Employee theft always comes as a shock. After all, these people are family. But it happens—even in the best run operations. In fact, according to the United States Chamber of Commerce, 75 percent of employees steal from their workplace and most do it repeatedly. The best defense against employee theft is three-fold: knowledge, prevention and training.

Know Your Business

What are your margins? If you don’t know, you’re opening yourself up to having the wool pulled over your eyes. According to a study by Florida State University, employees giving away merchandise by omitting the sale at the register—costs U.S. companies some $80 billion per year. Know what your margins should be, and if they’re shrinking, find out why.

Steps to Prevent Theft

Preventing theft requires a multifaceted approach because it can occur at many different levels and in various departments. To stop it, you must limit opportunities for those with sticky fingers.

The risk management gurus at Pinkerton recommend these strategies to prevent theft in retail stores:

  • Assess the interior and exterior of the building to find blind spots in your security.
  • Adjust security cameras to ensure employees for full coverage of your store — front of the house and back.
  • Consider how your store layout may invite theft by providing hiding spots for product and easy, discreet access to exits. Reconfigure the space so that exit points are free and clear of obstructions while also being well lit to deter nefarious activity.
  • Implement an employee control point to reduce theft opportunities by having employees enter and leave through an entry/exit with a system for logging their time on site.
  • Create an “always there” presence and minimize the risk of employees walking off with your merchandise.

Train, Train, Train

It’s your responsibility to spell out exactly what you consider theft to all employees. Use online training to provide consistent and tracked training on your employee theft policies. Believe it or not, there may be some gray areas in your employees’ mind-sets. Helping yourself to a lost and found item? Theft. Not ringing in sales for friends or other employees? Theft. Making food mistakes on purpose to eat them? Theft. Discounting sales and pocketing the difference? Theft. Clocking/logging in/out before you are in full uniform ready to work? Theft. Being unproductive? Theft.