Employee theft isn’t just a major breach of trust but can also prove costly for your business. Here, Kelly Friel, Digital Product Manager at industrial tools and equipment retailer Zoro shares five key ways wholesalers can prevent internal theft.
In the last year alone, there have been approximately 5,167 reported employee theft offences in England and Wales (Statista). In 2018 and 2019, years that haven’t been impacted by COVID-19, remote working, and reduced staff numbers, staff theft reached 9,835 offences. This can prove costly for businesses, particularly for wholesalers dealing with large amounts of money and goods. In 2019 alone, internal theft cost UK businesses £1.3m, according to data from the Centre for Retail Research.
As an employer, it’s vital that you put steps in place to discourage employee theft and reduce your losses. Here, I’ll outline five steps you can take to protect your stock and your bottom line.
Invest in CCTV and staff monitoring
Supervising your employees closely will help you find the culprit of internal theft. One of the most effective ways to catch thieves is by installing CCTV cameras around your warehouse. These can usually be monitored using a video feed on most mobile devices, so you can easily keep an eye out for any suspicious activity from any location, including your home or office.
Not only can CCTV help you catch any crime as it happens, it can also deter thieves from committing the offence in the first place. Knowing that their actions are being monitored is enough to put some thieves off, so displaying ‘CCTV in operation’ signs around your warehouse is another great step you can take.
As an additional measure, you could also introduce random management and security walk-arounds and checks. Again, these will help to deter thieves from stealing in the first instance.
Keep your warehouse organised
An unorganised warehouse can make it much easier for employees to cover up theft, especially in wholesale warehouses that are dealing with large numbers of units. It can be difficult to identify any missing products just by eye. And, if you’re not keeping close track of stock movement or incoming and outgoing deliveries, then it can be difficult for you to track if anything is missing. So, having a well organised warehouse is a must. Doing regular inventory checks against sales records can help you catch any anomalies, comparing them against staff shift data and CCTV feeds to highlight when and where missing goods may have gone. To do this, it might help to invest in automated inventory tracking software that can speed up the process.
In some cases, relying on good old-fashioned locks can also help deter thieves. Any high value items, such as alcohol, can be stored in cages that only trusted personnel have access to, which can prevent them from being stolen and reduce your losses.
Check your bookkeeping
While many thieves may steal goods to either keep for themselves or sell on for a profit, some may take money directly from the business, either by manipulating paperwork and financial records, or by taking money directly from the till.
To prevent this, it’s a good idea to have more than one person responsible for bookkeeping and financial transactions. Having orders go through multiple different levels will help, for example by having the payment, receipt, and preparation of orders handled by different people and departments. This will help you catch any anomalies that could point to theft, such as changes to regular audits, duplicates, or missing stock. Having pre-numbered sales slips and invoices can help identify any that may be missing. Conducting one-off irregular audits can also help identify anything that should be investigated, especially if these audits are performed by an external company.
Keeping accurate records of who has worked on which till, or who has signed off at each stage, can help to catch any problems too. If you can highlight the point where the theft occurred and have a record of who was working at that time, you can more easily pinpoint who may be responsible.
Rotate staff shifts
In some cases, employees will work together to carry out an offence, either by conspiring together or by keeping quiet when they’ve seen something out of the ordinary. Rotating shift patterns can be a good way to avoid partnership theft, as staff can’t guarantee they’ll always be working with the same people.
One of the most common ways employees can steel goods is by hiding them in rubbish bins. Having two employees take out the rubbish each time can help catch or prevent this type of theft. In other cases, an employee may load a delivery truck with stolen goods, working together with the driver to offload a few units for themselves. Alternating shift patterns with loading staff and drivers can minimise the risk of conspiracy. Providing a system for staff to anonymously report theft, such as a confidential hotline, can also help. However, it’s important that every report is investigated thoroughly to ensure that it is genuine.
Train staff on the implications of theft
While employee trust is vital for staff wellbeing, some employees may take advantage of that trust to steal. Making trust your only measure against theft is inefficient, so it’s vital that staff are aware of the measures you’re taking and know that theft from the company is unacceptable. Adopting a zero-tolerance policy is often the most effective way to combat theft, so making sure staff are aware of the implications of stealing is a must.
It’s also a good idea to conduct regular training sessions so employees are always informed of the correct policy and procedure. Letting employees know what constitutes as stealing can help reduce the likelihood of accidental theft, when employees are unaware that what they’re doing is an offence. For example, stealing office supplies.
Internal theft can be costly for your business, particularly in wholesale where staff are handling large amounts of goods regularly. Identifying and preventing theft should be a top priority. By implementing the measures above into your workplace, you can help reduce the risk of employee theft.