In Terms of Professional Development, Relevance is a Product of Evolution

In the digital space, the concept of evolution is a frequent topic of conversation. Naturally this makes a great deal of sense, as we are indeed in a state of constant flux as a society and in terms of the business and the profession that we represent. We read about, witness, and experience these changes on a daily basis and consider how this information holds relevance in terms of what we do and how we accomplish our objectives. But in terms of our own professional development, the ability to apply what we learn is just as important.

When we talk about the evolution of the retail industry or the loss prevention profession, we must also recognize that we’re not simply spectators—we are along for the ride. This requires that we continuously look for ways to evolve ourselves. We must assume responsibility and take an active role in the process, or else we’ll find ourselves trying to catch up—or left behind.

News is more than simply information. Daily events provide a barometer that can help measure changes and pressures in the industry, important retail trends, ongoing concerns, and new developments that can directly impact the retail industry in general and the loss prevention profession in particular. Every story provides us with an example that can help us learn and grow. This should further influence the way that we approach the news and what we do with the information once it is provided to us.

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There are loss prevention departments that regularly review internal incidents and ongoing news stories with their teams. There are leaders in every department that go out of their way to share events and educate their employees. While these efforts should definitely be applauded, it should by no means serve as our sole resource for this type of knowledge and education. Every loss prevention professional has the responsibility to take charge of their own professional development, which includes staying informed and applying information accordingly.

Often the news provides us with reminders rather than revelations. But this can be just as important to our day-to-day responsibilities as well as our long-term professional development. Learning is largely a product of experiences; and by looking for ways to make the news more relevant, we are also enhancing our own relevance as well. Let’s take a look at a few examples from recent news events and apply these incidents in a way that can benefit each and every one of us.

Organized Retail Crime

On a daily basis we are exposed to the evolution of organized retail crime and the different ways that these professional thieves have devised the means and methods to steal both products and information from our companies. As needs and opportunities continue to change, we see the criminal element responding based upon supply and demand—modifying the products that they attempt to steal based on the desires of their customers, the re-sell value of the products, and the opportunity and risk associated with obtaining the merchandise.

For example, we recently reported on a series of deadly robberies involving the theft of hair weaves. While this may seem like an odd item for organized retail crime teams to focus on, these weaves typically range in value from $120 to $170 and higher. They are in high demand, easy to sell, and virtually untraceable. They can be easily sold on Internet auction sites or other brick-and-mortar locations.

From a professional development standpoint, how can we then apply this information? Have we looked at current theft trends and compared those trends to products sold in our own stores? Have we applied the concepts of supply and demand, attempted to predict what merchandise might be popular targets of organized retail crime in our own stores, and looked for ways to prevent potential incidents? By applying the available information we are then better equipped to manage potential incidents before they occur.

Retail Robberies

Unfortunately, retail robberies also occur on a regular basis. But while some types of retail locations might be more likely to have robbery incidents, every retail location should be prepared for potential incidents—and those incidents can originate from some very different sources.

For example, we recently had a story about an eight-year-old boy that took a 9 mm handgun out of his mother’s purse, rode his bicycle to a nearby store, and attempted an armed robbery—pointing the loaded firearm at the store clerk and demanding money from the cash drawer using some very harsh and direct language. Fortunately no one was hurt, but the incident could have turned out much differently based on the way it was handled.

From a professional development standpoint, this provides us with a prime example that potential robbery incidents can strike at any time and can involve almost anyone. It emphasizes the importance of preparation and following designated policy and protocol in such situations to ensure that no one gets hurt in our stores. Such stories can provide valuable learning opportunities for our store teams and strong incentives to keep our customers and employees safe.

When Bad Decisions Trump Bad Stops

There are many reasons why most retail organizations choose not to allow store employees to make shoplifter apprehensions in their stores. Most often we point to concerns over following the five steps of the apprehension process, the possibility of making bad stops, and the opportunity for someone to get hurt when untrained and ill-advised situations occur in the stores. Unfortunately, other situations can develop as well.

Recently an assistant manager at a Tennessee store was arrested and charged with raping two women after he allegedly detained them for shoplifting merchandise, according to authorities. After witnessing the women shoplifting, the manager allegedly took them into a back office and told them to undress. After complying with his demands, they were allegedly fondled and forced to perform sex acts on the manager, according to reports. Police say that the women claim that they “were in fear for their safety and felt that they had no choice” but to comply with the manager’s demands. The manager then reportedly allowed the women to leave the store with some of the merchandise that they had attempted to steal.

Obviously there is a great deal that is wrong with this story. The incident allegedly occurred in a discount specialty-type location without a dedicated loss prevention team, and the manager reportedly acted on his own.

If the story is accurate, it clearly points to a twisted abuse of authority and criminal behavior. By the same respect, however, if the story for some reason was proven inaccurate, it shows what can happen when employees take such situations into their own hands, fail to have witnesses, and fail to follow company policies and protocol. As ugly as the story might be, from a professional development standpoint, these unfortunate circumstances can provide an important learning opportunity for both loss prevention professionals and the employees that they serve.

Grasp the Opportunity

Even for the most seasoned loss prevention professionals, professional development opportunities are presented each and every day. Technology, retail trends, cargo thefts, legislation, employee theft—these examples only scratch the surface of the possibilities and the potential when we are willing to apply information in a productive and constructive manner.

Learning and professional development must be an ongoing process if we want to remain relevant and productive. The industry provides us with examples every day, but it is still up to each one of us to take the steps and make it happen. Seizing the opportunity can be as simple as opening the newsletter on your smart phone. There simply are no more excuses.

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