Workplace theft is a phenomenon that affects all businesses. Many studies indicate that smaller enterprises and startups suffer more than larger ones, but many of these don’t factor in the construction industry. With workshops and warehouses that are accessible by any number of employees, and the fact that tools and equipment are constantly on the move, it can be difficult to prevent theft.

Do: Screen Every Employee Before Hiring

Large corporations might not have the time to screen every single employee that comes in for an interview, but small businesses can’t afford not to. According to a recent report, 64 percent of small businesses have fallen victim to some type of employee theft. Even more troubling is the fact that less than 20 percent of these incidents were actually reported to law enforcement.

There are multiple ways to screen new hires. Drug tests, background checks and academic verification are all quite common and can be used to identify risky employees or disqualify others altogether. Alternatively, employee screening can be utilized to verify experience and gain further insight into an employee’s professional history.

Do Not: Provide Too Much Freedom in the Workplace

Employee screening can go a long way in separating the good from the bad, but it doesn’t give you any indication of a recruit’s actual performance in the workplace. As such, don’t give your new employees too much freedom at the beginning. Supervising their activities, either directly or from a distance, can reduce workplace theft while giving you the opportunity to provide hands-on coaching, skill development and professional guidance.

Do: Maintain a Ledger of Tools

In the construction industry, it’s common to have employees borrow tools or other equipment on a daily basis. The cost of some of this hardware makes it unfeasible for individual workers to buy these tools on their own, so maintaining an open workshop like this is essential to the success of many construction companies. However, it certainly makes it easy to take tools without proper authorization.

Maintaining a ledger of tools, either handwritten or digitally, is a great way to hold your employees accountable for the equipment they’ve used. If necessary, don’t hesitate to staff your warehouse and designate a master tool controller to ensure the process goes smoothly.

Do Not: Give New Employees Unsupervised Access to Tool Sheds or Workshops

You might be able to trust your longtime workers to use the ledger system in a responsible manner, but this can’t be said for new hires. If you can’t afford to staff your workshop at all times, consider installing a simple surveillance system. Such hardware isn’t as costly as it used to be, and many systems can be operated and monitored from a personal computer.

Do: Monitor Financials, Including Accounts Payable/Receivable and Cash Receipts

The intricacies of accounting are always done best when left to a professional, but that doesn’t mean you can’t supervise their actions, too. After all, they are a part of your team that has direct access to the financial side of your business. Giving these employees too much freedom is bound to cause problems in the future.  

Instead, feel free to keep track of this information on your own. Not only does this let you verify the activities and figures reported by your financial team, but it also provides another avenue to pursue when trying to involve yourself with every area of your business.

Do Not: Rely on Your Financial Team’s Advice Without Doing Your Own Research

Even if you have the best and most capable team of professionals working in your financial department, it’s still important to familiarize yourself — at least to some extent — with the nuances of business accounting and finance management. This lets you do your own research when it comes to determining short- and long-term success, comparing profitability against industry standards or trends, and planning for the future.

Do: Minimize Your Shop’s Curb Appeal

Curb appeal is a popular term in the real estate industry that describes the aesthetics of a property. When selling a property, agents want the highest amount of curb appeal as possible. When you’re running a business, however, it’s best to minimize your overall curb appeal.

To achieve this, reduce the amount of overall lighting you have inside your shop or warehouse when it’s unoccupied. Thieves can take advantage of good lighting conditions to see exactly what you have and where it’s at. Conversely, keeping the lights dimmed or turned off negates this advantage on behalf of would-be criminals.

Do Not: Ignore Perimeter Lighting on the Outside

Installing perimeter lighting is a great way to keep potential intruders away from your business altogether. Some businesses prefer units that are always on from dusk until dawn, while others use motion-controlled floodlights. In either case, thieves are far more likely to target a business with poor external lighting than one that is already lit up.

Reducing Theft on a Long-Term Basis

While it’s impossible to eliminate the potential for employee theft, there are plenty of good practices to consider when minimizing its effect on your construction company. Getting to know your staff is helpful, but it only goes so far. Sometimes you have no other choice than to get creative with lighting, security cameras and direct supervision.

About The Author Megan Wild

Megan has worked with Procore, Construction Equipment Guide, Engineering, and more, writing about the construction and manufacturing industries. When she's not writing, you can find her nose in a book learning more about history and how technology has impacted our world.

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