Reduce Retail Theft By Hiring Smarter

  • July 30, 2014 at 1:00 PM EDT
  • By Jason Taylor, Infor
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Jason Taylor-4 2In the 25th annual Retail Theft Survey by Jack L. Hayes International, data revealed that in 2012 1,145,688 shoplifters and dishonest employees were apprehended, up 7.3% from 2011. In fact, 71,095 dishonest employees were apprehended in 2012, up 5.5% from 2011 and more than $50 million was recovered from these apprehensions, up 7.0% from 2011. Essentially, one in every 40 employees was apprehended for theft from their employer in 2012 (based on over 2.8 million employees).

The number one way to combat these theft issues is to ultimately make better hiring decisions. Organizations can purchase all of the security cameras, product tags, in-store loss prevention officers and alarm systems they want — but at the end of the day, it’s the quality of the people representing their brand that are going to directly impact these changes.

So How Does This Impact My Organization?

Organizations that make the effort to ensure candidates are a strong behavioral fit to the job will pay off in a big way. To achieve these results, it is vital to understand in everyday terms why and how an accurate behavioral fit aides in the reduction of employee theft.


Because there are many situations that could lead to employee theft, it would be difficult to identify all of these negative influencers involved in a single instance. However, there are many common factors that play a big role in theft activity, and, as these factors overlap, the chances for employee theft will rise. These include:

  • Low Achievement/Satisfaction — This state occurs when an employee is not successful, struggles to keep up with the workload, or is in constant turmoil beyond their comfort level. For example, an employee with a low tolerance for a harsh boss may retaliate by stealing; likewise, knowing that termination is imminent for performance reasons, an employee may elect to steal something as a parting gift.
  • Material Gain — Employee theft may occur simply due to the reward once the act has been committed. For example, the employee has easy access to the most popular seasonal toy or to cash in the register.
  • Accessibility — The easier it is for the employee to successfully steal, with little risk of being caught in the act, the higher the likelihood that employee theft will occur.
  • External Situations — These thefts occur due to off-the-job situations an employee might be battling. This could be anything from serious financial issues such as personal debt to circumstances at home, which may cause a person to steal against their better judgment.
  • Peer Pressure — These thefts usually occurs when employees are supported or encouraged to steal by an unprincipled peer group.

How Behavioral Fit Links To Theft

Research has shown that a person with a strong behavioral fit to a job generally leads to more recognition, positiveattitude, enjoyment in the role, fulfillment from the role, and increased job satisfaction. In some cases, when the fit is strong over an extended period, employees begin to value their jobs as an extension of themselves.

This means that best fit employees are less likely to risk a good thing and more motivated to maintain the situation. Additionally, employees that are more content have less need to participate in retaliatory actions. By considering behavioral fit, an employer can select candidates who naturally thrive in a certain type of job and ultimately reduce the number of poor fits for a position, which improves morale, productivity and positive identification.

Removing Issues With The Right Teams

The more overlapping factors an organization can remove from the workplace environment, the lower the probability that an employee will steal.

By removing accessibility, and putting traditional security measures in place, which most retailers do, you can effectively reduce the accessibility variable in the employee theft equation. These measures (security cameras, better record keeping, a loss prevention department, etc.) cause habitual thieves to think twice before applying for employment. But since these measures can be bypassed with forethought and planning, don’t stop here!

Retailers can avoid problems that result from employees being in a state of low achievement and satisfaction by using technology to identify the right behavioral fit for a role. Behavioral fit to the role will not tell you if someone will or will not steal. Instead, behavioral fit matches the person to the role and the company culture, which in turn increases achievement and satisfaction. By including a behavioral profile in the new hire process to determine fit as a consideration in the overall employment decision, you can drive a remarkable decrease in the number of theft-related terminations.

Further, you can remove peer pressure by implementing standard security precautions and hiring employees with a better fit to the job and culture. This minimizes both the accessibility aspect of theft as well as the achievement and satisfaction issues that an employee might encounter. With those two components under control, it is possible to offset any potential peer pressure issues that might arise.

It is not realistic to expect a complete removal of employee theft from the day-to-day concerns of a business. However, it makes sense to stack the odds in your favor in any way possible. Organizations can determine job fit by using a good behavioral assessment tool that will work side by side with a customized performance profile for a specific job. With this process, organizations will have all of the behavioral insight necessary to hire employees who are less likely to be fired because of theft, which will decrease shrink figures and keep that money in inventory and revenues.

Dr. Jason Taylor is Chief HCM Scientist at Infor and has pioneered the development of several assessment technologies over the last decade. He is an active member of the American Psychological Association (APA) and the Society of Industrial Organizational Psychology (SIOP). 


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