I find it interesting that when you see articles about employee theft they are often accompanied by the picture of the employee slipping money out of the cash register and putting it in their pocket. Sometimes the pictures are of shady looking characters hunched over a purse or briefcase hiding materials or merchandise. The pictures portray the dishonest employee as having a nervous look or glancing about looking to see if anyone is watching. The problem is that in many cases this is not what a crooked employee looks like. Unless you have gone through training to reduce employee theft you might not know the indicators to look for that would tip you off that someone may be stealing. Then there is the false sense from these pictures that all dishonest associate activity involves taking materials, products or property.
Employee theft can be much more involved than you might imagine. It can involve the theft of time. While this sounds somewhat innocuous on the surface over a period of time it can cost you, the employer, thousands of dollars. This can happen when Bobby or Mary doesn’t show up for work on time so they have a friend punch in on a time clock for them while they are still driving to work. Five or ten minutes here and there doesn’t sound like a lot but the lost productivity for you can add up. Six minutes a day five days a week is thirty minutes. If an employee earns $12 an hour, that is $6 in lost money for you in a week. Over the course of a month it could potentially add up to $24 in lost productivity and in a year, $288! This does not include the impact on team morale caused by this tardy employee. Employees are more in the know than you might think and they take note of co-workers who always show up late. They get angry over having to pick up extra work until that person gets in. Time may not be as tangible as cash but it hurts the store owner or manager just as much as cash theft does.
With proper training to reduce employee theft managers can learn how to pick up on the cues that indicate dishonest activity is taking place. In the case of time card fraud you may forget about the day you did notice Mary was a few minutes late and since her time card looks correct you approve it and move on. In order to stop this fraud before it gets out of hand you may want to use a planner or calendar to track tardy and absentee employees. Training can help you with identification and prevention before a problem explodes.
Employee theft does not always start off big either meaning it isn’t always a $20 cash register shortage. I have caught employees who were giving away drinks and meals to friends and co-workers. These situations frequently started off with the idea of helping a co-worker who did not have enough money at the time. One favor deserves another and soon the two employees are “helping” each other out with a drink here or a food item there. Well, one co-worker turns into two and two turns to a customer friend. Soon there is a little cabal of thieves in one department. Oh and yes, that did also lead to someone feeling froggy enough to start trying their hand at creating a fraudulent gift card for himself leading to cash theft/shortage. Often employee theft starts out on a small scale but can quickly escalate to a huge problem. I will also point out that a side issue that arose from this case was that almost half a department of workers were fired at one time for employee theft and fraud. That placed a heavy workload on everyone else in that area.
Training to reduce employee theft can open a manager’s eyes to methods of theft they never thought about previously. It will also teach employers the signs that indicate trouble could be brewing even if theft has not taken place…yet. Financial pressures, peer pressure, problems outside of work and even dissatisfaction in the workplace can entice a worker to engage in activity they otherwise might not have considered. Don’t let internet pictures deceive you see the bigger picture with training to reduce employee theft.
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