A New LINK between Technology and Interview and Interrogation Training

The latest offering from Wicklander-Zulawski provides exclusive simulated interviewing technology to help investigators perfect their skills

To really consider yourself a professional and a craftsman at any skill, practice is a must. We benefit from practice by applying knowledge through interaction, connecting with the material on a deeper level and learning from the experience. This concept is no less true when it comes to interview and interrogation training, where performance and results are critically important at so many different levels. By striving for perfection through repetition, it hones our skills, enhances our understanding, increases our familiarity with the material, and results in better outcomes when it matters most.

In retail loss prevention, what it means to be a professional grows more complicated every day. There is an ongoing need to learn and evolve with the changing needs of the business; applying what we know—but constantly seeking new and better ways to make that knowledge relevant in a new age of technology, and a new era in retail. This applies to professionals at every level, and in every aspect of our growth and development.

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As a fundamental aspect of many loss prevention positions, interview and interrogation remains a skill set essential to the profession and the needs of the industry. In fact, most retailers require formal interview and interrogation training as a developmental standard for their loss prevention team members, and will not allow their loss prevention/asset protection team to conduct interviews without this training.

But is formal training enough? Even when we validate cognitive learning, how do we translate that knowledge into competency and skill as an interviewer?

To address the answers to these important questions, LP Magazine recently sat down with Shane Sturman, CFI, CPP, senior partner and CEO and Wayne Hoover, CFI, senior partner with Wicklander-Zulawski & Associates, to learn more about the LINK, a new simulated training experience recently launched by WZ.

LP Magazine: What exactly is THE LINK, and what led to the decision to pursue this new training tool?

Sturman: For quite some time, one of the most frequent questions that we were being asked by industry leadership was, what are people learning in our seminars? How do we validate learning? We had people going through our interview and interrogation training classes, but we still needed to come up with a way to further measure what they learned. And although we developed an online test, that still doesn’t necessarily translate into skill development.

That’s when we started looking into this new technology. In addition to validating what the interviewer was learning, we wanted to develop a means to take it to another level, further developing the interviewer’s skills and practicing the WZ method in a controlled setting that allows the interviewer to translate knowledge into skill. The LINK is designed to help fill the gap between the knowledge of interviewing and the actual skill of conducting the interview.

Every interviewer wishes they had actual practice before conducting the first interviews of his or her career. When I first started I had a mentor to help me learn how to interview, but I was still very uncomfortable in the interview setting. Like so many of us when we first started learning, I was thrown into the fire, practicing in real life settings which could increase the risk.

Hoover: I started out the same as Shane, but I had the good fortune to learn and practice my interviewing skills with Doug (Wicklander) and Dave (Zulawski) as I was developing my skills. I was literally role-playing with them. I had to interrogate Doug and Dave over and over again, and then usually had an opportunity to review the video and audio of my interrogations with them. They would play different roles, pushing me to learn to handle different individuals in different situations, but in a risk-free environment. It was a tremendous advantage that really helped me develop and build confidence as an interviewer.

It’s that experience that we want to offer the interviewer. I think we’ve always been good at providing all the knowledge that they need. But it’s translating that knowledge into skill—consistently following the non-confrontational techniques that they’ve learned in our seminars—really helps to develop that skill and provide the additional confidence they need to be successful in the field.

Sturman: Every organization knows and understands the risks that can come with new interviewers. This program provides a risk-free way for interviewers to practice their non-confrontational techniques at any time when they have access to the program. I would have loved to have this type of interview and interrogation training as I was developing my skills, and we believe others will, too.

LP Magazine: So how does the program work?

Sturman: Once you access the simulation, the program walks you through the training. You’re given a scenario as a baseline to start the simulation and you build it from there. There’s a tutorial that will tell you how to use the system, and once you’ve got that you’re ready to go.

The program begins with a typical theft from a company. On the screen, you are provided with several different options that are out of order and you have to select the right step, beginning with establishing a behavioral norm. You actually have to establish the behavioral norm before you can move onto the next step. You must accomplish each step in the right order or it will take points away from you.

There are three levels to the program providing a lot of different elements, each one more difficult than the next. Each interview changes based on statements made by the interviewer, making every new attempt more challenging. If a person errors it provides instant coaching on what they could do differently, but that error carries with them through the entire simulation, just like in real life. The interviewer cannot progress to the next level until they have achieved a minimum score. The program provides scoring and awards, but you’ve got to be skilled to graduate through the entire process.

We believe that this will allow people to master the 18 steps and give them the confidence that they need to sit down and successfully interrogate employees of the company. This interactive program also works well for audit and human resources. There is even a function to select a law enforcement version for interview and interrogation training .

Hoover: The program works with voice recognition, or you can select from a list that contains only one correct answer if you prefer. We recommend getting the headset and using the voice recognition function, as this will more closely provide the same experience as talking out loud to the subject.

As well as offering instant coaching throughout the program, you can actually go back and listen to the entire interview yourself to review how you did and where you can improve.

