5 Tips to Handle Employee Theft

5 Tips to Handle Employee Theft

This article was updated on September 17, 2018.

Employee theft is a significant issue. As noted by Fortune, 43 percent of lost business revenue is due to light-fingered staff. Criminally-minded employees can damage both the bottom line and workplace culture. Here are five tips to help root out suspected thieves and reduce the risk of long-term larceny.

Get Hard Evidence

Step one? Don't act on suspicion alone. Chron offers good advice: Accumulate as much evidence as you can before moving forward. This could include video footage from security cameras, altered financial documents or records of phone calls and emails that indicate a pattern of theft or misuse of company property. Ensure any surveillance or evidence collection is conducted in compliance with legal requirements.

Document, Document, Document

Once you're certain theft is taking place, create a written record of all pertinent details. It's a good idea to make at least one hard copy and one digital copy so there's no chance of losing this information or, even worse, having it stolen. Include the date, time and details of the stolen items during each offense, along with any modified financial statements and video footage. It is also a good idea to get witness statements.

Take Action

Make sure all meetings with the individual in question happen with security and/or at least one other senior staff member present. This reduces the chances of an aggressive response to your findings and helps reduce the possibility of a complaint against you for violating any HR standards. Be firm, be fair and don't lose your cool.

As noted by HR Examiner, if you plan to terminate an employee, it's a good idea to explain why you are terminating the employee and ensure that any disciplinary action is applied consistently to all employees. Many employees have padded expense reports or taken a few office items here and there. Anyone who's stealing from your business assumes at least two or three others doing the same thing and will demand to know why they're the only one being fired. Ensure your business has a policy regarding employee misconduct in place that clearly states anyone caught stealing will be subject to disciplinary action including termination.

If you've discovered an employee who is dishonest and disrespectful, a best practice is to issue a warning, have a discussion and continue to document performance concerns. If after this you decide to move ahead with termination, have a conversation with the employee about the basis for this decision. Consider whether a severance agreement is warranted. If the value of their theft or depth of their poor conduct is excessive or dangerous, however, you may want to consider calling in the police.

Rewrite the Rules

If you've had a problem with employee theft, implement new rules to curb the behavior. According to Entrepreneur, one option is the "buddy system," where employees with access to high-value inventory or cash systems always work in pairs. Another idea is to run legally compliant background checks on all employees.

However, when it comes to surveillance, tread carefully because reading employee emails or recording them without prior knowledge and consent may violate their rights and any applicable laws. While it's important to adopt policies of mindful oversight, you need to strike a balance with workplace culture and atmosphere. Employees who feel valued and well treated may be less likely to steal and more inclined to identify the bad apples.

Employee theft happens. When it happens to you, be prepared: Get evidence, document everything and consider the big picture. Then take action and create new rules to safeguard your revenue.