HR Management

Reducing Employee Theft: Make Salespeople Feel Important



A few months ago (July 16), the Los Angeles Times published an article asking the simple question, "Why do people steal from stores?"

The article explains that many employees steal when they feel inadequately paid. "They take action in their own way to give themselves a 'raise,'" explains University of Florida criminology professor Richard Hollinger.

Giving staff a raise won't necessarily reduce employee theft. A better approach is understanding what intrinsically motivates them.

It is quite common for retailers to believe paying their staff more or rewarding higher commissions will lead to happier employees and less theft. While this can be true for mundane tasks, like an assembly line work, most retail sales require an ability to adapt quickly to the mood and expectations of different customers.

This adaptation requires critical thinking, quick problem solving and is anything but mundane. Instead of dangling a bigger carrot in front of sales employees, it is important to let them contribute to, and act on, ideas about how to engage better with customers.

If you want loyal employees, you have to treat them like they are an essential part of the business (which they are!) and this doesn’t always equate to offering more money. Employees want to feel heard. They want to believe their unique talents and personalities are making a difference, and no amount of money or training materials can achieve this. It involves putting trust in employees to be authentic and honoring what intrinsically motivates them.

"Satisfied workers have a measure of autonomy and discretion in their work... (They) achieve a level of mastery or expertise." - Barry Schwartz, Author of Why We Work

Psychologist Barry Schwartz, author of Why We Work, wrote (Sept. 8), "Satisfied workers are engaged by their work. Satisfied workers have a measure of autonomy and discretion in their work, and they use that autonomy and discretion to achieve a level of mastery or expertise."

Employees who feel a sense of dedication and believe they are valued are less likely to steal from you. In fact, offering more money or rewards in an attempt to create happier employees can sometimes backfire. Employees can begin feeling belittled… like their loyalty can be bought. Human beings are more complex than this. They want to feel important, not just well-paid.

One retailer I know included sales representatives, sales managers and district managers in a multi-day course that helped them explore personalities of each team member in order for everyone to gain a better understanding of how each individual works and how they are motivated.

Try assigning meaningful tasks to match an individual's skill set and interests to increase employee engagement.

With this understanding, they were able to assign more meaningful tasks to match each individual’s skill set and interests and, as a result, they scored higher on the employee retention and engagement scale on their annual employee survey.

It’s worth repeating. Employees who feel a sense of dedication and believe they are valued are less likely to steal from you. It’s that simple.

Check out Reducing Employee Theft, Part 2: Reporting, Reporting, Reporting