How much job site theft is committed by your employees or the employees of your sub contractors? There’s no conclusive evidence but we’ve learned from our remote construction video surveillance customers and read from experts that anywhere from 30% – 85% of job site theft results from someone that you authorize to be on your job site. Employee theft is one of those realities of the construction industry but you don’t have to add it into your budget as a cost of doing business. By understanding the psychology of employee theft you can make changes to your job site that can stop theft for good.
1) Understanding The Job Site “Theft Rationalization Impulse”
Nancy Moorhouse, VP and Director of Safety, Teichert Construction warns of the employee theft rationalization impulse here: “The common rationalization from some employees is ‘The contractor leaves all these tools, generators and equipment unprotected, because they are so rich. Obviously they don’t care. Besides, I need a drill at home.’ Congratulations, you have just had a theft.”
You will never get 100% of the thieves off of your site because the impulse to steal is in everyone. What you can do is understand how and why people decide to steal and reduce their opportunities and “reasoning” for theft.
2) Adequate Background Checks
Some people ARE more likely to steal than others – that’s why having extensive background checks (and hiring contractors who have extensive checks of their own…) will help to reduce theft committed by employees. In an article on the SBA site the author suggests that you “Invest sufficient time to make sure applicants do not have a history of stealing from previous employers, and that all credentials and references are valid.”
3) Eliminate Easy Opportunities to Steal
Our article Job Site Security: Establish Your End-of-Day Routine offers a number of suggestions that will reduce easy opportunities to steal from your job site. Going through daily procedures will reduce the sense your employees may have that you’re an easy target for theft – it shows your habitual commitment to preventing theft. Noticeably doing things nightly like blocking in valuable equipment, checking your perimeter for access points and making sure that your alarms are on and in place will help you reduce theft.
4) Honest Communication with Employees on Site
Often times employee theft is a reaction to feeling that employers are unfair to their employees – a feeling of being unfairly treated is one that leads to easy theft rationalization. Now, being fair to your employees does NOT mean that you have to give them whatever they want when they ask for it. It DOES mean that you should strive to be as open as possible with them about your decisions that affect them directly.
Recent studies of employee psychology revealed that: “simply sharing information with people and treating them with dignity reduces their inclination to steal in response to injustice.” Now if all this talk of “sharing” and “honesty” makes you feel like you’re in an episode of Oprah then find out ways to make the communications fit your style. However you do it, telling your employees more about why you’re making the decisions you make will end up reducing the impetus for theft in the first place and end up saving you money.