize stealing from work, which is one side of the employee theft triangle.
2. Ask staff to work with you.
Good staff members like to be the one you can count on. While having your talk, ask if they are on board to help you watch for staff theft. Explain that thefts result in uncomfortable investigations, broken friendships between staff, and increased costs that take away from staffing hours. Those who enjoy their work will want to avoid anything that would change the status quo.
They won’t be able to help you as much if they don’t have a clear definition of theft. Employee theft comes in many different types, and you should make sure employees are aware of all the different ways employees might steal from their job.
3. Be clear about your loss prevention efforts.
Let staff know if you’re utilizing security cameras, theft investigation software, or other strategies for loss prevention. It may deter those who would be considering a dishonest act, but it will also give peace of mind to honest staff who may be concerned about being affected by, or accused of theft themselves.
4. Engage everyone.
Ensure that your managers, district managers, and even the owner are all familiar faces on site; this will increase the likelihood that an associate will feel comfortable talking about something they witness, even if it involves a senior staff person. Work on fostering a sense of openness and friendliness so that associates can feel comfortable asking for help.
5. Reinforce your commitment to your employees’ well-being.
Employee theft affects the entire team: investigations are taxing and awkward, business losses affect the staffing budget, and associates’ personal belongings can even be a target for thieves. Emphasize that your interest in preventing employee theft is in the best interest of all staff members.
6. Keep the conversation going.
Don’t talk about associate dishonesty only once a year or only during a crisis. Keep the topic fresh in people’s minds so they always know what to do if there’s an issue.
7. Provide a helpline, tip sheet, or other signage.
You can’t be on-site 24/7, so an easy way to keep the topic front of mind is with signage. We’ve created some signage here that may help you get started. Print this off and fill in the blanks to have your own personalized theft prevention signage.