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Fighting Workplace Fraud in the Age of Millennials


Fighting Workplace Fraud in the Age of Millennials

Get the Y Generation involved in your battle to knock out corporate fraud.

A new kind of worker is moving into the workforce, and that’s both good and bad news for employers fighting workplace fraud. As Generation Y (or Millennials) represents a larger portion of the incoming workforce, the corresponding shift in values and attitudes means that employers may need to adopt new approaches to fighting workplace fraud.

“They are going to be influencing our world for decades, because they are so big, will have so much spending power, are going to be outnumbering all the other generations,” says Sherry McCourt, a CFE, private investigator, speaker and trainer.

“They’re influenced by the things they see around them, the information that you give them. They’re information junkies,” McCourt said in a talk at the ACFE Canadian Fraud Conference in November.

The Bad News

Millennials have been shaped by a world that has included the 9/11 terrorist attacks, powerful hurricanes, devastating tsunamis and reality tv. It’s not surprising, then, that they harbor a certain level of cynicism.

A study of 8,000 people carried out by the Josephson Institute in 2009 found that:

…teens are five times — and young adults (18-24) are three times — more likely than those over 40 to hold the cynical belief that lying and cheating are necessary to success. While only about 10% of the respondents over 40 expressed deep cynicism about the viability of honesty, 38% of those 18-24, and 51% of those 17 and under, are in or will soon enter the work world with the belief that lying and cheating are necessary.

While one study shouldn’t scare us too much, it still makes sense to keep these results in mind when thinking about anti-fraud policies of the future.

McCourt paints a picture of a generation coddled by their Baby Boomer and Generation X parents. They’ve grown up in a world where everybody’s a winner and success is inevitable. It’s not surprising that some of them have unrealistic expectations of how the work world is going to treat them.

They are accustomed to things happening quickly and they are impatient, she says. In fact, they will have up to seven different careers in their lives.

And they are smart and curious, says McCourt. “They are 49 per cent more interested in global politics than other generations.”

The Good News

She points to Millennials’ need for challenge and growth as an opportunity to get them involved in the fight against fraud. “We can still shape them and influence them. Because they are so hungry to learn we have that ability,” she says. The key is to package the message in a way that appeals to them.

“Millennials are far more savvy about manipulation than their predecessors, says McCourt. “They don’t fall for marketing tactics of yesteryear. They are smart and know when they are being sold to.” Consequently, anti-fraud messages need to be meaningful, appeal to their intellect and challenge them.

“Generation Y has learned their values from social media, rather than TV,” says McCourt. “Technology is their defining generational influence.” It makes sense, then, to use this medium to reach them with the anti-fraud message.

How to Reach Them

“Gen Y is learning-oriented, so we should start shaping, influencing and educating them about fraud. We need to show them how it’s going to affect their world and we need to use their language, we need to use their venues, their world,” she says.

She suggests providing information online and using short, relevant pieces of information, with lots of resources. Anti-fraud online communities, and even phone apps related to fraud prevention appeal to Millennials.

Employers looking to the future can harness the considerable powers of the next generation of workers to detect and prevent fraud. Says McCourt: “Don’t let them use their powers for evil.”