Regardless of the industry, all businesses should be vigilant with regards to employee theft. Employee theft can come in all shapes and sizes, from an administrative assistant pocketing some extra Post-Its to hardcore embezzlement on behalf of leadership. It can be easy to dismiss repeated instances of employee theft as isolated incidents, implementing disciplinary action or termination, and moving on with the work week. However, many executives and managers may not realize that repeated instances of employee theft could be indicative of a much larger problem in their corporation or organization.
From a position of leadership, it’s easy to dismiss a single instance of employee theft; the employee is the one who made a choice to steal from their company or organization, and that employee was wrong for doing so. Discipline or termination typically follows, and leadership walks away feeling confident that they’ve removed a bad apple from their barrel. However, pervasive issues with employee theft are symptomatic of a systematic problem within the business or organization that go beyond a single employee’s bad judgement.
Why do employees steal?
The three most common reasons employees steal are not very difficult to understand.
employees feel as though their employer has wronged them, or their compensation is inadequate.
employees believe that employers insure such losses—therefore it is a victimless crime.
employees know they will not be held accountable if they are caught
All of these reasons may characterize the employee as “disgruntled,” a term with a cultural context that often absolves the employer of any misconduct. When a corporation or organization has repeated instances of multiple employees committing theft, it’s a sign that the corporate culture of the workplace is less than healthy. A single employee pilfering staplers is not symptomatic of unhealthy corporate culture, but 5 employees pilfering staplers is a sign that employees do not feel valued, and therefore do not respect their employer.
The cycle of healthy corporate culture always begins with happy employees, because when employees are happy, they are more engaged, and contribute positively to the productivity of the organization. This pleases leadership, which incentivizes them to make decisions that raise morale, such as rewarding success with pay-raises, benefits, and thoughtful, constructive collaboration. The cycle begins anew with happy employees. Poor corporate culture means that undervalued employees will contribute negatively to workplace productivity. One of the ways poor corporate culture manifests is through employee theft—and it’s not just about profits or staplers. When employees are disengaged from their duties, they’re more likely to take extraneous breaks, or taking longer breaks than permitted, which is theft of company time. This often comes from a rationalized perspective, in which the employee does not feel their own time is valued within the organization, and therefore will place the same perceived value on company time.
Whatever the type of theft, repeated instances of employee theft cannot be ignored. It may be a sign that your business or organization needs a corporate culture audit. A corporate culture audit is like a check-up—when you go into the doctor for a standard check-up, they evaluate all of your major bodily functions for signs of disease or deterioration, and a corporate culture audit is no different. When investigators conduct a corporate culture audit, they evaluate all of your business’s internal operations, hiring processes, and principle employees for roadblocks that hinder productivity and contribute to poor corporate culture. The identification of these pervasive issues will lead to investigators providing leadership with expert recommendations to dislodge the blockage, allowing the cycle of corporate culture to right itself through cause and effect.
If you think your business or organization needs a corporate culture audit, call Lauth Investigations International today for a free quote on our Corporate Culture Audit program. For over 30 years, Lauth has been providing corporations with solutions to stimulate their business. In pursuit of truth, call 317-951-1100, or visit us online at www.lauthinvestigations.com.
The ubiquity of smart technology and information technology has made work-life balance more attainable than ever in the United States workforce. Telecommuting has made it possible for single parents to work while also caring for their children, and for single individuals to pursue personal passions while maintaining a sustainable living. However, this blurring of the lines between work and life have also brought work stress closer to home for millions of Americans, severely impacting their mental health.
The conversation surrounding work-life balance and its effects on mental health has developed significantly over the last ten years. Leadership in major corporations have become more aware of how their corporate culture not only effects their workforce, but also their brand, productivity, and their stock holders. The Health and Safety Executive published national statistics declaring that 28.8 million work days were lost in 2018 due to both physical and mental health reasons. While physical helath of employees has always been one of the priorities for major corporations, mental health has only recently come to the forefront of corporate priorities. In an article by Sarah Chilton published by Forbes at the beginning of January, Chilton said, “In some sectors there are cultural issues which are likely to exacerbate the problems, or make it harder to openly discuss mental well-being. In particular, high pressure environments, or night shift work for example, can contribute to mental health issues. My own sector, the legal sector, with its highly pressurized and competitive environment where there is a long hours and heavy workload culture, can significantly affect mental wellbeing, but also the willingness of employees and business owners to discuss it openly.”
