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Cleaning supplies mysteriously disappearing? Here’s what you need to know about preventing employee theft on the job.

It’s estimated that U.S. businesses lose approximately $50 billion per year to employee theft. That comes out to some 7% of annual revenues, which can be a big hit if you’re a small company. Preventing employee theft is especially difficult given a whopping 75% of employees have admitted to stealing at least once from an employer—a scary statistic.

The cleaning industry tends to be hit especially hard. One reason is that employees often work off-site without supervision, making it more tempting to help themselves to supplies. Another is that employees often don’t think of the financial ramifications of their actions because they see the supplies as inconsequential costs.

As a business owner, of course, you know those costs add up. If you haven’t yet addressed preventing employee theft in your business, you could be losing a lot of money, especially if the thefts become habitual.

The good news is that there’s a lot you can do about preventing employee theft on the job site. It may take a little diligence and regular monitoring, but the effort will pay off in the long run when you’re not losing 7% of your annual revenue. Here are some things to consider to help stop employee theft.


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Employee Theft

Preventing employee theft the right way

Use technology to manage inventories

One of the most significant challenges cleaning company owners face is managing inventory. When inventory is only taken once a day or less frequently, you may find that supplies disappear without cause. By the time you discover the loss, it’s virtually impossible to sort out who might be the culprit without holding the entire team responsible, which can create an unpleasant work environment.

Technology can help here. Using software like Janitorial Manager to manage inventory in real-time can help you track who is using which supplies and when. Employees can update the supplies they need as they go, and you’ll know who’s requesting what, when they last requested the same supplies, and then decide as to whether the supplies are being used too quickly, which may be a sign of employee theft. Making this simple investment can save you thousands in the long run. And even beyond the possibility of theft, tracking your inventory will help you get a better handle on your overall expenses. 

Enhance employee engagement

People are generally less likely to take something from someone to whom they feel accountable. Preventing employee theft, then, starts with employee engagement. Make sure that your employees feel valued and part of the team. Conduct regular trainings, including on topics such as employee theft. Help them understand what it will cost you if they decide to take even a pack of paper towels from the supply closet. When employees feel responsible for the overall well-being of the business, they’ll be less likely to endanger that well-being for their own personal gain, especially considering most of the supplies they might steal are relatively small in value to an individual, while for a business they cost much more in aggregate.

Conduct background checks

You can take a step towards preventing employee theft before you’ve even hired someone by requiring them to go through a background screen. A clean background doesn’t necessarily mean that someone won’t steal from you, but it is a good indication that a person can be trusted. And don’t forget to check references, too. By carefully screening applicants before they become employees, you can rest easier knowing that the people you hire have been trustworthy in the past and are hopefully still trustworthy now.

Limit access

Limiting access to supplies and equipment can also help reduce the risk of employee theft. If someone doesn’t need access to a supply closet or machines, don’t give it to them. On the one hand, yes, you want to trust all of your employees, but trusting them doesn’t mean that you have to give them the keys to the castle. If multiple people work on a job site, designate one as the inventory manager so that if anything does go missing, you’ll know who to ask. This won’t eliminate the risk of loss on supplies, but it will create accountability, which helps in preventing employee theft.

Keep an eye on the time

If an employee or group of employees seem to be taking longer on jobs than is necessary, this may be a sign of something not going quite right. Using software like Janitorial Manager, you can easily track employee time and know who’s on which jobs and for how long. You can even run reports to make comparisons that will quickly show you who might be lingering too long, making it easier to figure out where to start looking if you find that supplies are missing. Even if this isn’t an indication of theft, it’s an excellent opportunity to address time management!

Create relationships between employees and clients

Relationships are the foundation of any business. Often, cleaning crews are asked to go into job sites in a sort of unseen way, especially if they’re there during business hours. Try asking your clients if you can introduce them to your cleaning teams so that there’s some rapport established between the two. Again, you’re creating accountability. Employees will feel more empathy towards the people they’re working for and will thus be less likely to take from those job sites, especially if they know the bill will go to the client.

Demonstrate trust

It may be counterintuitive, but one of the best steps you can take towards preventing employee theft is to demonstrate to them that you trust them in the first place. If you treat everyone like they might be a potential thief, they’re more likely to behave that way even if they never have before. Instead, treat them like the trustworthy adults that they are. The result most of the time will be that they want to honor and maintain that trust, so they won’t do anything to jeopardize it. 

Of course, the biggest step you can take in preventing employee theft is treating your team well. Help them out when they need it. Treat them with respect and dignity. Talk to them and engage them on a human level, rather than a boss/employee level. Treat your employees well and they’ll treat you and your customers well. It really is that simple.


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