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Five Ways to Avoid Employee Theft


According to the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, approximately 75 percent of all employees steal from work in some way. Recent research suggests there are ways even during the hiring process that can help to stem the tide of employee theft.

“Although it may seem complex, one hedge against employee theft and fraud is to redesign the hiring process to help screen for employees who suffer from ‘selective integrity,’” said Dennis Collins, professor of business at Edgewood College in Madison, Wis.

“After an employer fires someone for theft, the natural question they ask is, ‘How’d we even hire that guy?’  Collins said. “Well, by changing your hiring practices, you can screen out people who are more likely to steal, and reduce the number of times you ever have to ask yourself that question again.”

Collins, who recently authored the book “Essentials of Business Ethics” (John Wiley and Sons, 2010), offers five tips for managers who screen job candidates:

-Obey Legal Ground Rules — While there are many questions the law forbids you to ask job candidates to eliminate discrimination, there are still many questions you can ask.

-Use Ethics-Based Interview Questions — Too many interviewers gloss over questions that test an individual’s character. Ask the candidate how he or she responded at a previous job to someone stealing, engaging in sexual harassment, or cutting corners at the cost of high ethical standards. Ask them if a superior ever requested that they do something unethical and, if so, how did they react. Even those who are dishonest with their answers can reveal how they feel about ethics in general.

-Review Behavioral Information — Behavioral information can be gathered about job candidates through résumés, reference checks, background checks and some basic integrity tests that quiz candidates through “what-would-you-do” style situations. Three standard integrity tests come from the Reid Report, the Stanton Survey and the Personnel Selection Inventory (PSI), which are easily found with a Google search if you don’t already have access to them.

-Test Personality Traits — The traits that govern whether an employee is more or less inclined to be dishonest include conscientiousness, organizational citizenship behavior and social dominance. For the first two you want to see high scores, with lower scores on the last one. Again, personality tests are widely available to detect these traits.

-Other Tests — Some of the most revealing tests are the obvious ones — alcohol tests, drug tests and even polygraph tests, when permitted by law. Many candidates may object to these as employment requirements, but in a world in which 7 percent of our economy goes up in smoke from employee theft and fraud, companies should not feel shy about drawing a line in the sand. While those who refuse to take those tests may not have anything to hide, it’s clear that those who agree have nothing to hide, said Collins, who serves on the editorial boards of Encyclopedia of Business Ethics and Society, Journal of Business Ethics and Journal of Academic Ethics.

Business News Daily Editor

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