This connectivity that Chilton mentions comes in the form of platforms like Slack, Monday.com, and other telecommuting tools that can be huge assets to corporate communication and productivity. These platforms can connect employees located around the countries, for a seemingly more holistic approach to corporate success. When your work is well-connected to the devices we use in our personal lives, such as our phones, our laptop computers, and home-based artificial intelligence like Alexa and Google Home devices, a bleeding source of stress is introduced that can further disrupt our desire for a work-life balance.
Regardless of an employee’s physical location within the organization, many corporations are beginning to adopt work ratios that have been proven to reduce this bleed, such as the 25:5 rule. That means a 5 minute break for every 25 minutes of work completed. This can come in many forms, such as walking meetings, meal breaks—anything that would stimulate an employee physically in order to refocus their minds on their work once they return from that break. This also reduces the physical impact of jobs that force employees to sit for long periods of time, which has devastating effects on posture, eye-strain, and lack of circulation in lower extremities that contribute to health problems such as blood clots and diabetes.
When corporations invest in the mental health of their employees, the positive ripple effects may surprise even the most seasoned executive. Corporate culture moves in a cycle. When employees feel that their mental health is valued at their place of work, their level of engagement is higher in their capacity. This leads to a better quality of communication between employees and stronger engagement on behalf of individuals, which promotes productivity. This increased productivity not only pleases leadership, but also improves the quality of customer service within the organization, which also has the potential to impress and reassure shareholders.
How do you know when your business or organization needs a corporate culture audit? The fact of the matter is that you don’t have to be an educated risk assessment investigator to identify the signs. Many employees can trace their workplace woes back to an internal process or another employee they do not like. Sometimes it’s difficult to discern whether your organization needs a corporate culture audit. Here are 8 of the most prevalent signs that leadership should watch out for when it comes to declining corporate culture.
8. High-Pressure Environment
There is a plethora of high-pressure jobs that can create tension in the workplace, like media conglomerates, financial firms, and law offices. When stress is part of the job, many employers go the extra mile to ensure that their employees can have good work-life balance, such as paid-time-off, vacations, and comprehensive benefits. In high-pressure jobs where these things are not available to employees, the workforce regularly experiences burnout and lack of engagement. When leadership is ignorant or inattentive to these issues within their corporation, it drives corporate culture down and contributes to the overall detriment of the workplace.
Every employee has substandard days for a myriad of reasons, but when the workplace is constantly plagued by low energy and low morale, it spreads like a cancer throughout the organization. Employees who are engaged in the workplace increase productivity and customer experience. When apathy spreads throughout the workplace, it usually indicates that the root cause is pervasive, effects everyone, and needs to be neutralized as soon as possible.
If your organization is running into the same problems quarter to quarter, this is a major red flag. The nature of the problems are insignificant—whether it’s a problem with internal processes or multiple complaints of harassment, the fact that the problem continues to thrive within the workplace indicates that there is a fundamental issue with internal processes or personnel. While each issue may have resolved initially, the root of the problem was never identified or addressed. A healthy cycle of corporate culture cannot grow in such an environment.
5. Poor Investments in People
When it comes to hiring and promoting employees, sometimes leadership does not always make a sound investment in a single employee. It happens in every business, where a new hire or promoted employee does not meet expectations as predicted. This can bring internal operations to a screeching halt, whether executives elect to correct this poor investment via termination and turn-over, or to ignore the issue and allow that employee to continue stalling the corporation’s mission.
4. Questionable Ethics
“Questionable ethics” does not mean that it’s apparent that there is illegal or ethically unclear practices taking place within the workplace—otherwise it would be much higher on this list. “Questionable ethics” actually refers to individual employees’ understanding and ability to explain their company’s values. Regardless of intent, corporations are sometimes vague about their mission or values, using rosy words that denote a company with integrity and passion for bringing their products and consumers together. This can make it difficult for employees to intellectualize company goals and vision. When the workforce does not have a clear, common goal to achieve as a whole, employees can easily become detached and apathetic.
3. Lack of Accountability
When corporate culture is healthy, there is a mindful unity throughout the workforce, in which individual employees are content, engaged, and working towards the same goal. When the corporate culture is poor, individual employees at all levels refuse to take responsibility when something goes wrong. Lack of accountability for a mistake or oversight leads to a great deal of finger-pointing and shrugging in meetings and over email, and slows down the wheels of progress within a corporation or organization.
