Predicting, Stopping Theft in the Workplace

How prevalent is theft at your workplace? How much is it costing your company? Most importantly, how can you stop it?

The answer is to prevent it before it even becomes an issue. By having a robust screening process in place for job candidates, you can minimize the chance you will hire someone inclined to engage in workplace theft. There are several predictive tools you can use, with varying degrees of effectiveness.

Reference Checks
Reference checks are a very important part of any applicant screening process, though traditional reference checks are time consuming, and their conversational nature means they’re typically inconsistent. This makes it difficult to compare candidates, and oftentimes they don’t provide any meaningful insight on how a prospective employee will perform.

Reference checks can document that the information provided by the applicant via resume and/or interview is truthful. To maximize effectiveness, dig into critical, workplace competencies and be consistent in your questioning. This approach can be facilitated by an automated reference checking system. 

Criminal Background Checks
Since past behavior is a good predictor of future behavior, criminal background checks can help determine whether a prospective employee will steal from an employer. If an applicant has a recent conviction for a theft-related crime, then it should be a legitimate and useful basis for denying employment.

On the other hand, ADP’s 2007 Annual Screening Index indicates that only 5% of criminal background checks reveal a conviction. And of these convictions, many are not theft or job-related crimes. Since research and the general experience of employers consistently shows that about 25% of the workforce poses a significant counterproductivity risk, obviously a 5% or less rejection rate of job applicants doesn’t come close to eliminating problems.

Interviews
Interviews are a standard piece of the hiring processes and can be very useful when conducted by trained professionals using a structured format. While interviews can be useful to help identify falsehoods on an applicant’s resume, they are not high-success predictors of ethical behavior. Therefore, an employer should ensure that its interviewers are well trained, unbiased and focused on uncovering resume misrepresentations.

Drug Testing
Drug testing is a very accurate means of discovering whether a job applicant recently used illegal drugs. As a result, drug testing is a somewhat useful means of predicting some forms of employee counterproductivity, including theft. However, employers need to ensure that they are complying with relevant state-based mandates that govern drug testing for employment purposes.

Written Integrity Testing
Written integrity tests have been used by employers for over 40 years. These tests have been developed to predict whether an applicant will take part in various forms of workplace counterproductivity (e.g., absenteeism, illegal drug use, theft, not working during working hours). Research in the area of personnel psychology has consistently shown that these tests are extremely effective and non-discriminatory.

A Note on Credit Checks
Even though conducting credit checks is a somewhat common practice, there is little evidence documenting  their effectiveness in screening job applicants. Additionally, there is a growing trend at the state-level to restrict or prohibit their use for employment purposes. 

Summary
The best course of action in your efforts to stop theft in the workplace is to predict it and prevent it. While you won’t always be successful, a robust process involving written integrity testing is your best bet. Don’t wait for theft to occur… stop it before it happens.

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