Your employees are stealing from you (and how to stop it)

Posted on: Jan 16, 2017

Categories: Change Management, Customer Experience, Leadership

Check out these two photos I took last week:


Security officer at Atlanta airport vigilantly guarding the entrance


Working hard cleaning the movie theater between showings

Here are some fun facts you may not know about cell phone use:

There’s no disputing that people are addicted to their phones and will stop at nothing to check their notifications – even if they may endanger the health and wellbeing of themselves and others.  I love this recent safety campaign: “Ask the driver to quit texting while you’re in the car with them.  If they get mad at you, don’t worry, they’ll live.”

I don’t believe that cell phones are evil little monsters looking to take over the world like something out of a sci-fi film. Instead, I believe they are designed to enhance our communication, improve productivity, help us better understand the world we live in and keep us more connected to the ones we love.

But what does this have to do with employees stealing from you?

Well, employers create value for employees by paying them a competitive wage to carry out certain responsibilities. That’s the fundamental basis of having a job. But the employee also has a responsibility to create value for the employers.

If your employee spends any time at all on their cell phone during work for entertainment, it’s too much! During those checks, employees are suffering from a lack of productivity – avoiding what they’ve been paid to do in favor of scrolling a newsfeed – and worse, they are not deepening relationships with your customers and other employees.

Yesterday, I was in a store ready to purchase a fairly expensive pair of shoes. However, there was only one employee in the store, and he looked up, saw me, and quickly went back to his phone. I noticed he was on Facebook trying to reach his 50 hours of screen time for the week. There were no other customers in the store. I walked the floor for 15 minutes and waited for the employee to give me the customer service I had enjoyed in the past and then I walked out in disgust. I was ready to make a purchase, but apparently the latest social media feed was more important.

That employee stole from their employer in three ways: first, they wasted the wages they were paid by not doing their job, second, they lost revenue from an eager potential customer, and third, they hurt the reputation of store because I had a bad experience.

Cost Analysis:

15 minutes of work at $10/hr – $  2.50
New pair of shoes – $70.00
Acquisition cost of new customer – $15.00
Total lost – $87.50

This is why I say employees are stealing from your bottom line every time they look at their phone.

In retail and all hourly positions, every hour the employee is paid should be spent working for their employer’s business. In corporate settings, I encourage leaders to create environments that discourage distractions. Try initiating no-device meetings – no phones, no computers, no working on other things, just the people, the problems and the path to the solutions. Have one person taking notes on a laptop to later email the team. Your team will become more efficient and focused.

What has your experience been with employees and social media? What problems have you had and what have been some effective solutions? I would love to hear from you through your comments!


Try this creative solution to enjoy your next employee meal together