It seems like every week I read a new article about a person caught stealing $5,000 or more from their employer, and there is one common thread that can be found in all of these articles…where it began.
Every person caught stealing in a retail environment had to start somewhere. Every one of them had a “first time”. More importantly, every one of them went through the exact same internal dialog before that first theft – “is it worth it to take this, and will I get caught?”
To truly stop internal theft before it starts, your loss prevention function needs to be proactive and address this internal dialog. Listed below are 5 ways to stop employee theft before it is too late:
Increase Awareness – Reduce Opportunity: It sounds pretty basic, but in an effective loss prevention program awareness really is the key. Awareness can come in many forms, from simple posters and newsletters to high tech video or store visits, but the purpose is always the same – to get people talking about loss prevention. If every person in the store is aware of loss prevention and internal theft, a person who is thinking of dishonesty may choose differently due to the difficulty of finding the right opportunity or being discovered.
Give Employees a Voice: In almost every instance of retail theft, there is at least one other employee who either knows or suspects that the theft is occurring. Sadly, a lot of employees have this information but don’t feel they have a safe outlet to communicate it to the people that need to know. It would be great if every one of these employees would simply pick up the phone and call someone in authority to let them know what is going on, but in reality most people are afraid of retaliation, anonymity, or not being believed. For this reason, it is imperative to have a confidential, anonymous business abuse line set up for these calls. More importantly, each of these calls must be fully investigated to keep people calling.
Use Audits to Find Holes in your System: A service technician came to my house the other day and tested for areas of my home where the cool air was leaking out. The holes he found were all tiny spaces between window sills and walls or around doors and none of them were any bigger than a pea. If I had a large hole in my wall the size of a basketball, I surely would have called someone to get it fixed immediately, but without this technician pointing out the small cracks I might never have even known I had a problem. The same can be said of operational deficiencies in a retail store. It is possible that there are small “cracks” in procedures that open up a big hole to opportunity. The best way to find these cracks early is though the development and implementation of a comprehensive audit. Furthermore, every single store needs to be audited to really see results.
Increase the Illusion of Detection: Have you ever wondered why more people don’t try to break into Fort Knox? The mere mention of Fort Knox conjures images of cutting-edge security and impregnability, even though finding the actual schematics or even a list of the security devices in place at Fort Knox is almost impossible. This is a perfect example of the illusion of detection at work. People don’t try to break into Fort Knox because everything they have learned tells them they would get caught. The same can be said about an effective loss prevention program. Don’t be afraid to talk about the loss prevention tools your company uses. Educate employees on the purposes of CCTV, exception based reporting systems, and the like. All signs should point the dishonest employee to the conclusion that if he steals, he will get caught.
Resolve all Incidents Quickly and Professionally: No matter what you do, there will undoubtedly still be a small number of employees who still choose to steal from the store. When these individuals are detected (and they will be if you have followed the other four tips), the theft must be handled efficiently and professionally. Incident resolution is one of the most critical aspects of the success or failure of any loss prevention program, and it requires not only industry experience and expertise but also enough field presence to ensure a quick turnaround.
A well structured, multi-faceted approach to loss prevention will most certainly limit the instances of employee theft in any retail environment. Read some real stories from retailers who have achieved loss prevention success.Written by Kevin Griggs, Account Executive at LP Innovations, Inc. You can reach Kevin at firstname.lastname@example.org or on twitter at @KevinGriggs_LPI.