What is the secret to a winning loss prevention team culture? This is a pretty lofty question. Before you ask, I’m not about to say there is a magic recipe or secret sauce, but there are certainly LP cultures operating out there that are winning combinations—an alchemy or cocktail blend that, shaken or stirred, delivers that warm feeling!
The word “culture” is tricky to define. My best shot at it is a system of shared values that a group considers productive in the achievement of a goal. Where performance-enhancing cultures are concerned, they are an almost magnetic-like force that brings everyone together and can weather the darkest storms. Without sounding too melodramatic, great loss prevention team cultures do just that. They drive high performance not only internally but also at all levels of the business.
To speak of our journey in pursuit of this elusive thing, I can tell you that getting there wasn’t without some bumps along the way. But to get to a place where our teams are aligned with the culture we set out to create and ultimately working synergistically with the rest of the business—the results for us have been revolutionary.
I believe there are three essential areas we need to address as we set about building loss prevention teams.
1. Finding out what the business really wants.
2. How we give it to them.
3. How we drive purpose.
Finding Out What the Business Really Wants
We often come from a place of trying to give our businesses what we, as LP leaders, think it needs in terms of people. The first question should rather be, what is culturally required to suit this business? From a hiring perspective, there are good reasons why many, including myself at one point, start out thinking about the skill set they have or short-term benefits of security work experience. Inevitably, though, as our primary goal is to influence others in the organization to avert risk, not first taking into consideration what is needed culturally can cause loss prevention departments to be ineffective.
To speak to some of the things that are important to us culturally—things like being “nice,” outgoing, and optimistic—as we started out hiring from the security industry in Europe, something we started to realize was that people in the security industry didn’t always fit this mold. If our primary focus is to hire people who could influence and develop our store teams, cultivate the kinds of relationships that could change the course, and perhaps even proactively lead them to victory—we recognized that not aligning on these values could prove costly.
We’ve all been there. We’ve hired someone who is great at what they do, a great investigator or leader at some level, but who just doesn’t fit with the people in our organizations. As with a square peg in a round hole, we can try to force it. But the reality is some of those values can be so deep-rooted, it can be almost unfair to try.
Giving It to Them
As the loss prevention concept continues to grow in Europe, things are getting better from a talent standpoint. Despite that, finding those who will be successful in LP and a cultural fit for our organization is hard. Naturally, with all of the required criteria, there has to be a compromise in finding the right fit. In weighing up the two, in our industry, someone’s skill set is clearly important, perhaps more so depending on the complexity of the work environment. In the end, if the values and behaviors we bring into our teams are not aligned to our organizational culture, they cause low-value relationships to form. Having experienced this many times throughout my career, we concluded there are things we can compromise on; culture is not one of them.
Adjusting our approach and prioritizing cultural fit was not without its challenges. That said, once we had the right people in place at a management level, coupled with some amazing recruitment and training programs, this allowed us the flexibility we needed to broaden our recruitment beyond the scope of the security talent pool. Attracting anyone from graduates to retail managers at entry level, this became a crucial part of our strategy and one that would go on to create the most synergistic and influential teams in our history. Not to say some of our best hires still came from the security industry, but with over 60 percent of our internal manpower coming from elsewhere, I can say this approach absolutely worked.
A Driving Purpose for Your Loss Prevention Team
I think there will always be core values that are central to any loss prevention team program—things like optimization and innovation, leadership and integrity, and collaboration and partnerships. Whatever your core values are, the old truism remains accurate: employees don’t turn to statements on the company website to look for clues on how to behave; they look to each other. For all of the culture we try to manufacture through the business, it’s those who represent our departments that can shape our perception and ultimate buy-in.
In short, people aren’t inspired by what we do as much as they are what we believe. We see this in successful companies all the time. Take Apple, for example. Why is it that people go crazy for their brand? Other companies are just as capable of producing good computers. The reason is they stand for something greater than their products and services. They believe in doing things differently. What they do serves as proof of what they believe, and people consequently buy from them. Drawing on that analogy, we can’t build a loss prevention team program of influence if people don’t buy into what we do.
Often we take our people, put a blindfold on them, spin them around a few times, and then expect them to pin the tail on the donkey. The truth is, our teams need to understand how their roles interlink with the broader goals of our organizations in order to develop the passion needed to divide and conquer. To that end, how we engage with our teams is essential. The cornerstone is how we communicate, structuring our interactions to ensure our teams feel connected with our broader mission and vision and, going further, making them a part of it. The result is an almost family-like bond that for us continues to drive a different level of commitment and performance.
Purpose also drives loss prevention teams in one other magical way. I’m often asked what would be the one thing we could do that could make all the difference. In two words, my response is “changing attitudes.” That’s it: the high art of LP. If we have people in our teams who can make change happen, whether in a store with the management team on a process, or in the boardroom gaining investment for a new program, it’s those proactive mechanisms that are what we’re primarily about. Everything else falls down the reactive scale in order of importance to a good LP program.
What’s the Secret Sauce?
Culturally speaking, what is required to build a group of influence? Leadership influencer Simon Sinek coined the phrase, “People don’t buy what you do; they buy why you do it.” We often talk of buy-in as a buzzword, but it’s important to look at the science. In simple terms, action is inspired as a result of what we believe rather than what we do.
There is one common denominator from one successful loss prevention team to the next (possibly the “secret sauce” we’re all looking for), and that is the sense of belonging to something greater than ourselves.
The nature of our industry often involves dealing with adversity. To succeed in an ever-changing risk environment, why we “do what we do” and, ultimately, our sense of purpose is everything. I have seen this countless times in many of the different teams I have had the privilege to come into contact with.
Having seen groups of people break through seemingly impossible challenges, posed by things like organized retail crime, and overcome them, I can say success is seldom influenced by resources, per se. Rather, the resourcefulness and creativity of our teams can overcome anything.
Whatever our mission, it has to go beyond sales and profits; it needs to stand for something greater—things like adding massive value to our customers’ lives and ultimately employees’ too, perhaps even contributing to our partners in the industry to protect one another globally. Whatever your mission, it’s those who have a strong sense of purpose that make the impossible possible.
If we are going to continue to be successful, we can no longer look at our organizations as departments, divisions, or even branch offices. We must think about loss prevention team culture more broadly, aligning ourselves with the value of collaboration and resolve to protect one another as the risk landscape continues to evolve into an ever-more sophisticated animal.
This article was originally published in LP Magazine Europe in 2016 and was updated May 2, 2017.