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Shrink your shrink: preventing employee theft

The U.S. Department of Commerce has published some sobering statistics regarding employee theft:

  • 30% of the average employees do steal, and another 60% may steal if given motive and opportunity
  • Employee theft cost businesses an estimated $600 billion annually (about $4,500 per employee)
  • One third of business failures each year trace back to employee theft and embezzlement

However, the good news is that you can nip these problems in the bud through a thorough pre-hiring process. Here are a few tips to ensure that your new hires will prove to be assets to your company and not costly liabilities:

Perform a Thorough Background Check

A thorough background check with a reputable employee screening company can find those red flags that might be missed using an interview process alone. Dishonesty or inconsistencies in a resume can indicate that a candidate might be untrustworthy in other areas. A pre-employment screen might also uncover prior bad acts such as a history of stealing or other infractions.
Don’t rely on criminal background checks alone for this. Not every case of internal shrink or theft is reported by employers. Employers may have only suspected an employee of an incident of theft, but without overt proof, avoided the hassle of a formal internal or legal action. An employee screening company can go the extra mile and ask previous employers the tough questions that might indicate that a potential new hire is less than reputable even when no formal case exists on the books.

Make Honesty a Priority in the Interview Process

Ask pointed questions during the interview process that targets your candidates feelings regarding workplace dishonesty. Also be sure to solicit detail from your applicant regarding how that person handled temptations to be dishonest in the past. Learning more about if and how your candidate responded to theft incidents in the past can give you some insight into how this person would respond to similar situations at your place of business.
You may also want to consider giving your job applicants “Honesty Tests” as part of the hiring process. Honesty tests are simple questionnaires that test how a candidate would react given different hypothetical ethical scenarios. Honesty tests as part of the interview process can be another great preventative measure.

Make Theft Prevention Part of Orientation

While you never want to open up a work relationship with an accusatory tone, it is always a good idea to be upfront with your employees about your concern over theft and employee shrink. Make them aware that preventing such incidents is a priority. But also allow them to be part of the theft prevention process. Let them know you value their vigilance and honesty. Conversations such as these early on in the employee orientation process will set the tone that your business is serious about theft prevention.
Include a section in the employee handbook that discusses theft prevention. Let the consequences for theft be clear but also invite your employees to be upfront with any concerns they may have or problems they observe. You may also want to highlight a system for reporting suspected shrink or theft so that your employees will have the tools to help you create a more honest and open work atmosphere.
Have you seen a decrease in employee theft due to background checks and improved pre employment screening? Join the conversation! We want to hear your story. Tell us about your experiences combating shrink in the comments below, or find us on Facebook and Twitter.

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