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7 Tips for Talking to Staff About Employee Theft

June 3, 2022

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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.

See how Solink can help make your business more efficient.

"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.

Solink helps you when talking to staff about employee theft by providing video examples of internal theft.
If your business is using Solink for internal theft and loss prevention, try this script that our clients love: “We utilize a platform called Solink to monitor all activity within our facility. We chose Solink because it allows us to pinpoint unusual activity anywhere in the store and on all cashes. Solink allows us to pinpoint theft, which helps keep costs down and avoids any loss of trust for honest employees.”

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.

Download your employee theft prevention signage and keep this topic front-and-center.

To see how Solink can help reduce employee theft, sign up for a demo today.

About the author:

Herbert Melendez is Manager of Audit and Investigations with Solink. He has implemented systems and solutions for 29 years in major retailers like Rite Aid, Bed Bath & Beyond, Walmart, and Ross Stores. Herbert approaches loss prevention with a focus on the customer experience, and with a belief that good LP strategy can be invaluable to any company.

Talking to staff about employee theft FAQ

What specific steps can employers take to legally monitor employees for theft prevention without violating their privacy rights?

Employers can legally monitor their employees by ensuring that monitoring practices adhere to both federal and local laws, such as the Electronic Communications Privacy Act (ECPA), which allows monitoring for legitimate business purposes, provided there’s either a business purpose or employee consent. To respect privacy while monitoring, employers should:

  • Obtain informed consent: This can be achieved through acceptable use policies (AUPs) that employees agree to, which outline permissible monitoring activities.
  • Limit monitoring to work-related activities: Avoid collecting personal data that isn’t required for business operations or payroll purposes.
  • Use employee-friendly monitoring software: Tools like Workstatus can help monitor productivity without being overly intrusive, making it clear to employees that the purpose is to enhance productivity rather than scrutinize personal activities.
  • Regular policy updates: Laws and technologies evolve, so regularly updating policies ensures compliance and maintains trust with employees.

How can businesses implement technology effectively in their theft prevention strategies while ensuring staff acceptance and cooperation?

For technology to be effective in theft prevention, it must be implemented with transparency and employee buy-in. This involves:

  • Communicating the purpose and scope of monitoring: Clearly explain that monitoring aims to protect both the company and its employees by preventing theft and ensuring a safe workplace.
  • Framing technology as a productivity tool: Instead of presenting monitoring software as a surveillance tool, emphasize its benefits in aiding employee productivity and self-management.
  • Seeking feedback and offering training: Involve employees in the selection and implementation process of new technologies, providing training on how to use these tools effectively and safely.
  • Ensuring technology respects privacy: Choose monitoring solutions that are respectful of employee privacy, such as those that only track activity during work hours or on work devices, and ensure employees are aware of what is being monitored.

What are the psychological factors that contribute to employee theft, and how can understanding these help in prevention efforts?

Related research and literature on the psychology behind the theft triangle suggest that factors such as perceived injustice, lack of engagement, financial pressure, or a perceived low risk of detection can contribute to such behaviors. Understanding these factors can help employers design prevention strategies that address root causes rather than just symptoms. This could include:

  • Creating a positive workplace culture: Fostering an environment where employees feel valued, treated fairly, and engaged with their work can reduce the inclination towards theft.
  • Offering support and resources: Providing employees with access to financial counseling, employee assistance programs, and open lines of communication can address underlying issues leading to theft.
  • Implementing fair and transparent policies: Ensuring that all employees are aware of the consequences of theft, coupled with fair and consistently applied disciplinary practices, can deter potential theft.