Companies are worried that if they have a policy of continual monitoring, it will create a culture of mistrust, where staff feel that someone is constantly looking over their shoulder.
Excessive and unnecessary monitoring is of course not conducive to building an engaged and committed workforce – but at the same time, there is strong justification for re-screening, particularly for high-risk roles.
You only have to look at the headlines to see why. A former Blackburn college worker sent to prison for spending more than £21K on a ‘lavish lifestyle’ funded by their work credit card. A former Barclays Bank official jailed for stealing £127K from accounts to meet payday loans she had taken out to fund a gambling addiction.
The sad reality is that while the majority of staff are honest, the biggest threat to employers is their own trusted internal managers – the people they sit next to or pass pleasantries in the corridor with every day. A recent KPMG survey found that the majority of insider acts are carried out by permanent staff, with the typical fraudster employed for 10-plus years.
So why would a previously trustworthy employee turn into a rotten apple – and what are the signs you should look out for?
People’s circumstances change:
A previously squeaky clean member of staff may suddenly find themselves plunged into debt and unable to resist the temptation of an ‘easy way out’. Maybe their partner has lost their job and they are struggling to meet the mortgage payments. Or perhaps they have been living a lifestyle that’s beyond their means and mounting credit card bills have finally caught up with them.
Opportunity presents itself:
If internal controls are poor and reporting structures lack rigour, people can often see just how easy it would be to cheat the system. It starts with a few products going out of the door here, a small amounts of money siphoned off there …. and once people find they can get away with it, the level of fraud soon escalates. Often people know it’s wrong, but they just don’t have the willpower to step away from an opportunity that’s presented to them on a plate.
Staff are put under pressure by others:
An employee who is weak or vulnerable may find themselves persuaded or coerced into getting involved in some kind of illegal activity. They may be being bullied by colleagues or feel worried that if they don’t take part they will be ostracised by their peers. This kind of peer pressure is particularly prevalent in cultures where everyone is ‘taking a bit on the side’.
Employees become disgruntled:
A member of staff feels they have been treated unfairly by the company. Maybe they are unhappy with their pay, feel they were overlooked for promotion or are resentful of the way the business treats its staff. Motivation dips, loyalty goes out of the door and fraudulent activity starts happening as a way of ‘getting back’ at the bosses.
There are often key changes in employee behaviour which should ring warning bells for employers. Do people suddenly seem to be living beyond their means, turning up to work in an expensive car or with the latest technological gadgetry? Maybe someone is showing an unusual interest in security arrangements, or is constantly flouting security procedures? Becoming protective about their work and always being the first to come in and the last to leave are other potential ‘red flags’. Of course there may be perfectly reasonable explanations for all of these behaviours – but they are common signs that something may be amiss.
Being generally alert to these signs, coupled with a programme of regular re-screening, is the best way for employers to protect themselves from the damage that can be caused by fraudulent activity to both their reputation and their profitability. Credit and bankruptcy checks, for example, can highlight a member of staff who has developed financial issues, while searches against international law enforcement, governmental and regulatory body databases can help to identify employees who may pose a risk.
It may seem over the top, but as an MI5 publication on personnel screening points out, many employees who eventually abuse their positions did not present a significant security threat at the time they were appointed.