2. Bad Behavior in Leadership
Corporate culture audits can catch some of the most elusive culprits of tainting corporate culture: Executives and leadership. The old adage goes, “The fish stinks from the head,” meaning that most distasteful things within a company or organization can be traced back to leadership. Whether it is a supervising manager or an executive, bad behavior on behalf of leadership always trickles down into the rest of the workforce, because the supposition is, “If the boss is doing this, it must be okay.” This applies to all levels of bad behavior, from theft to malingering and everything in between.
1. Lack of Diversity
The number one indicator that your company or organization might need a corporate culture audit is a lack of diversity in the workforce. Any corporate culture that is homogenized with regards to race, gender identity, sexual orientation, or even age lacks the inherent ability to grow and change. Leadership in the workplace—management and executive positions—are dominated by cisgender, straight, white men, who are statistically projected to hire other individuals who are also in this category. Individuals in this category are hired, mentored, and promoted more than others, which feeds into a cycle of stagnation that will ultimately disbenefit the company or organization. The value of diversity comes with the support of trusted employees from many walks of life—employees who have had different life experiences and have a perspective that can reinvigorate an organization’s vision or mission—ensuring that the pursuits of the workplace are growing and changing along with the rest of the economy.
When conducting an internal investigation, it’s imperative that the investigation be comprehensive and impartial from the beginning. Depending on the size and resources of the company, this is not always possible. Corporate investigations, while necessary, can often be a monumental burden to a small business or organization. Many medium to small businesses/organizations do not have the budget to conduct a comprehensive, detailed investigation on an internal issue. This leaves them to their own devices in the pursuit of solving the problem. When there is no team in place to solve internal problems, workplace investigations tend to fall on the shoulders of Human Resources personnel. This means that in addition to their regularly scheduled duties, the HR representative must also embark on a deep dive into the internal complaint, covering all their bases with regards to the investigation. If even a small detail is overlooked in internal investigations, it can leave the corporation or organization open to wrongful termination lawsuits or other types of litigation.
Human resource employees are the salt of the earth within any business or organization. In many circumstances, they are the grease that propels the wheels of progress in internal processes. This means they constantly have multiple projects in-progress and always have a minimal level of supervision for the entire workforce. Factoring in the capacity for human error, mistakes are inevitable in an internal investigation. That’s why it’s imperative for human resource employees to have a comprehensive step-by-step plan when initiating internal investigations. While every investigation will be different and may require a different approach, many of the investigative beats follow the same pattern as outlined by the Society for Human Resource Management:
Conduct a comprehensive intake interview with the complaining or initial witness, requesting the scaffold information for the investigation, including the who, what, when, where, how, and why. It’s important that the employee understand the need for discretion during an open investigation into the complaint. This reminder for discretion must come with the caveat denoting any confidentiality rules that would infringe upon an employee’s rights to discuss their status of employment.
Once the intake interview is conducted, the complaining witness and other eyewitnesses must put their statements in writing to document this stage in the investigation.
Diffuse any flaring tensions within the case. The more elevated the emotions, the more attention that factor of the investigation requires. Even during an investigation into an open complaint, it’s important that employees feel safe in their work environment. The workplace must be stabilized and disciplinary action must be reserved until the investigator has the entire picture.
Decide if the subject of the investigation—the individual who is named in the complaint—needs to be placed on administrative leave or allow voluntary leave during the investigation. It’s important that at all steps of this process that any established no-retaliation policies be reinforced.
Identify what other resources are needed to conduct this investigation. Regularly consult with in-house counsel regarding the legality of the steps you are taking.
Based on the statements collected at intake, identify the parties that still need to be interviewed and what questions will be asked in that interview.
Interview the accused with the intent to find the truth. Transparency is important at every stage of this investigation, so provide detailed allegations from the complaining employee’s statements, and allow the accused to provide comprehensive answers to the questions asked. Ask for witnesses to their version of events. At the conclusion of that interview, always ask if there’s anything else that the accused would like to add.
Re-interview subjects in the case as necessary pending any new information or evidence.
