Writing a loss prevention manual—or rehabilitating a long-forgotten one—is no easy task. But trying to operate without a robust guiding document can also be complicated.
Consider the experience of one executive who, upon arrival at his new post, found that the last department manual had been written on a typewriter. Soon after, he twice found himself deposed in legal cases undergoing a grilling: “So, is it your policy to…?” “Can you show me where it’s written that…”
He said he was forced to pull out his antique collection of procedures and point to generic staff instructions, like ‘Respond to all incidents.’ Which, he admitted, “is not a policy.” Determined to never again be unprepared in such a situation, he embarked on a yearlong journey to create a complete, detailed department manual.
It’s not a short process, agrees Karl Langhorst, CPP, CFI, former corporate director of loss prevention for Kroger, who overhauled the loss prevention manual when he arrived at the grocery chain in 2008. “Everything that we’ve done as part of the loss prevention program has taken longer than I would have ever imagined,” he told LP Magazine. “However, I consider that a good thing. For example, when we put together our loss prevention manual, we collected manuals from every single division and chose the policies that we felt were the best of the best to create a single policy manual that serves the entire organization. It was an arduous process, but I’m absolutely convinced it was worth it.”
Getting organized. Understanding how different manuals will combine to detail the entirety of the loss prevention function is an initial step. A corporate manual, which applies to everyone, may spell out certain responsibilities of the LP department, such as: “Loss prevention will be responsible for all cash handling.” And a company training manual may detail the LP-related training that staff receives. The loss prevention manual can complete the picture and comprise the bulk of departmental policies and procedures, detailing exactly who, when, and how loss prevention will handle cash, for example.
A loss prevention manual typically describes merchandise control strategies and details the various methods a retailer employs to protect people and products. Exactly what an LP manual contains will vary based on a retailer’s size, the manual’s scope, and unique aspects of the retailer. Below are sections that can be included in a department manual and some advice from practitioners who have taken on the challenge of reworking their department’s guiding document.
- Foreword. This is a good place to identify who the manual is for, to spell out the theme for the book, and to include a departmental mission statement. Most of what an LP executive would need for this section is probably already written somewhere in company and department documents.
- Department policies. Some practitioners suggest putting the most important policies up front, so that if someone were to read no further, they would be able to understand the primary issues addressed by the department.
- Department organization and responsibilities. Detail every LP department position, including job descriptions, and include an organizational chart that details the chain of command for all LP roles. Most of the information for completing this section is probably already maintained by human resources, but any missing positions should have job descriptions written for them.
- Employee policies. This section should include all employee-related policies for the loss prevention department, such as new hiring procedures and expectations for behavior.
- LP duties and responsibilities. It’s commonplace for a general understanding to exist regarding what different LP workers are responsible for, but these should be written down and described in detail.
- Procedures for systems and programs. The manual should be identify each component, such as “Lost and Found” or “CCTV System,” identify its function, and how staff should interact with it or manage it.
- Legal section. Some executives suggest describing the laws and codes that govern the work of loss prevention staff and how they apply to your retail organization’s policies. These may include areas such as the use of force, searches, and trespassing. A similar section on other laws your department may need to deal with, such as accessibility issues for individuals with disabilities, may also be useful.
- Emergency procedures. The company emergency management plan will cover everyone’s role in responding to an emergency, but it may be helpful to have the loss prevention manual cover exactly what the LP department will do in specific emergency events, from an active shooter incident to a shopper who falls ill.
- Incident response. Identify department procedures for dealing with all different types of incidents, such as the discovery of property damage or an intoxicated shopper. If not covered in the section related to security laws, this section may also want to identify the department’s process for investigating crime and incidents.
- Documentation. Detail the specific manner in which reports should be written, filed, and retained.
Tips for success. One executive recommended—for both clarity and to make updates and additions easier—to make each subhead section a separate page of the document. For example, “Section 3.3.5. Court Demeanor” would start on a new page and open with a summary paragraph, such as: “Loss prevention officers will occasionally be called upon to testify…” After the introduction, the section should spell out specific expectations and procedures in bullet points, such as: “Answer all questions truthfully…” and so on.
Some other tips for success and timesaving:
- Issue new policies separately to loss prevention staff while also alerting them that it can be found in the loss prevention manual in Section XYZ.
- Delegate the writing of LP procedures that will be included in the manual to the supervisors, managers, trainers, administrators, and others who perform the duties. For many others, LP leaders will be able to get the material from relevant departments, such as getting LP standards for staff grooming from the human resources department.
- Involve human resources and the legal department early in the process of developing the LP manual. Both groups should also approve it.
- Create a plan for distributing and creating awareness of the LP manual, including how you will make staff aware of parts of the manual for which they have responsibilities.
- Involve other departments in the manual writing process if their interaction with the LP department or their staff is going to be addressed.