The secret to solid cash control is culture, processes, accountability, and oversight.
Fraud prevention can be a scary topic because no one wants to believe team members could steal from their employer. But you can't leave prevention up to chance. To set your business up for solid cash control, we've updated this important post to give you everything you need to take the fear out of fraud prevention.
Step 1: Build a connected culture.
Two of the main reasons that people steal are out of spite and because of opportunity. Did you know that the majority of team member theft is discovered when someone raises their hand after they’ve witnessed a teammate’s questionable behavior? Your processes will help minimize opportunities for theft, but it’s your culture that will determine how team members will react when faced with those opportunities. Your culture should be based on:
- Integrity – tell the truth and always doing what you say you will.
- Incorruptibility – follow your ethical code despite attractive, or “less uncomfortable” alternatives. Remember that every second of every day, you’re training someone to do something.
- Transparency – remove the cloak. For so long we hid our cash drawers away—wouldn’t let team members count their own banks and didn’t share company goals and achievements. This fosters a culture of mistrust. The more transparent you are about processes and why you have them, the more your team members will trust and buy into cash handling practices and common goals.
- Mutual respect – treat team members and guests with empathy and communicate in a way that demonstrates your integrity. A leader who fails to show his or her teams respect publicly and privately is far less likely to be notified when a fellow team member is stealing, so remember that how you treat your staff matters. If you want them to have your back, start by having theirs.
- Discipline – writing procedures is only the first step. Have the discipline to follow them to the letter, and be unwilling to take shortcuts and circumvent processes. Revisit them from time to time to consider whether they need to be updated or streamlined.
Step 2: Outline clear expectations.
Clear expectations are a critical component of success and should start during your hiring process. Convey a zero-tolerance policy for theft, and give examples so there is no room for confusion. Poor cash handling in your park creates an unsafe environment for the team and guests. Communicate that safety is everyone’s responsibility so team members can always come to you with concerns while remaining anonymous. You must investigate quickly and discreetly, and be prepared to take action if you find someone has been stealing.
Discuss culture, values, or ethics in every meeting and conversation with team members so they become part of your facility’s heart, minimizing poor decisions in any vulnerable situation—not just with cash.
It’s also a great idea to use cash handling agreements with frontline staff that discuss what happens when a cashier’s drawer is a certain amount over or under what’s expected. This is not to be punitive, but rather to set the stage for explicit cash handling in your facility.
Step 3: Set yourselves up for success.
Where is your safe and bank distribution happening now? If your answer is anywhere other than a secure location for only that purpose, you may have an issue with cash control. Consider a room that is minimally furnished—including a couple of chairs and a table, a safe that is large enough to hold all change needed for a given day, cash tray inserts and bank bags. Use security cameras that face the counting table and transactions at the safe and set the door to lock automatically upon exit.
Bolt your safe down to inhibit theft in the event of a break in and be sure to count the safe at shift changes. The safe should always balance between the banks out in the park, those in the safe, and any change. At shift changes, managers balance and make the necessary deposits. For example, you may have $3000 in change for a day’s shift, 10 stations for the day, each with $200 in it. Between what’s on the floor, and what’s in your safe, you’d know that you had $5000 in use, so anything over or under that amount would become part of your shift’s deposit, or taken from it, if under.
Step 4: Establish clear accountability.
Establish clear cash accountability at every position in your park. For every shift, you should have one cash manager (or one per safe if your park is large enough for multiple safes and rooms). That cash manager is solely responsible for everything that happens with cash during their shift.
The cash manager distributes all team member cash trays, provides change, and conducts necessary cash drops with cashiers. Then, at shift change, they work with the incoming cash manager to balance the safe before taking their deposit to the bank.
Just like with your safe access, limit access to team members cash drawers as well. Any time more than one person has access to either, you lose accountability. Team members should come to the cash room to get their bank, count it, and confirm the amount with the cash manager present. The cash manager can then escort them to their stations. Team members should never walk unescorted through the facility with cash.
When it’s time for a break, incoming team members can bring their own cash tray inserts to relieve a teammate, and a team member’s cash tray insert can stay locked in a separate cash drawer (if you use dual cash drawers), or be locked in the safe so they can go on break. No team member should ever access another’s cash drawer.
At the end of their shift, the cash manager returns to cash them out and bags up all receipts and payments taken for the day before going back to the cash room with the team member to cash out. It’s a good idea to leave the drawer open at the end of the day. In the event of a break in, assailants may try to take a cash drawer if they think there could be money in it, which results in property damage and inconvenience for you.
Step 5: Provide adequate oversight.
Your facility management system should provide you with the critical tools you need to inspect what you expect when it comes to cash control. Be sure you're routinely reviewing key reports and investigating anything that looks out of the ordinary. This will help you not only reduce theft but also help you identify training deficiencies or guest experience issues. Some great reports to review:
- Discount reports – review to see if one team member applies an above-average number of discounts onto transactions. This could mean they're applying discounts and pocketing the difference, or giving things away for free.
- Void reports – like discount reports, you're looking to see if an unusual number of transactions are being voided. This could mean theft, or it could mean that a team member is making a lot of point of sale mistakes and needs additional training.
- Return reports – look for things like the number of returns per team member per shift and the types of items being returned. It could mean you have a product issue, a guest experience deficiency, or a team member issue. Are you asking guests to sign for returns? If not, consider doing so and then use the collected information to contact guests and address service issues.
- Security audit logs – theft can happen at any level inside your facility. From time to time, it's a good idea to review audit logs and spot check personnel lists against schedules. This will help you identify excessive management overrides, refunds, or labor fraud.
The best processes contain clear accountability—but they’ll only work when you have a healthy culture based on trust and integrity, and leadership that makes team members want to be a part of it. That shouldn’t be too scary.
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