The Definitive Guide to Preventing Employee Theft

Employee theft is rampant in small to mid-sized businesses. It is happening every day. Large amounts are being stolen from businesses both small and large. In the realm of business operations, employee theft is a pervasive issue that can wreak havoc on an organization’s financial health and reputation.

The Truth About Employee Theft

Employee theft is any act of stealing, misappropriating, or embezzling a company’s assets for personal gain. This unethical behavior can manifest in various forms, including:  
  • Embezzlement: Employees entrusted with financial responsibilities manipulate company accounts for their benefit.
  • Inventory Shrinkage: Unauthorized taking of products, office supplies, or equipment.
  • Cash Theft: Pilfering money from cash registers, petty cash, or unmonitored funds.
  • Data Theft: Stealing sensitive information, such as customer data or trade secrets.
  • Time: Do your employees steal time by running personal errands or spending excess time on the phone as you are paying them for doing the company work?
Are you a victim? Most of us would immediately say “No, all my employees are completely trustworthy.” But, what about the next employee you hire? What about the employee who has had an unexpected life change (divorce, death, or other experience) that has affected his/her financial stability? What about that employee’s spouse who you might not quite trust? Could that person have undue influence to convince your employee to do something untrustworthy?

Identifying the Root Causes

To effectively prevent employee theft, it’s imperative to understand the underlying causes that may lead employees down this path:
  • Financial Stress: Employees facing financial hardships may be more susceptible to theft.
  • Opportunity: Weak internal controls and lax security measures can provide opportunities for theft.
  • Lack of Ethics Training: Inadequate ethics training can make employees unaware of the consequences of theft.
  • Workplace Culture: A toxic or untrustworthy work environment can breed dishonest behavior.
  • Inadequate Screening: Poor hiring practices may result in hiring individuals with a propensity for theft.

The Importance of Prevention

Preventing employee theft is not only about protecting your company’s assets but also fostering a culture of trust and integrity within your organization. Here’s how to implement effective prevention measures:

1. Robust Hiring Practices

  • Background Checks: Conduct thorough background checks on potential employees.
  • Reference Checks: Verify the credibility of references provided by candidates.
  • Interview Techniques: Utilize behavior-based interview questions to gauge a candidate’s ethical standards.

2. Create Strong Internal Controls

  • Access Control: Limit access to sensitive areas and information based on job roles.
  • Auditing and Monitoring: Regularly review financial records and conduct surprise audits.
  • Segregation of Duties: Ensure no single employee has control over critical financial processes.

3. Employee Training and Awareness

  • Ethics Training: Provide comprehensive ethics training to all employees.
  • Whistleblower Programs: Establish a confidential reporting system for employees to report suspicious activities.
  • Open Communication: Encourage employees to voice concerns without fear of retaliation.

4. Security Measures

  • Surveillance: Implement security cameras in key areas.
  • Digital Security: Protect sensitive data with encryption and access controls.
  • Inventory Management: Implement strict inventory tracking and reconciliation processes.


Implement these measures diligently, and you’ll not only protect your company but also create an environment where honesty and integrity thrive, ensuring long-term success. By implementing robust hiring practices, strengthening internal controls, providing ethics training, and enhancing security measures, you can significantly reduce the risk of employee theft within your organization. We have covered just a few of the ways an employee can steal from their employer. But luckily, there are also many ways an employer can prevent this activity. Being aware is the first step. Interested in learning more? Get a free Gap Diagnostic Analysis™ today and see how our Partners’ expertise can help your business!