In many ways it seems like only yesterday that the Loss Prevention Foundation (LPF) took flight and started a new chapter for the loss prevention industry.
But over the course of those ten years, the retail loss prevention industry has embraced a new professional standard and a commitment to excellence through the development and implementation of the academically accredited and internationally accepted LPQualified and LPCertified certification programs.
Yet having watched the Loss Prevention Foundation grow from an idea and mature into what it has become today has been an exciting and humbling journey for loss prevention professionals from across the industry. Hundreds of industry leaders and subject matter experts contributed to the development of the certification programs, and countless more have continued to contribute to the value of these living learning programs as the entire retail industry has continued to evolve.
With the support of a strong Board of Directors comprised of many of the industry’s top leaders and solution providers, various committees that support the goals, functions, and objectives of the industry, and a volunteer force made up of loss prevention professionals and solution providers from across the industry and across international borders the dedicated team at the Loss Prevention Foundation has a great deal to celebrate this year.
Leading up to this year’s celebration in Sanibel this month, LP Magazine recently sat down with Gene Smith, LPC, president of the Loss Prevention Foundation to lead us on a quick trip along the path of the LPF to reflect upon where we are, where we’ve been, and where we’re headed.
Why exactly was the Loss Prevention Foundation established?
Smith: For many years’ industry practitioners deliberated over what was needed in order to elevate our industry into a true profession. We wanted to take the necessary steps to establish industry standards and improve industry education. Together we share a wealth of information and experience, and all of those involved in the establishment of the LPF shared a vision and mission to set the bar high for loss prevention professionals from across the industry. We truly saw the need to create uniform industry standards that would validate the professional stature of loss prevention professionals.
We also wanted to increase the number of college graduates within the industry and knew we needed to do a better job of promoting our profession to the academic community. In order to further support this important industry goal, we saw great value in creating a true industry certification; creating learning programs that were not only academically accepted, but created with direct input from leading college professors from across the nation that would contribute to the programs and help us establish academic standards and a learning resource accepted in the academic community.
And while it is critically important to enhance the skills of our current loss prevention professionals, we also wanted to bridge the gap; allowing us to do a more effective job recruiting veterans, military in transition service members and law enforcement personnel looking for a second career in our industry.
After extensive research of other reputable professions, it was clear that an independent third party not-for-profit organization that could represent all segments of retail loss prevention and asset protection was needed. We envisioned an organization that could create a sense of community; creating a membership program for industry professionals and offering other important industry initiatives such as a scholarship program and a benevolent fund. More importantly, we felt that implementing a two-tiered certification program was the best way to go. This simply headlines some of the many objectives that led to the establishment of the Loss Prevention Foundation, The primary vehicle to help us accomplish this mission was the development of the certifications, LPQualified (LPQ) and LPCertified (LPC).
How did you determine what was going to be a part of the certifications? Why did you decide to create two separate certifications?
Smith: All of that was determined following the results of a needs assessment study; looking at the key components and the core competencies that are necessary to make a loss prevention professional successful.
We determined there was a need for an entry-level course to facilitate opportunities for someone from store operations, internal audit, or other areas of the business as they look to transition over into loss prevention. In addition, it was determined that there was a need to provide education to the solution provider community. There needed to be a fundamental, base-level course.
If we wanted to increase the number of college graduates entering our profession. we recognized that college graduates coming from the traditional criminal justice programs were lacking important industry-specific content. We wanted to create a relevant course that would blend and bridge the gap of knowledge for those coming out of a more traditional criminal justice background and into retail.
We also knew that colleges weren’t going to go out there and develop specific loss prevention degrees overnight, because that is a very expensive and time-consuming proposition, and it takes significant resources to develop a quality degree at the university level. Being able to utilize our LPQ serves as a foundation for universities to be able to develop those concentrations in loss prevention, which is the first step in getting universities to create full-fledged degrees.
This was also a way to get folks with a more general background in retail more interested and engaged in loss prevention as a career option. It demonstrates that someone is seriously interested in getting into the business. Having taken the course, they’re not sitting in front of the person that they’re interviewing with just to get a job. They’ve done something tangible and meaningful by studying our profession.
It also helps the individual to better prepare for the profession, and giving them a better understanding of what they’re getting into. Consequently, when they do get hired fewer end up leaving because they had a better understanding of the profession going into it. It also helps retailers expedite the orientation into the business.
LPC is really the industry’s premier professional certification, similar to what most industries have. Most industries have one primary level certification that identifies you as a certified professional.
There were hundreds of individuals that were involved in putting together each of the certifications. Why did LPF go to that extent?