Keep meticulous notes at all stages of the investigation. Due to the possibility of litigation following the conclusion of the investigation, it is imperative that transparency be maintained throughout. Avoid editorializing in your notes and record only what you are told. Keep secondary performance issues separate from the investigation.
Create a summary of your report based on all of the evidence you’ve gathered and the witnesses you’ve spoken to. Resolve all factual disputes first, moving on next to the emotional factors in the case. Again, be sure to consult in-house counsel at all stages of the investigation. Determine the best course of action at the conclusion of the investigation. Meticulously document all disciplinary action following the conclusion. Remain alert for forms of retaliation on behalf of all parties involved in the investigation.
If your business is ill-equipped to conduct an internal investigation, consider hiring a private investigator to find answers. Private investigators can have more flexibility than many other types of investigators, due to having an average case load of 3-4 cases at one time. Private investigators can also mitigate some of the costs of internal investigations by conducting a comprehensive investigation with minimal impact to the daily operations of a business or organization. Call Lauth Investigations International today for a free quote on our corporate investigation services. Or, if you’re seeking a long-term solution in improving your workplace culture, call for a free quote on our corporate culture audit program to improve your business from within. Call 317-951-1100 or find us online at www.lauthinvestigations.com
When corporations make the investment to evaluate their corporate culture, it’s important that they choose a vendor who offers a comprehensive audit program. With the rise of the #MeToo movement, the Equal Opportunity Commission (EEOC) saw an overall increase of 13.6% of sexual harassment filings in 2018. That’s not counting other filings for discrimination based on age, race, and sexual orientation. This has placed corporations on high alert as the nation’s capitalist climate gears up for change in their workplaces. This means that when leadership opts for a corporate culture audit, it’s important that their money is well-spent, and one of the best moves to make is hiring private investigators to handle the audit.
Many corporate culture audits are performed by independent risk assessment firms, which is to be expected. Risk assessment firms specialize in identifying the weak points in a business from their workforce background to their brick and mortar security. However, if leadership is going to invest in improving their corporate culture, it’s important that they pick a program that offers comprehensive services. While risk assessment firms might employ highly capable auditors capable of identifying security oversight or performing background checks, every business is different, and it’s important that the program selected fit every business true-to-form. That’s where a private investigator can be an invaluable asset.
Private investigators as a profession have a lurid reputation for following philandering spouses and people suspected of worker’s compensation fraud. The same tool chest that allows them to perform those services is the same one that makes them ideal candidates to perform corporate culture audits. Private investigators have an eye for detail, diligent drive, and a meticulous ability to evaluate and make recommendations based on what they’ve observed. These are the types of professionals you want when it comes to assessing the culture of your business or organization.
Independent risk assessment firms are just as excellent in identifying the risk factors that put a business or organization at risk, such as vulnerabilities in their securities, faulty hiring processes, and at-risk employees based on their history—but what about the human element within a corporate culture audit? Corporate culture audits are so much more than comparing documents and surveying brick-and-mortar locations. It’s also about understanding how current employees function in a workplace ecosystem. Private investigators, with a wealth of experience in evaluating human behavior and emotions, can be the boots-on-the-ground investigators who can speak with current employees and collect data on their impressions of the current work environment and how the culture can be improved. Some of the questions private investigators may address include, but are not limited to:
Is everyone in the company invested in the same things?
What are the valued differences between your corporation and the competition?
What are the key measures of success within your company?
What is the functionality of the leadership in place versus the leadership required for success?
What are the environmental factors that are contributing to the decline in culture?
What is the history of your company’s culture from its foundation?
What are the subcultures that have formed in your organization and what is their role within the company?
By answering these questions and calculating the human responses, private investigators can provide executive leadership with recommendations based on more than what exists on paper; for example, the last item on that list regarding the identification of subcultures. Private investigators do not only look at the behavior of individual employees, but also how those employees relate to each other. In workspaces where there are employees of 10 or more, it is hyper-common for subcultures (or groups) to form. This happens when individual employees gravitate towards one another as a result of their shared interests, goals, or gripes. Their comradery can either contribute to the cycle of corporate culture, or undermine it. When a subculture forms because the employees all have similar degrees of dissatisfaction with their job (regardless of the reason), their validation of one another in solidarity can be a cancer within the organization. This is why it’s imperative to hire corporate culture auditors who have a high level of understanding of human behavior—they can provide a comprehensive picture of how their current employees are contributing to the cycle of corporate culture.
