You take many steps to keep criminals from stealing from your business — locking doors, hiring security. But according to the Retail Council of Canada, the most likely thieves are inside the building already. Canadian businesses lose $1.4 billion each year to employee theft. While stringent background checks, security cameras, and monitoring employees can help with this problem, an even better way to cut down on employee theft is to create a culture of trust.
Listen to Your Employees
If your employees trust you and you trust them, theft decreases. But a culture of trust isn’t something you can snap your fingers and create. Trust, as most people know, takes a long time to build.
So how do you create such a culture? It starts with listening to your employees. You want them to know that their thoughts, their ideas, their concerns are being heard. That doesn’t mean giving in to their every whim. It does mean letting them know you’re listening and that you care what’s on their mind.
Put yourself in the shoes of two employees. Both work the same entry-level job for modest pay. Both have unexpected financial emergencies that put them in a major bind.
Here’s where they differ, though. The first employee is rarely acknowledged at work, much less listened to. The poor worker isn’t even sure the business owner knows their name.
The second employee knows they can walk into the boss’s office at any time and have a forum to speak their mind. If they’re having financial problems, they know they have someone to talk to about it and perhaps brainstorm a solution.
Who’s more likely to steal in this situation? Both workers need money desperately. But the first has no emotional connection or bond of mutual trust with their employer. The second knows that their boss, and their company as a whole, is there for them.
Give Your Employees Freedom
It might sound counterintuitive. Prevent employee theft by giving workers more freedom? Wouldn’t it make more sense to bring the hammer down and track their every move?
But to create a culture of trust, you must show your employees that you trust them. That means giving them freedom. Many employers are skeptical about doing this, for obvious reasons. What if workers take advantage of that freedom? What if they make bad decisions?
What business owners usually end up finding, though, is that they get more productivity out of their workers and have fewer problems. If you show your employees respect and trust, they tend to reciprocate.
Address Issues Head-On as They Arise
Even in a culture of trust, things are not going to be perfect all the time. There will be conflicts and disagreements. Occasionally, someone might even betray the trust you’ve worked so hard to build.
When that happens, it doesn’t mean the whole culture has to collapse. By facing the issue head-on, you show the rest of your team members that you’re committed to them and that you won’t allow a single issue or a single rotten employee to bring down the ship.
As the numbers show, employee theft is a real problem in Canada. It’s one of the major causes of small-business shrinkage. But the best way to solve it isn’t to look upon workers with suspicion and turn the workplace into a prison. Instead, empower your employees through a culture of trust.