Smith: We wanted to make sure that we had a broad-based input representing all of the different segments of retail. We wanted to make sure that the foundation represents all of the different facets of retail, not just a certain segment of retail. Retail is made up of many different segments and in order to have subject matter experts representing all of those segments we wanted to make sure that we reached out and attempt to represent the industry as a whole. So much of the industry is broad based. Sharing all of these different perspectives helped us create a course that more globally represents the industry
What would you say to those out there that say that they don’t need certification?
Smith: Certification is a means to demonstrate our true understanding of the business, validating that we do in fact have the baseline knowledge to find success throughout the industry. For example, does an individual truly have a base of knowledge that 15 years represents, or do they have one year of experience repeated 15 times?
What determines whether we are simply a group of industry practitioners or true loss prevention professionals? Having an implemented, acceptable certification is a necessary step in validating what we do is a true profession. There is no other profession out there that is considered a legitimate profession that doesn’t have professional certification. You wouldn’t want to have your taxes done by someone that wasn’t a certified professional. You would never buy life insurance from someone who wasn’t a certified professional. You wouldn’t buy a house from a realtor that wasn’t certified. Our teachers are required to be certified even after obtaining a Master’s degree in education. Internal audit, safety, risk management, and human resources professionals have had certification requirements for many years. Without professional certification, we are nothing more than a group of industry practitioners.
Professional certification enhances your reputation. It strengthens your credibility and instills a sense of pride. It demonstrates a higher level of commitment to the field. It validates that you have a certain level of proficiency, knowledge, and skill. It increases opportunity for career advancement. More importantly, most obtain knowledge that they can immediately use in their current position.
What are some of the benefits for employers? It increases the overall level of competency for your employees. It demonstrates that your organization wants only the most competent and proficient industry professionals. It’s often used as a factor in making employment decisions, with many companies listing certification as a preferred requirement, ensuring that the employee has a certain level of knowledge in the industry. It helps instill a sense of confidence. With an examination process created and validated by psychometrician PhD’s, it offers the only accurate means available to document one’s competency. It also has and will continue to be an element in reducing risk in litigation allowing an employer’s team members to be recognized as certified professionals.
Why do you think that the Loss Prevention Foundation has been able to sustain itself at such a high level?
Smith: From our early beginnings we’ve reached out for industry input and support from a wide spectrum of retailers that all agreed on the importance of certification. Secondly, we took the time and made the effort to do it right. We developed a quality product. A tremendous amount of research went into creating the certification programs. We had academic involvement to help ensure that we created courses that were academically accredited. We made sure that we were taking all of the necessary steps to build quality programs that would be successful, productive, and relevant; and that comes through in our results. Simply put, it was something that was needed, it was developed it in the right way, and it was the right time to do it.
We also continued our validation by building relationships with industry-supporting universities like the American Public University, American Military University, Mississippi College, Northern Michigan University, University of Indianapolis, University of Florida and others; many offering academic credits towards degrees for being LPQ or LPC certified. We have provided critical guidance towards the creation of concentrations in loss prevention and getting universities to grant other educational discounts for our professionals.
Becoming involved with education changing organizations like the Institute for Professional Certification and Accreditation (IPCA) an organization dedicated to the assurance of quality certification and education in Loss Prevention/Asset Protection, Retail Security and Security Services has also had it positive impact on LPF. IPCA is dedicated to assuring the credential presented for employment or consideration for academic acceptance has merit. All of these have served as resources for us to maintain the highest standards possible in delivering a quality certification to the profession.
Certified professionals have gained valuable knowledge that reinforced the value of the product; knowledge that could be immediately applied to their current positions which ultimately demonstrates the true value of learning. All of this together confirms the value of the programs. It sends a powerful message, and others are listening.
What do you see for the future of the LPF?
Smith: There are many exciting things that the entire loss prevention industry should look forward to seeing.
- We will be implementing a state of the art course delivery platform with improved navigation and administrative tools; improving the student experience and administrative employer support.
- There will also be continued expansion and implementation of certification from within the United States—and internationally as well. There is a tremendous amount of expansion opportunities for our professional certification based upon the current demand.
- The creation and implementation of more industry-specific courses that are relevant to more specialized areas of the retail loss prevention profession are currently in the works.
- Other enhanced programs aimed at supporting and elevating the profession so we are equal to or better than other related retail segments are also under development.
As is true throughout the industry, there are tremendous opportunities on the horizon. While we’ve enjoyed the ride over the past ten years, we are even more excited to see what the next ten years will bring—and the ten years after that.