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Catch The Bad Corporate Culture, Not The Bad Employee

Focusing on catching stealing employees is a red herring. It seems to be the clear-cut solution to retail loss caused by employee theft: your loss prevention auditing has determined that a large percentage of your loss is due to employee theft, and so you pour all of your efforts into catching and firing those employees who steal from the store. But what about the people who are hired to replace them?

Charles A. Sennewald and John H. Christman, in their book Retail Crime, Security, and Loss Prevention: An Encyclopedic Reference, point out that “studies have been less than convincing that there is any correlation between apprehension statistics and shortage.” That is to say, there is little proof that catching an employee for stealing will reduce overall, systemic employee theft.

They go on to state that there are four key factors in reducing shrink. First: the higher-ups must be committed to loss prevention efforts. Second: all available resources must be used in these efforts. Third: a system of consistent retail security audits must be in place in order to determine who or what is responsible or accountable for inventory shortage. Fourth: employees must have a positive attitude.

While catching and firing an individual employee for theft will certainly prevent that individual employee from stealing from your store, it will do nothing to prevent the employee that is hired to replace them. If your retail store has a problem with employee theft, look first at the culture of that retail store. Engaged, rewarded, and happy employees are far less likely to steal than are employees who feel unvalued, disposable, and unhappy. Before you ask “are my employees stealing from the store?”, it may behoove you to ask, “are my employees motivated to prevent theft?”.