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This is a sensitive topic. You don’t want to imagine the people on your payroll, the very people you hand-picked to help you succeed, would ever steal from you. You entrust them with your business and your very livelihood.

An anonymous survey conducted by Forensic Accounting Firm Kessler found that 95% of employees steal from their employers! Yikes! But, once you get granular with examining what constitutes theft, it makes a bit more sense.

The survey included the use of a company computer or phone for personal tasks while at work and qualified it as ‘time theft.’ But more than half of employees admitted to stealing office supplies. While most of this was small time swiping of pens or notebooks and such, there were also some huge ones such as vehicles, computers, and equipment.

Some used company printers for personal printing of documents and didn’t even realize that was considered ‘theft’ as well. Or a ten-minute phone call to or from a spouse or child. If you are on the clock, that time does not belong to you. Your employer is paying for it. If it doesn’t belong to you and you take it without permission, it’s theft.

Of course, most employers like yourself will treat your employees the way you would want to be treated. Give a little, take a little and that’s Ok. But there’s a fine line, and sometimes it’s difficult to know when this line is being crossed.

The best way to keep everyone in check is to acknowledge and discuss it at employee meetings. Keep it out in the open and let them know where your ‘line’ is. That way there are no surprises when you call out someone for crossing it. Focus on and reward performance for quality and quantity of tasks performed. Quality and quantity of work can be measured and incentivized, reducing the temptation to steal. Give your employees an opportunity to ‘take’ within parameters of goals achieved by offering time off with pay, gift cards, extra uniforms, new tools or equipment to use. Or even a plaque recognizing the achievement along with presentation before the other team members. Put a photo of the presentation on your Facebook page, it costs nothing but could be worth thousands in return! There are multiple ways of rewarding your folks. Get creative.

Higher wages also promote behavior that discourages workers from stealing. If employees feel they are fairly compensated, it reduces the mentality that the company still owes them.

Install a security system and let your employees know you have a system installed. Don’t divulge the location of all cameras. They will be less inclined to steal if they think they could be seen on camera.

Stop the real theft before it even starts by performing background checks and even credit checks on applicants. Someone in financial stress may be tempted when they normally would never consider taking what didn’t belong to them. Protect yourself. Good intentions are no more than ‘lip service.’

It’s more difficult when you suspect a long time employee of monetary theft. That’s when it gets real personal. In this case, you may want to consider getting someone from the outside involved. A relative or even law enforcement. Talk to other business owners who’ve been through it. Get advice but deal with it and cut your losses.

Yes, it’s difficult to imagine your employees taking from your business. Many smaller companies are a close-knit and family-like environment, and it can get real personal. Just don’t bury your head in the sand if the signs are present.

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