Small Business Brief

Safety & Loss Prevention

Do You Trust Your Workers? 8 Ways to Prevent Employee Theft

Employee theft may seem like a small scale issue, and it usually is. Some employees may steam small items like staplers or stacks of paper in the hope that it goes unnoticed.

But, as the items stolen are scaled up and as the volume of thefts grows, companies can truly feel the toll of employee theft.

In fact, employee theft alone cost US companies over $50 billion in 2017. While you may trust your employees, it can’t hurt to keep yourself protected and to stop any form of theft in its tracks.

If you feel like you need the help, here are 8 ways to protect your small business from theft by employees.

1. Value Your Employees

Respect goes both ways in many situations in life, and the relationship between an employee and an employer is one where respect is crucial. If your employees do not respect you, they are more likely to steal and put your company in jeopardy without thinking of the consequences.

In order to have your employees respect you, be sure to show them that they are valued. Paying your employees fairly, offering them growth opportunities, and supporting them through stressful times are just some ways to show your employees respect and prevent workplace theft.

2. Restrict Access

Though you can’t restrict your employees from reaching for staplers or stacks of paper, you can prevent them from accessing sensitive information or important data. Keeping these documents on a need-to-know basis will minimize the most dangerous type of employee theft: information.

While you may want to think your employees would never use company information for their own benefit, that is a major type of employee theft. For that reason, keeping documents password protected and out of company-wide servers is important.

This will limit the access and reduce the risk of important information falling into the wrong hands.

3. Use Surveillance

While most companies and stores use surveillance to deter outside theft, it is also an efficient way to prevent employee theft. Installing surveillance cameras is something every company should do, as it will allow you to monitor the scene of any “crime” or allow you to check back on any suspicions you might have.

A sophisticated surveillance system, covering many corners of an office, will clearly show any employees that may be committing small or large scale theft. It is a great way to rack up evidence for serious cases or to use in disciplinary hearings. Read more about what to consider when choosing a surveillance system for your small business. 

4. Pre-Screen Applicants

Prescreening your job applicants can be important for many reasons, and reducing workplace theft is just one of them. Studies have shown that criminals are most likely to commit petty crimes more than once, and workplace theft is no exception.

If you can, be sure to pre-screen applicants for criminal records, credit histories, and for past workplace issues. You can check up on their actions in past workplaces by calling their previous employer and understanding why they left the job and if you should expect any trouble.

5. Track Your Company Inventory

It’s best to nip workplace theft in the bud as it starts before it snowballs into a much bigger issue. In order to monitor that effectively, keep track of your workplace inventory to see how items are distributed in your workplace and what may have “gone missing” recently.

If you begin to notice that some small items go missing when they shouldn’t, you may want to begin monitoring for a workplace thief. While this will take some time, it is a good idea to assign the duty to your office administrator and make sure that they keep you updated for any signs of theft.

6. Set Up a Tip Line

Most sheriff’s offices and airports have places to report a crime, as that is something good samaritans will do. If you have begun to notice a recent trend of workplace theft, you may also want to set up a tip line within your own office to catch a crook.

Generally, responsible workers will inform upper management if they notice suspicious activity. These workers are also more likely to notice workplace theft, as they work alongside the thieves and are more likely to notice when items go missing.

Be sure to set up a tip line if you can in order to reduce the risk of theft.

7. Instill Theft-Prevention Measures

Employee theft is not just an issue between the employee and the company, but also between fellow employees. Be sure to remind your employees how to keep both company property and their own property safe from potential thieves.

When having this discussion, be careful not to sound like you are accusing your employees of theft, as this may begin a cycle of distrust between management and the employees. Simply remind the employees how to care for their items.

8. Make Punishments Clear

Nothing is more effective at deterring potential thieves than a clear punishment system. If your punishment is work suspension without pay or potential termination, all your employees should know that.

This will make them very careful not to commit any type of theft during their time at the company.

When considering what punishments to keep, it is best to be very serious and make them consequential. Only big-scale punishments will be effective at preventing workplace theft.

For a topic this serious, it may be worth considering termination for employees that steal information from the company.

How to Prevent Employee Theft

Now that you understand the consequences of employee theft, and have some strategies to prevent it, it’s time to implement these strategies in your workplace. Different strategies may have varying degrees of effectiveness depending on the size and trust within your small business.

For more tips on how to keep your small business successful and how to grow into a larger, more well-established practice, you’ve come to the right place. Read up on some of the other tips that we have for any issues that your small business may be facing.