While private investigators may not be able to dismantle subcultures, they can change the conversation within those subcultures. Groups of employees who bond over poor treatment from a supervisor or frustration with current internal processes will have to find other things to talk about once these issues are addressed and remedied appropriately. This is one of the ways that we improve the cycle of corporate culture. When employees see pervasive issues being addressed by leadership, they are inherently more engaged in the process, which can increase the quality of communication, the level of productivity, and the overall health of the workplace. Private investigators are some of the best professionals to perform these audits ultimately because they have a grasp of human behavior that allows them to accurately pinpoint the issues and make recommendations to leadership.
Every corporation needs an excellent in-house attorney to fight complex legal battles in their stead—someone to act in the best interests of the company and its future. In addition to the everyday intricacies of business litigation, house counsel may also have to field lawsuits from current or former employees who have a legal objection to something that happened during their tenure at the business. When employee lawsuits become a pervasive issue at a business, not only is the cost in billable hours exponential, but the legal judgements that result from these litigations can be devastating for companies. While litigation in general can be characterized as the cost of doing business, companies with healthy corporate culture experience a much lower rate of employee lawsuits. So, how can healthy corporate culture reduce the chance of a lawsuit?
Corporations across the United States are starting to understand the value of healthy corporate culture. Employee lawsuits aside, unhealthy corporate culture can have detrimental, snowballing effects that occur when employees are unhappy in their capacity and unengaged in their work. This is why corporations must improve their culture from within, so that employee retention and productivity remain high. Corporations also have millennials making up the majority of the workforce in the nation, complete with a set of values that propels them to seek a better work-life balance. This means that millennials are less likely to stay in a job where they are unhappy, and will simply seek a more amendable opportunity that allows them to have the work-life balance they desire.
When employees do not feel heard or valued by their employer, they’re far more likely to file a lawsuit related to their grievance. And unfortunately, no company is safe. In 2010, 99,922 EEOC charges were filed in the state of Florida alone, a datapoint that makes leadership wonder not if they’ll be the target of a lawsuit, but when. Employee lawsuits can drag out over months or even years, exponentially getting more expensive. The average settlement in an employee claim or lawsuit is $40,000. That expense alone can be devastating to a company, but that does not account for the disruption to daily operations, and the fact that litigation costs are on a steady rise. In 10% of cases, settlements result in $1 million or greater, a sum that could be the beginning of the end for many medium to small corporations.
The risk of a lawsuit can be even greater depending on the state in which it is filed. According to the Hiscox Group, a majority of states carry around a 10% change of having an employee lawsuit filed against them. However, in Georgia, the probability is 19%. In states like New Mexico, California, and Nevada, the probability can be as high as 55%. The area with the highest probability of litigation is the District of Columbia, with a terrifying 81% chance. The reason for the wide range in probabilities is two-fold: First, the legal standards in each state regarding discrimination and hostile work environments can vary. Secondly, the states with higher risks have more binding laws regarding litigation that can create extra hurdles for companies at the state level. This is why corporations must stay current on employment legislation, especially if they have locations across multiple states/jurisdictions.
So, how can corporations protect themselves against litigation from current or former employees? In-house counsel fields lawsuits when they are filed, but did you know there was a more proactive method to combatting employee litigation? The answer is simple: healthy corporate culture. When a corporation has a healthy corporate culture, it means that the employees feel valued by their employers in their capacity within the organization. It means that employees who feel valued are engaged, thereby greasing the wheels of internal, daily operations. This increased productivity means progress for the company, and the cycle of healthy corporate culture begins anew with leadership rewarding engaged employees for their hard work.
Research shows that the number one reason behind employee lawsuits is retaliation. In an average scenario, the employee reports an internal issue, usually regarding a form of discrimination. Following the inclusion of the investigation, when the employee cannot track for upward mobility, or a form of unwarranted disciplinary action occurs, they assume the reason is for reporting the previous issue. This can result in that employee filing a lawsuit for receiving unfair treatment on behalf of their employer. When organizations have healthy corporate culture, this is far less likely to occur.
If your company or organization needs a corporate culture overhaul, call Lauth Investigations International today for a free quote on our corporate culture audit program. We can help you improve your business from within and decrease the likelihood of employee lawsuits. When it comes to your business, you should expect facts, not fiction.