It is no secret that both little and not so little acts of theft occur each day in many companies. While just about everyone has absentmindedly slipped a pen into one's pocket only to discover it at home later, there are those who look for opportunities to cart out office supplies and other items, either for their own use or for the purpose of selling them. How can a company protect itself from this type of employee theft? There are actually several ways you can safeguard your business from work-related articles walking out the door.
- One strong deterrent to employee theft is keeping a tight control over your supplies and inventory. Every item that is purchased is logged, and when any department needs pens, copy paper, or any other item, it is transferred from a general storage designation to the inventory listing of that department. While it is true that you expect each department to establish an average monthly usage of such things as copy paper, being able to see how frequently such supplies are used up can let you know if something is amiss. As an example, you have a department that receives two boxes of copy paper. You know from past experience that these two boxes are enough to keep them going for six weeks. Yet, they need more in a month. Looking further, you do not find any evidence of extenuating circumstances that would account for the accelerated use of the paper. Chances are that someone is taking home a ream here and there. You now know where there is a problem and can be on the lookout for the employee who is spiriting away the copy paper.
- Another great way to keep materials from floating out the door is to have people sign out items that have to be shared. As an example, you have a tabletop display that can be used at trade shows, along with some graphics. A salesperson needs the display and graphics for an upcoming show. Have him check them out, including each of the graphics. This will help to ensure they are returned on time and eliminates the materials from being passed off to someone else, who in turn passes them off to a third party. Company resources that are shared should be returned to a central repository, and checked out on an as-needed basis.
- Coded access to supplies, copy machines, and computers may also be a great way to cut back on employee theft. As an example, if an employee has to enter a personal code before being able to print copies, he will be aware that someone may ask him to account for the hundred copies he ran, when he only needed to make five copies of something for an upcoming meeting. Password access to the supply area may also result in someone understanding that if twenty-five three-ring binders went missing yesterday that those with key codes who entered the supply room will need to account for what they removed.
- Involving your employees in ways to stop theft can be very effective. Show your employee force how much money the company lost last year because of pilfering. Put it in terms that show how much in bonuses, additional employee benefits and other types of services that would have directly benefited everyone could have been accomplished with those losses. Set up a means for employees to privately report any acts of theft that they may witness, so that proper steps can be taken to ascertain if theft did indeed take place and also to catch the person in the act next time.
- Above all, do not convey the attitude that everyone is suspect. No doubt you have employees who would never think of taking anything out of the office that was not their personal property. Honor and celebrate that. At the same time, enlist the aid of your employee force in identifying and catching those who are hurting everyone, including the company, while feathering their own nests.
Employee theft can be minimized, and in some cases, eliminated from the workplace. By making sure there is an accounting for everything that is used, plus demonstrating to your employees how theft impacts their benefits, you will be in a great position to make employee theft a thing of the past.