Small-business owners aim to hire trustworthy workers, but companies must be aware that theft will occur. Understanding common ways employees steal requires that you look at the type of items thieves go after and the methods used to take them. Theft can have a significant impact on a small business and can even result in your business failing. Knowing the five most common ways employees steal can help you develop methods to combat the problem.
Employees can transfer money from cash registers into pockets when they handle sales, or they can sneak cash out of open or unsecured safes or petty cash drawers or boxes. In addition, an employee might also quote to a customer a purchase amount higher than the actual price of an item and then keep the difference at the point of sale. Once the employee has the cash, he simply walks out of your business with it at the end of his shift.
Loss of inventory or shrinkage from theft can happen in the merchandise distribution process. It frequently occurs on the sales floor with employees hiding merchandise in apron pockets or on shelves behind other items to pick up at the end of their shift. It also occurs before merchandise becomes available to the public. Employees will take items from warehouse shelves or newly arrived merchandise before it’s scanned into your inventory software. Employees have also been known to steal shipping trucks containing merchandise meant for their employer’s business.
Some employees pocket small items such as pens, staples or scissors slowly and repeatedly over time or take them on the day they quit before they officially resign. Others steal more expensive items such as furniture or equipment after hours when they work unsupervised overtime or after they access your business without permission when it’s closed for the day.
Employees sometimes falsify records or perform actions that result in receipt of payment for work they didn’t do. Some employees request reimbursement of travel or other expenses unrelated to work such as reimbursement of a business lunch that was actually a personal meal. Employee thieves will also fill out time sheets with hours they didn’t work or take extra breaks and fail to deduct the time. In addition, employees can steal by taking personal phone calls, chatting with co-workers or surfing the Internet for hours instead of working.
Many employees intentionally steal information from their employers to benefit themselves or competitors. Types of information include customer lists, office memos and proprietary product, service or other data. Theft might occur via email, or the employee might print out the information, or copy it to a flash drive or cellphone, and simply carry it from your business in hand or in a bag or briefcase.
Although many preventative measures exist to combat the five most common ways employee theft occurs, some measures can help lower the impact on your business. For example, compare physical inventory against shipment and sales records; perform cash, payroll and computer usage audits; and install security systems such as time-tracking devices and cameras to monitor employee activity. In addition, train employees to recognize common behavior patterns of thieves such as repeated requests for outside breaks, unsupervised overtime or to be transferred to a stockroom or cashier position.