I won’t belabor the details and statistics on employee theft. Most readers know internal theft accounts for almost half of a business’s losses and that dishonest employees steal seven to ten times more than a shoplifter. Employee theft resolution is the, perhaps better written “THE” key component to healthy loss reduction. With enough time in any business you can become a bit jaded. At least in the sense that very little surprises you. Very little in loss prevention surprises me, but I’m not so jaded that I don’t break out in a cold sweat when a company tells me, “Our DM’s handle investigations.”
My nervous perspiration is not because I believe that district operators are incapable or that I believe only “Loss Prevention” people can conduct investigations and interviews. No, my concern is that more often than not “handle investigations” is not defined by any real training or adequate practice. Any type of interview takes training and practice - combined a person improves through experience. Dishonesty or potential dishonesty interviewing is no different, but in the same sense is completely different then say a job interview. In truth, I wouldn’t be any less concerned if the company told me, “Our CEO handles the investigations.”
You see this is how I imagine “the handling” occurs:
The DM receives a call or an email, lets say from accounting or sales audit. There is a “missing” deposit, which after various requests for documentation from the store, and a number of phone calls to the store manager (or what I like to call “letting the dishonest person know everything we don’t know), the sales audit now needs the district manager to figure out the cause. It is officially an “investigation” and the DM will now officially “handle” it.
So the DM is off to the store. In my mind I always see that school teacher from the beginning of the Wizard of Oz (yeah I’m humming the music too). You can see in that expression the concern, the anger, the determination to “get to the bottom of this.” Once in the store, the gloves are off. The DM clothes lines a part time employee trying to escape. A stern finger locates the manager, virtually pinning them in place as the DM speaks. “I KNOW SOMEONE STOLE AND WE WILL GET TO THE BOTTOM OF THIS!”
And then the interviews begin - Which in my mind goes something like this:
DM: I know someone took the deposit
Employee: *Nervous stare*
DM: We have proof and the person who did it will be arrested unless they tell the truth.
Employee: *Nervous stare*
DM: Was it you?
DM: Who took it then?
Employee: I don’t know, I thought you had evidence.
DM: Mind your business. Tell me the truth.
Employee: I didn’t do it
DM: Fine go back to the floor.
And one by one the interviews are conducted, until we reach the obvious conclusion that the case will not be resolved, and that the person most likely responsible will be forever more scheduled for a twenty minute work week.
So that’s how I imagine it. I’m probably being a little dramatic (except in those cases where this is exactly what happened sans the wizard of oz music). Regardless, the real point is that interviewing is a professional skill. It is both a science (as in using the correct script and correct technique) and it is an art (as in the interviewer’s personal style and ability to adapt to different scenarios.) Mostly however it is about experience. Relying on individuals without training and especially without experience is a recipe for disaster because investigations always appear “easier” in theory than they are in practice.
It is only during the investigation and subsequent interview that we come to realize no one is putting up softballs. Every pitch is a curve ball or something even more difficult to hit. In short, dishonest people don’t often succumb to their employers righteous anger or proclamations of impending repercussions. In truth, even honest people with helpful information may not provide details under the wrong circumstances. A successful interview is like every other successful endeavor - a well sketched plan with the agility and know how to adapt, change, and recalculate when necessary.
Proper training, practice and ultimately experience are the keys to successful interviews. Doing it wrong is often worse than doing nothing at all. In the next article, we’ll take a look at the “why” of that statement as we examine Interviewing and the 3 Liabilities. In closing, the question for many companies isn’t “who’s doing the interview?” The question should be “Who shouldn’t be doing the interview?
And the answer to that is: Anyone who isn’t trained, certified, and experienced.
Check out the other articles in this series: