The Cycle of Corporate Culture

The Cycle of Corporate Culture

Culture can be the beginning and end of your company. Many executives and other members of leadership simply think of corporate culture as what the company stands for. This can be expressed through a corporation’s mission statement, their reported “vision,” or their promise to deliver their customers with the best products and services available. Corporate culture actually goes much deeper, beneath the surface to which the consumer public is privy. The MISTI Training Institute actually defines corporate culture as “the set of enduring and underlying assumptions and norms that determine how things are actually done in the organization.” It is not enough for leadership to state that they have inspiring beliefs and mission statements, if they do not run corporations to reflect those beliefs.

Even after hearing a more definitive explanation of corporate culture, many executives may still shrug their shoulders and insist that they have a great corporate culture. They think operations are streamlined, employees are engaged, and there are no weak links in the chain. They take solace in the fact that they have things like Taco Tuesdays, or Casual Fridays that improve the work environment and keep employees happy. While these are great ways to foster comradery within the workforce, they are band aid solutions to happy employees. The bottom line is: Healthy corporate culture begins with happy employees.

A recent study conducted by Glassdoor indicates that a majority of working individuals in the United States would prefer a healthy corporate culture to a higher salary or rate of pay. Their day-to-day becomes manageable when they feel as if they are part of a larger team. This graphic displays the cyclical nature of healthy corporate culture in motion. The cycle begins with happy employees. When trying to improve employee morale, leadership should strongly consider an internal audit of their company’s culture to identify pervasive issues within their corporation’s operating structure. Events like birthday parties for employees, or buying lunch for the office every few weeks are nice gestures by leadership, but they cannot act as solutions to repetitive issues. When these issues are not addressed within the corporation, employees often feel as if their value begins and ends with their productivity, as if they are cogs in a larger machine they cannot control. When leadership actively engages with employee concern on operation issues and makes dedicated and focused attempts to fix them, employees feel as if their voices are heard and their input is valued within the organization.

This leads to improved engagement on behalf of those valued employees. They are prompt to work, freshly-groomed and instilled with a sense of purpose as their co-workers progress with them towards the organization’s goal. The level of communication between employees will not only improve in quality, but the rate of response to correspondence also has the potential to increase dramatically, because the employees are engaged in the process and are eager to complete tasks on time—possibly even early.

Once employee engagement is up, leadership can expect to see an increase in the productivity of the workforce as a whole. Engaged employees approach their task with the confidence of a professional, and the confidence that comes from the feeling of support within the organization. Studies have shown that productivity can increase by as much as 28% when a corporation’s culture is given a major overhaul.

When productivity increases, everybody in the company benefits. Having their requisites satisfied, leadership can let their focus extend beyond daily operations. This expanded scope of supervision leads to higher engagement on behalf of leadership, which feeds back into a healthy work environment in which they are happy to reward the stellar performance of their employees. When employees feel their work is valued, the cycle begins anew.

This shared body of beliefs that the company claims to have in the public eye should go all the way to the CEO and be directly reflected in the day to day operations of the company. When leadership remains plugged in and continues to expand the scope of their supervision, internal issues cannot pervade within the workplace. In healthy work environments, the level of improvement that can occur week to week will only serve the company’s larger goals.

On the Line: Exposing Theft in Manufacturing

On the Line: Exposing Theft in Manufacturing

On the Line: Exposing Theft in Manufacturing

When your business is in manufacturing, you are the steam engine on a locomotive of consumer progress. Product quality and efficiency start with you—producing the best results so the next link in the chain has a reasonable chance of success. This means hiring the best people to work in your plant is paramount to clearing the black. Human Resource departments dedicate themselves to recruiting the best of the best for their company, but even the most qualified and dependable candidates can give you ugly surprises with dishonest behavior, including malingering, fraud, and most significantly, theft.

All industries experience internal theft lowering their profits, but manufacturing is one of those most heavily affected. The Association of Certified Fraud Examiners (ACFE) has reported in global industries, internal theft accounts for more than $3.7 million of eroded profits every year. The ACFE has determined, for manufacturing and production industries, the median loss is $194,000 per company.  There’s no short of manufacturing industries who suffer this loss, but to a thief, some are more lucrative than others. The top five manufacturing targets of thieves are pharmaceutical, metal, cargo, electronics, and cigarettes. The opioid crisis in the United States is not only responsible for millions of dollars of theft in pharmacies, but also in the plants where drugs are manufactured, or the warehouses where they are stored. Warehouse and plant workers often swipe units of electronics and fabrication materials for use in their own homes. These items can go for a small fortune on the street, or they can be resold on the black market to avoid being traced.

The larger the theft, the quicker it is noticed, but no company should have to wait for a large loss to implement prevention strategies. Any high-ranking employee or human resources employee can recognize the signs of internal theft, if they know where to look. For example, employees might report recent loss, or seeing product in unauthorized locations. Employees may be exhibiting suspicious behavior, like repeated rendezvous in the parking lot, or the surrounding area. Outlandish material possessions, such as new cars, designer shoes, and expensive jewelry, might suddenly be a regular part of the employee’s life. Low morale is one of the most common causes of internal theft, as employees who feel undervalued suddenly rationalize to themselves they deserve to take something from the company for their hard work and sacrifice.

manufacturing theftAs such, human resource departments are always reshaping their recruitment process to ensure they hire only quality individuals to be a part of their team. And this goes for all ranks within a workforce.  While a lower-level employee may not be noticed themselves, higher-level employees are the ones poised to cause significant loss to the company with their status and access to important company records. When everyone is a suspect, HR must implement procedures and methods of prevention that not only educate employees on the warning signs of theft, but also craft a culture that promotes honesty—if you see something, say something. These preemptive measures can be things like a comprehensive employee handbook, specific training to recognize signs of theft, effective security and monitoring systems, and a confidential tip line so that employees can report suspicious behavior without fear of reprisal. In manufacturing industries where groups of employees are assigned to their own sections, it’s important to have regular team meetings to maintain contact with the workforce so policies to protect the company can be reviewed and modified to improve and protect daily operations.

However, despite having a plethora of prevention methods in place, bad apples can still slip through the cracks of due diligence. When all attempts to handle a theft in-house have failed, there is still recourse. Many companies feel the need to handle all matters of theft internally, using teams of Human Resource employees or their own in-house investigator, but in-house operatives often lack the cohesive experience that comes from working in private investigations. The initial instinct might be to use an informal, in-house operative. Unfortunately, using an in-house operative has the potential to backfire quickly. If this investigator is known to the company’s workforce, their undercover efforts to sus out the culprit can be exposed easily, allowing the perpetrator to modify their methods, or disappear entirely before being identified. Poor investigations cannot only leave the perpetrator with an out, but can also exacerbate a workforce’s low morale, as employees become suspicious and paranoid.

Hiring a private investigator to investigate an internal theft has a wealth of benefits for business owners. Most obviously, an external, third-party investigator will be a fresh, unknown face to a company’s workforce. This “new blood” can freely move about the company inconspicuously. Their new hire status coupled with expertise in interviewing subjects will allow them to question other employees without suspicion. Private investigators also have a better chance of thoroughly investigating middle to higher management. As previously stated, these are the employees with the most access—able to alter inventory sheets and cost analyses. Over a period of time, a private investigator can hide in plain sight, keeping meticulous records on conversations and reporting surveillance findings that can be cataloged for any terminations resulting from the investigation.

manufacturing theftTerminations under messy circumstances like internal theft can often have legal repercussions, on both the side of the employer and employee. Companies may feel inclined to prosecute for the losses to the company, or an employee who feels they were wrongly terminated may sue. Internal investigators who have improperly handled an investigation can be the lynch pin that brings any legal proceedings to its knees. Improperly gathered evidence or illegal methods of fact-finding will compromise the company and their position in terminating the employee. Terminated employees can argue the company fired the wrong person in the interest of finding a solution, or argue the termination is vindictive action. However, an external operative like a private investigator has no stakes in the outcome of any investigation. Their only loyalty is to the truth, and as such, their investigation is dependent on facts, not company politics. Private investigators are impartial third-parties, which leaves very little room for a thief to argue wrongful-termination.

When producing a quality product, the integrity begins in manufacturing. Regardless of the type of product being manufactured, theft at this level of production is profitable to an organized thief—especially one who knows how to cover their tracks. Keeping the investigation in-house certainly has public relations benefits, but ultimately, one of the tenets of quality private investigations is confidentiality. Confidentiality between a private investigator and a company will allow them to deal with the theft discreetly, but thoroughly. Their third-party status means they have no dog in the fight, and their solution will stand up to the highest level of scrutiny.

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Naptown Sleuths: Being a PI in Indianapolis

Naptown Sleuths: Being a PI in Indianapolis

indianapolis indianaIndianapolis, Indiana is home to many impressive things. The city of over 800,000 is most famous throughout the country as home to the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, the site of the Indianapolis 500. In addition to a rich visual and performing arts culture, it’s also home to the nation’s largest children’s museum. Families across the United States cheer for one of two major sports franchises based in Indianapolis: the NBA’s Indiana Pacers, and the NFL’s Indianapolis Colts. It’s also home to one of the country’s best private investigators.

Family-owned and operated for more than 30 years, Lauth Investigations International has specialized in complex corporate, financial, and private investigations worldwide. It is one of many private investigation firms based in Indiana’s capital. Given recent crime data, Indianapolis is a city where a well of clientele may never run dry. One of the areas of criminal investigation most associated with private investigators is missing persons and violent crime, so it’s no a wonder why so many private investigators have set up shop in Indianapolis, with violent crime on the rise.

Relative to its size and population, Indianapolis is comparable to Portland, Oregon or Charlotte, North Carolina. Portland has a crime rate of 227 per every 100,000 people, which is lower than the national average crime rate. North Carolina experiences a higher than average crime rate of 441 per every 100,000 people. As of 2016, Indianapolis’ reported crime rate was 823.2 per every 100,000 people. A CBS News report ranking dangerous cities placed Indianapolis as the 12th in the nation, citing the violent crime rate at more than three times the national average.

News media is saturated with headlines concerning violent crimes committed against Hoosiers, so it was a surprise to most when the FBI reported crime was actually down 10% from 2016 to 2017, especially burglaries and robberies which were down 17%. Violence—especially gun violence—however, is climbing. As of October 1st, 2018, the Indianapolis Metropolitan Police Department had investigated 127 homicides and 109 murders, with 12% of those cases attributed to robbery. The recent murder of Tykece Mike-Jones is a tragic example. He was killed over a cell phone he was attempting to sell to a person he contacted through the internet—another in a string of killings IMPD has been putting on blast to warn citizens. According to the FBI, 2017 was the third record-breaking year for crime statistics in Indianapolis, and stats from the first half of this year have projected 2018 will be no different. Law enforcement attributes the overall drop in crime to the increased ubiquity of surveillance cameras in the metropolitan area.

human traffickingFirms like Lauth Investigations International can assist in many types of criminal investigation. Just as in the case of violent crimes, private investigators combine the skills of law enforcement and the autonomy of a private citizen to conduct concurrent or independent investigations into a person who vanishes under any circumstances. But not all missing persons cases are the result of a person meeting a violent end. As “the crossroads of America,” Indianapolis experiences a moderate to high level of human trafficking. One of the most complex issues in human trafficking is tracking traffickers across multiple jurisdictions as they transport victims from city to city. Law enforcement can often be handcuffed by jurisdictional issues, but private investigators use their autonomy to pole vault over this red tape in pursuit of leads that might otherwise go cold. Due to his experience in complex missing persons investigations, private investigator, Thomas Lauth has worked with Interpol, the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the U.S. State Department, the U.S. Consulate and other foreign embassies on a myriad of cases, including human trafficking.

Indianapolis private investigators are not limited to cases of violent crime and missing persons, however. Every major metropolitan area will always have cases dealing with infidelity or child custody, but private investigators based in Indianapolis have ample opportunity to service local businesses with their skill-set. Indianapolis is home to a diversified body of businesses, but its five top industries are:

  • Finance
  • Insurance
  • Real estate
  • Rental
  • Leasing

Many business owners—especially small business owners—often are not aware of how a private investigator’s services can protect, or even save, their companies. Every business needs valued employees, and finding the right person can often be an arduous task. The candidate might be qualified, but how much about their record can be independently verified? Hiring a private investigator to do background checks for employees will ensure that any verification of their qualifications will be vetted. In the wake of the #MeToo movement, many employers are making independent background checks a regular step of their hiring process in order to weed out potential predators in their workforce. All types of business can experience the full spectrum of employee theft (from vanishing office supplies to full-on embezzlement), violation of non-compete agreements, and offenses under the umbrella of employee malingering, including FMLA abuse. The independent involvement of a private investigator in the investigation of any employee misconduct will lay a strong foundation for any HR or legal consequences, ensuring that the investigation is thorough and objective from beginning to end. Kristen Justis, the Managing Director of Client Relations for Lauth Investigations International, commented on the role Lauth can play in bolstering local business, “We have a wealth of opportunities to help private citizens every day. We help frantic parents find their missing child, or put a spouse’s suspicions of infidelity at ease, but those are the cases that sensationalize this industry. Many business owners are not aware of how the services we offer can go a long way towards extending the longevity of their businesses.”

Every major industry operating in Indianapolis can rely on the services of a private investigator to protect their business—not just from its own workforce, but potential consumers as well. Finance, insurance, and real estate of all kinds can benefit from a comprehensive vetting of a consumer after their request for services. Financial institutions and insurance brokers may check a consumer’s credit, but a full background check on an applicant can sharpen the big picture when making a cost-benefit analysis regarding any transaction. In the housing industry, any landlord renting or leasing their property can be fully informed about their tenants when they employ a private investigator to run a background check. An analysis of Indianapolis’s economy by the Indianapolis Business Journal concluded that the apartment booms the city experienced were driven largely by empty-nesters and childless millennials, projecting that it would only continue to grow.

Indianapolis already has a national economical reputation for developing and sustaining niche markets, such as the market around motorsports and auto-racing. As the metropolis continues to grow in population and economy, so will the opportunities for Indy-based private investigators to support their community.

Carie McMichael is the Communications and Media Specialist for Lauth Investigations International. She regularly writes on missing person and investigation topics. For more information, please visit our website. 

Investigating Employee Misconduct

Investigating Employee Misconduct

employee misconduct

Employee misconduct in the workplace can have a toxic effect on morale and productivity, which often incentivizes employers to resolve the situation quickly. These days, there are clear benefits to getting out in front of any misconduct complaint as movements like #MeToo have employers scrambling to vet their workforce so they can identify predators before scandal or evidence of misconduct can become public. In a surveillance culture where both bad behavior and good behavior are fodder for a good viral news story, employers everywhere are starting to understand the value in properly handling a corporate crisis. But in their haste to resolve the situation, are employers handling internal investigations properly?

Regardless of the type of business and type of misconduct, (sexual harassment, drug-trafficking, theft, etc.) the first instinct where there is a whiff of  employee misconduct is often to keep the information very close to executives. As with any investigation, the controlled release of information has an investigative advantage in identifying the true culprits of any misconduct. This is the beginning of employers remaining too close to the situation. It’s not unusual for a well-meaning employer to appoint themselves as the head of the investigation—but this presents a huge conflict of interest. As a person with a great deal to lose, the employer is, by their very nature, biased and an unbiased investigation is the foundation for anything built on an employee complaint. Without the use of an external investigator, the case loses integrity.

external investigatorsHiring an external investigator, like a licensed private investigator, will bring a flattering layer of transparency to any workplace investigation. First and foremost, a private investigator is an independent third-party. Having no personal knowledge of the employees involved—and therefore having no preconceived notions about them—means they can truly approach the case from an indisputable place of objectivity. The employer’s personal knowledge of their employees disqualifies them from such objectivity. Whatever the misconduct du jour, they might never suspect their trusted personal assistant, their senior manager, or their business partner—all individuals with extensive access to company information and property. However, a private investigator will vet this list of possible suspects in search of the truth.

When an employer is unsure of how to proceed when investigating workplace misconduct, it seems like a no-nonsense solution to let the lawyers handle it. And it can often make sense, as they will be fielding any litigation that surfaces. In-house counsel might feel it’s under their purview for the same reasons, but this is very misguided. The lines of their capacities as both in-house counsel and investigator cross one another, thus creating another conflict of interest. While there are states like New York that allow attorneys to act as private investigators without a license to do so, this is still not recommended. Witnesses within the company will likely have anxiety about speaking to the company’s lawyer, and might not be as forthcoming with pertinent details. Leads suddenly begin pancaking into dead ends as nervous employees become less cooperative. Private investigators have the advantage in this situation, as they are not representatives of the individual’s employers in any capacity, and have no power to fire them. It’s the same advantage private investigators have over law enforcement because they have no powers of arrest.

The documentation provided by a private investigator is invaluable to workplace investigations. After all, many reports not handled to the satisfaction of the complainant often lead to legal action, the most common example being the more familiar story of sexual harassment in the workplace: An employee alleges sexual misconduct against another employee. Both parties are interviewed. The interviewer does not tape the interview nor take notes. After a shoddy investigation, the complainant decides to sue the company for negligence. Another common example is the case of an employee who is hastily terminated for FMLA abuse or malingering before the company conducts a thorough investigation.

Not only are paper and ink expensive, but filling out and preparing reports is time-consuming—time that would be better spent trying to improve your business. Private investigators keep meticulous records, just like law enforcement, of all witness statements, evidence, surveillance, and relevant information to the case. This will go a long way towards addressing the complaint after the PI has issued their solution. It’s a perfect package: The investigation is chronicled from beginning to end, all of the relevant information is accessible, and best of all, it was conducted, prepared, and presented by a completely objective, independent third-party. The same third-party can also offer testimony in any court case that might result from the investigation.

Whether you’re investigating sexual harassment allegations, drug-trafficking, theft, or any complaint of employee misconduct, make the proactive choice of hiring a private investigator. It’s the strongest first step you can take in any internal workplace investigation. From the beginning, the investigator will be an impartial, unbiased eye whose only loyalty is to the truth. This kind of due-diligence will go a long way towards demonstrating you, as an employer, have heard the complaint, taken it seriously, and are only interested in what actually occurred. The solution will not be based on pre-conceived notions of colleagues, or biased assumptions, but independent deduction and well-documented evidence. And even if the investigation comes to a less than amiable termination, the foundation laid by the private investigator will protect your business from litigation.

Using a CNC to Protect Your Business

Using a CNC to Protect Your Business

Using a CNC to protect your business means the peace of mind that your trade secrets are safe.

Using a CNC to protect your business means the peace of mind that your trade secrets are safe.

If you own your own business, you know finding the right people to build your company is vital. One “weak link in the chain,” as they say, can tear a business down to its foundation. And as such, it’s not only important to hire the right people, but also protect your business from being exploited in the event a former employee might expose trade secrets. If it is your business’ practice to require a signature of an employee on a covenant not to compete, you should consider having a private investigator on retainer in order to vet any suspicions of non-compete violations.

Often referred to as a non-compete clause, a covenant not to compete or CNC is designed to protect an employer’s business against future competition or theft of trade secrets by a former employee. In essence, the CNC prevents a former employee, terminated or otherwise, from using a business’ trade secrets to either work for or start a rival business. Violators of CNC have an intimate knowledge of a particular business and can use that information to destroy it. In addition to exploiting the successes of a company by using the same strategies, a violator uses their knowledge to exploit the weaknesses of a company. They know where the vulnerable spots are in their business model, and violators can correct this process in the rival business, as well as, target their former employer in advertisements.

These legal contracts have a history going back as far as the 15th century, when English common law refused to enforce the Renaissance-era CNCs on the grounds they would place too many restrictions on trade. There have been many arguments made CNCs also interfere with America’s capitalist economy, placing restraints on the free-market standards in the United States. There are only a few states in the union completely prohibiting the use of non-competes, including California, Montana, North Dakota, and Oklahoma. One of the industries where CNCs are most common is the media. Most media-conglomerates force employees to sign CNCs at the time of hire to prevent them from sharing delicate information about media markets upon leaving their position. Another common industry is finance, especially Wall Street, where a person can literally be indicted for knowing too much, having been charged with insider-trading. Many might remember reading about CNCs back in 2005, when Microsoft and Google took a former employee, Kai-Fu Lee, to task by enforcing his CNC after leaving the company. CNCs are everywhere, and as such, businesses would be wise to employ external investigators to get the hard facts on CNC violations.

As was the case with FMLA fraud violations within a company, having an external investigator—like a PI—on retainer, will allow the company to protect itself in the event they believe a former employee has violated their CNC. The fallout from CNC violations can be ugly, with former employees insisting, not only did they not violate their CNC, but also they are being persecuted by their former employer. A private investigator is a third-party, which means they are well within their means to be objective. A private investigator’s loyalty is to the truth, as such, you can rely on cold-hard facts to bolster a case against a CNC violator. This objectivity comes in handy during litigation when enforcing a CNC.

The former employee cannot claim their employer is biased in their fact-finding, because they did not conduct the investigation. While a business can sue a former employee for violation of a CNC, it is not a criminal matter, so a business cannot ask law enforcement to investigate. Luckily, private investigators often have a resume bearing similar experience to law enforcement, as well as ,a very similar set of tools to find answers.  They can locate witnesses, witness statements, videotapes, photographs, and acquire documents to build a prima facia case against a CNC violator. Whatever the circumstances, having an objective external investigator on retainer will provide businesses with the assurance they have conducted all necessary steps to safeguard their company.