There is an administrative function that allows you to go back and evaluate the employees that you supervise to see how they did, when they started, how long it took them, the errors that they made, and if they’re making the same errors or are they correcting them. This gives you a management tool to monitor your team throughout the process and manage the success of all your people as they go through the simulation.

For example, the administrator can determine how much time was spent practicing and gauge whether areas of difficulty are improving. A final score for the interviewer’s effort is captured each time the simulation is run.

LP Magazine: What do you think is the greatest benefit to the interviewer?

Sturman: They’re given the opportunity to practice turning knowledge into skill without the repercussions of learning on the fly as you would in a real-life interview. If you can imagine conducting your first interview after going through our seminar and having your boss there to watch you perform with a live person, how intimidating is that?

When we are put in a position to practice and learn in real world situations, any mistakes that we make can have real consequences. This provides the opportunity to learn and grow as an interviewer in a more controlled setting, allowing additional practice but also offering the organization an opportunity to evaluate performance prior to an actual face-to-face interview.

You can access the program through laptops, desktops, tablets, smart phones—just about anywhere. You can practice on your cell phone while you’re waiting at the airport or in your car before going into an interview for example, rather than just reading from a script.

LP Magazine: How do you feel that this type of product will benefit retail organizations?

Sturman: Sending someone to a seminar is just a first step. We then have to consider the policies of the company, the setting where the interview takes place, and many other factors that can influence the result.

By allowing the interviewer to perform three to five interviews that are witnessed and evaluated by their supervisor, it can help to ensure that they’re conducting the interview correctly and according to company policy. Sitting in on three to five interviews in real-life terms is extremely time-consuming, and can be a strain on company resources as supervisors try to get their team up to speed and in compliance with company practices and policies. This program not only allows practice, but helps to improve confidence.

It also provides a consistent platform for both learning and performance. Different organizations may have individuals coming on board from many different backgrounds and styles, such as law enforcement or different retail programs. Most companies will not allow them to perform interviews until they’ve gone through our method of interviewing.

The trainer can go back and look at performance, see how people are scoring, and look at what they’ve done well and where they need improvements to help them become a better interviewer. You can see who’s committed to this and who’s not; who’s learning from it and how their scores have improved. This provides a fantastic administrative and training tool to help improve performance.

Hoover: The other issue that occurs is that there are individuals who have gone through our seminar 10 years ago or longer, and our courses and the techniques have evolved. Frankly, over time individuals can also develop a lot of bad habits that can influence outcomes. Because of tenure or title, these seasoned investigators are often tasked with mentoring new investigators and pass on all their bad habits and undo all the training we just provided in our seminar. With The Link, all new investigators will get consistent up to date practice that mirrors what was learned in the seminar.

LP Magazine: You mentioned that the program responds to the interviewer based on what they say during the simulation. Does this mean that the program will change each time you use it?

Hoover: Yes, exactly. There are more than 50 different variations and three different personalities that are built into this, and if you change one thing it can change the entire program. You can conduct almost the exact same interview and change some little piece of it and it can change the entire reflection of the interview you conduct. Because of so many variations, it would difficult to see the same interview twice.

For example, if you said something wrong at the beginning of an interview that can spider web through the entire interview process and affect the outcome. This would include the way that they respond and how you have to deal with that response. By the same respect, if the simulation uses someone with a different personality it can affect the program in a different way, as well as the outcome of the interview.

Sturman: This makes the whole program both educational and fun to go through. Not only does it allow you to practice different interviews in different situations with different personalities, but it also provides award badges based on your performance.

We did this with the hope that if people have fun with the interview and interrogation training. It will cause them to naturally want to go through this multiple times and practice, as opposed to being directed by a supervisor to do so. The badges and other incentives help make it competitive and fun as you compare your performance with other team members. If you’re having fun with something you’re definitely going to get more out of it; rather than if you’re forced to go through it.

LP Magazine: How long do you have access to the program?

Hoover: We want to allow the interviewer the opportunity to go back and practice and continue to develop their skills. This is a skill set that diminishes if it’s not used on a regular and consistent basis. If you haven’t conducted an interview for a couple of months, you get rusty. Having the ability to go back and do a practice run before you perform another interview can pay huge dividends and make a big difference in the result.

Sturman: Each individual has their own unique key, which allows us to track performance. Right now, it’s set up that the individual will have access to the program for an entire year so that they can continue to practice and improve their skills.

If the program was purchased by a company, the key is typically tied to the person’s company email address, so if they leave the company that will end their access to the program. By providing a unique key for every individual, it also allows supervisors to track individual performance and how each team member is doing with their skill development.

The program can be purchased by individuals, or in bundles by companies. However, we feel that it’s important that the individual have the basic knowledge on how to conduct the non-confrontational interview before using the program, so interviewers are required to have completed the WZ basic interview and interrogation training or the 10-hour course prior to purchasing the program and using the link.

Watch the video to learn more about this new program from Wicklander-Zulawski:

As technology continues to change the retail landscape, it’s no longer enough just to simply adjust to these changes when they land at our feet. We must learn to proactively look for ways to use these tools and make them work to our greatest advantage, shaping our careers and our future by discovering new and better ways to apply what we know, and learn what we need to learn.

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