Steps Businesses Can Take to Prevent Workplace Theft
My 11-year old son recently went on a school field trip to “business town” where kids experience a virtual workplace filled with banks, businesses and other services that mimic real world. The idea of this trip was to let kids practice life in a business scenario. He was hired as an advertising salesman where he solicited marketing opportunities for the local radio station. True to the goal of the field trip, he did learn how to collaborate with co-workers and to reach a sales target but he also experienced theft. With his “business town” currency, kids were allowed to go around to businesses to buy goods. He purchased a few small things to serve as memories but sadly, just like the real world; someone decided they needed these goods more than he did.
Unfortunately, workplace theft is more common than you might realize and we’re not talking about stolen lunches. Cash, computers, and even low value personal items could be snatched from right under your nose, in your building, and the results can be devastating.
How employees feel after experiencing a workplace theft:
Whether it’s an outside job or the act of a coworker, employees can be shaken when their belongings are taken from the workplace. Even if the items stolen are not high in value, the fallout can be very serious. Employees may:
- Feel violated, defenseless, and unsafe in the workplace.
- Start to mistrust coworkers.
- Be unfocused and anxious at work, lowering their productivity.
- Blame their employer for not providing a secure work environment.
Workplace theft is horrible for morale. But what can you do about it?
How to prevent workplace theft:
There are a number of steps businesses can take to avoid and remedy these problems.
- Be careful in hiring. Run a background screening and a drug test on all potential hires and make sure to contact all personal character references.
- Be clear about conduct guidelines and ensure supervisors and managers set the tone with high ethical standards.
- Take all reports of workplace theft seriously and investigate carefully.
- Communicate with employees about what steps are being taken to protect them and to find perpetrators.
- Install safety and observation measures in the workplace such as access control systems that make it possible to verify who is on site at all times.
- Have an employee tip line. Set up a confidential way for employees to communicate their co-workers’ suspicious behavior and offer a reward for staff members who provide information to prevent thefts.
- Provide personal lockers (or locked overhead office cubicle bins) for employees to use and encourage them to deposit all their personal items such as purses and electronics in these lockers rather than leaving items on a desk.
In the end, my son did experience a painful life lesson about workplace theft but being diligent and proactive can help reduce the chances of it occurring to him again in the future. It is important for businesses to closely monitor employees and educate them on conduct guidelines. The more verbal you are about ethical standards and employee safety, the more likely you are to detect theft before it becomes a serious problem.