Q: How should I prevent employee theft in the office and out in the field?
A: Anyone that is in business has struggled with the employee theft issue. There are so many different ways an employee can steal from you, from time all the way to actual money. Here are some tips and pointers I have learned over the years.
Be blunt and right to the point. Be proactive and make your policy on theft very clear to all employees. Create a precise and clear document that states what your company considers theft. Also make it clear to all employees that you do not tolerate theft and that the company will prosecute.
Most people don’t realize that something as little as office supplies and as big as embezzlement will affect the bottom line of the company. It is a good idea in today’s technology-based world to put in writing that things such as personal cell phone use, unauthorized Internet use and even checking personal email are considered theft, especially when done on company time.
Inventory control. Using a sign-in/sign-out sheet for supplies that are being used helps to hold employees accountable. We use sheets not only for office supplies, but also for tools, chemicals, equipment and just about anything that has any type of value. Let’s face it: Theft is still possible unless you have another avenue to check what is being signed for. That brings me to my next topic.
Cameras. Even though cameras do not stop a thief, they can help you catch one. If you decide to use cameras, you must provide or put up a notice that lets employees know they are being recorded. Cameras can be very expensive and time consuming because you have to review the tapes. A cheaper option would be to use fake cameras, but it is vital to tell no one they are fake. Doing so would defeat the purpose of scaring off a potential robber.
Insurance – is it worth the cost? If you don’t already have business insurance, be sure to purchase it. Make sure you are clear to your agent what you need insured. It is never a good idea to get the minimum level of coverage. Depending on your location, be sure to cover all types of theft. Just because something gets stolen or even vandalized does not mean it is covered.
Also, forgery or embezzlement sometimes is not covered, so be sure to do your homework and have everything covered. Catastrophic events should be considered and discussed to be included in your policy. Again, be sure to ask the right questions and have everything in writing. There is an old saying, “You get what you pay for,” so if the price on the insurance policy seems too good to be true, it might be. Be sure to research and ask more than one agency for quotes. Most importantly, read the fine print of any policy and purchase the right one for you.
To be or not to be. Do not become friends with your staff. It is okay to have acquaintances because it is much easier to reprimand or terminate an acquaintance than a good friend. Again, acquaintances are good in the workplace, but friends can cause turmoil and emotions and they may even think they can get away with stealing.
Structure and discipline. It is good to have structure within your organization, but most of us have a daily routine. Many of us even know what our co-workers’ schedules are. We are creatures of habit. If, as a business owner, you become spontaneous and unpredictable, this will cause people that are stealing to look over their shoulder and think twice about stealing.
We may never be able to stop theft, but these tips may help with restructuring some of the current ideas you use. Follow the procedures you have in place and be consistent with everyone. By no means put up with theft of any kind and protect your assets.
Crystal Arlington, PLANET Trailblazer
Affiliated Grounds Maintenance Group
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