As much as retailers want to trust their employees, it is a sad fact that employees can often account for a large proportion of profit loss, according to Mike Severs, sales & marketing director at intelligent cash-handling specialist, Volumatic.
“Employee theft costs businesses over £190m per year,” he said. “Furthermore, research indicates that 44% of theft losses from stores are due to employee theft. But how can retailers reduce the risk of employee theft and keep their cash safe?”
In many retail settings, there are numerous opportunities for employees to take advantage of your trust, explains Severs:
“There are lots of elaborate scams that employees can deploy, such as running ‘No Sales’ through the till, to charging for two items but only putting one through the till. Employees may even employ their friends to get in on the scam and act as customers. However, one of the most common methods of cash theft is simply taking cash directly from the till point.
“This type of employee theft is prevalent across all retail industries in the UK. For example, in convenience stores, around £20m is stolen from retailers, with 22,754 incidents of staff theft every single year. On the other hand, in the food and beverage sector, including quick service retail, it is estimated that between 40-62% of employees have stolen from their work at some point or another.”
The fact that such a large proportion of employees have stolen from their workplace at least once shows just how easy it is if the right processes are not in place, stresses Severs: “More worryingly, the Association of Convenience Stores (ACS) believes the problem is much more prevalent than these figures suggest.”
The ACS Crime Report estimates that businesses report less than a third of employee theft incidents because many retailers believe it was their fault for not keeping cash safe and a failing of their own internal reporting procedures.
Severs offers a few ways to reduce employee theft and keep cash safe, firstly by strengthen your recruitment process
“It is important to get to know every employee that you’re hiring. While this strategy isn’t foolproof, the more you build a relationship of mutual trust with your employee, the better. For example, don’t just rely on a tick-box on an application to prove that a candidate hasn’t got a criminal background. This can be an important interview question. It not only helps you to avoid discrimination but allows you to get to know that person too.
“Checking references can be an excellent way to understand more about how your candidate performs in the workplace. It can also help to use a professional recruitment agency who can perform more detailed background checks on your candidates to save you time.
“However you recruit your team, make sure the process is consistent across every candidate. This will help to ensure you have the best team possible for your organisation.”
He also recommends creating a robus theft policy, as your employees need to know you have zero-tolerance when it comes to employee theft.
“One of the best ways to demonstrate this is with a robust company policy,” stresses Severs.
“Having a strict misconduct policy can work as a powerful deterrent but can also outline the process of how the retailer will handle a misconduct offence.
“By sharing this with your employees regularly, it demonstrates that you are committed to eliminating employee theft from the workplace. Furthermore, it continues to outline the harsh measures an employee will face should they commit an offence.
“With this, it is important to remember that an employee may make a mistake that constitutes as employee theft. Not only should this be outlined in your policy, but it also highlights the importance of clear, regular staff training. This is especially important during high-risk times, such as during promotions or sales where an employee may run through items at a lower cost.”
Other advice includes investing in the right systems – Severs says an updated POS system can make all the difference in managing your sales and inventory: “It can help to look for POS software that pulls all the detailed reports that you need for the day. When you make data collection straightforward, it is easier to spot patterns and look for discrepancies.
“Furthermore, modern POS systems are far less susceptible to manipulation. Consequently, they tend to make it harder for employees to conduct unapproved actions such as no sales.
“It may also be well worth installing CCTV in high-risk areas of your store too, such as around the point of sale.”
Retailers should also use cash safes – Severs says POS cash safes are a fantastic way to limit the risk of opportunistic and planned theft. Situated at the till point, till users insert the banknotes directly into the secure solution. This ensures they are not touched again by your employees.
“Having a cash safe at the point of sale ensures a minimal risk of cash theft from your tills. Furthermore, the lower cash volumes reduce any temptation for opportunistic theft,” stresses Severs.
“It’s also important to create the right culture - through a combination of systems, solutions, policies and attitudes, you can foster a positive company cultures across your workforce. Your company ethos not only improves the working environment, but it also helps to instil a culture of responsibility which every member of your team feels a part of.
“To create this, there needs to be a clear understanding of the impact of cash theft on businesses like yours. There also needs to be a clear incentive for your workforce to protect your business too. When you involve your employees into your policies to create a safer, happier and more trusting work environment, you are likely to see the positive results spread across the business.
“Don’t be afraid to ask your employees what would make them feel more comfortable when it comes to cash; they may have other ideas of how to keep your cash safe that you may not have considered.”
Severs stresses the important of protecting your profits: “Protecting against employee theft may require an investment. However, there is usually a high return for businesses to prioritise keeping their cash safe. When you consider that an employee is 15 times more likely to steal than a non-employee; protecting your business by reducing employee theft can be vital.”