profession pr -fe-sh nn: a calling requiring specialized knowledge and often long and intensive preparation including instruction in skills and methods as well as in the scientific, historical, or scholarly principles underlying such skills and methods, maintaining by force of organization or concerted opinion high standards of achievement and conduct, and committing its members to continued study and to a kind of work which has for its prime purpose the rendering of a public service. – Merriam-Webster Unabridged Dictionary
If there was evolutionary theory applied to business labor, it might describe a particular job that begins as an hourly, single-focused pursuit aimed at a relatively small aspect of a large organization with minimal contribution to the overall success of the enterprise. As that job evolves, it expands into a more multidimensional pursuit with greater responsibilities, producing significant contributions to the companys success. At some point, the scope and importance of that job requires a level of understanding, skills, and commitment that it no longer is considered a labor, but a profession.
Applying this theory to loss prevention over the past thirty or more years, loss prevention is no longer focused on chasing down shoplifters in a store parking lot by individuals with minimal skills and education. Today loss prevention occupies a seat in the highest levels of the organization, playing an increasingly important role in the operations of the company, and contributing significantly to the bottom line success of the enterprise.
By all accounts, loss prevention is no longer a labor, but a profession. Just as bookkeepers became accountants who became CPAs, loss prevention has evolved to the point where the demands of the profession require a certification process.
For this reason, LossPrevention magazine and the Retail Industry Leaders Association (RILA) have partnered to launch an accredited loss prevention certification program.
What does certification mean and why is it important?
The primary purpose for certification is to establish a benchmark level of knowledge for those individuals employed in a particular pursuit. Certification communicates to employers and the public that the person who possesses a particular certification has proven that they have the basic skills, education, and experience to take on a particular task.
If someone is a certified public accountant (CPA), it implies that they possess a level of accounting knowledge to perform at a particular level in various financial roles. It implies that they know what a balance sheet is, how to read financial reports, how to communicate with other accountants, and a multitude of other specific skills that have been determined essential for success in that industry.
The same is true for loss prevention certification. It implies that someone who is certified in loss prevention.
- Understands the language of loss prevention, such as shrinkage, use of force, and civil recovery,
- Possesses basic skills required in the job, such as investigating, interviewing, and statement writing,
- Is familiar with the tools of the trade, such as CCTV and exception reporting, and
- Has other knowledge and experience to be successful as a loss prevention professional.
Certification is also a way to acknowledge a persons accomplishments and experience in their profession. Not only does it raise the stature of the individuals who are certified, it also raises the credibility of the industry as a whole. An industry that establishes a certification program is one that acknowledges the importance of individual and collective education, experience, and integrity.
An Industry Initiative
The need for loss prevention education and certification has been discussed among executives in the industry for years. Perhaps because of the daunting scope of the task, the time and financial investment required for development, or simply a lack of focus for pursuing the project, certification has not moved forward until now.
When LossPrevention magazine was launched in 2001, the primary motivation behind this publication was to provide a vehicle for educating the loss prevention professional and establish a focal point that the industry could rally around.
In our premier issue, we published our mission statement, which states in part, LossPrevention focuses on best practices and education content critical to the growth of the LP professional.
While certification was not our primary goal at the time, we envisioned that if the magazine could prove successful, other educational avenues such as certification could grow out of that success.
Thanks to the great support weve received from retailers, vendors, industry associations, and, most importantly, our readers, the magazine has steadily established itself as a focal point in the industry.
With that, we began discussing the idea of certification with numerous parties inside the industry, seeking support and partners to take the next step. RILA stepped forward, in part, because of their own mission statement.
Two years ago we changed our name from the International Mass Retailers Association, says Rhett Asher, RILAs vice president of retail operations and loss prevention. When we became RILA, we picked three key words that we wanted to doeducate, innovate, advocate. We think this certification program will do all three.
But this initiative is not intended to be owned by RILA, LossPrevention, or any other entity. As Britt Wood, RILAs senior vice president of industry relations, told the attendees at their recent loss prevention conference, RILA is driving certification right now, but that doesnt mean we dont want other people on the bus. Weve already talked to other trade associations about being involved. We want this to be a truly industry initiative because thats whats best for the industry.
Centered on Education
At the heart of this certification initiative is education. Perhaps the most significant impact of a certification program is creating a body of knowledge that is common to companies across the industry.
To determine what topics are essential to certification and to ensure that those topics represent a cross-section of the industry, a Loss Prevention Certification Council (LPCC) has been set up. This council will provide the overall direction for the certification program as well as decide on what the core courseware will address.
Initial members of the LPCC include representatives from the following companies: AutoZone, Best Buy, CVS/pharmacy, Dollar General, Food Lion, Jack in the Box, Kohls, Limited Brands, Lowes, Michaels Stores, NIKE, Office Depot, Pathmark, PEPBOYS Auto, Safeway, Target, TJX, Walgreens, and Wal-Mart.
It is important to note that this group represents diverse segments of the industry, including department and specialty stores, pharmacies, supermarkets, fast food, home improvement, automotive, mass merchandisers, and discounters.
A series of courseware will be created that addresses a wide range of topics. The courseware will be delivered on-line so that LP personnel anywhere can educate and prepare themselves for the certification examinations.
The content of the courseware will be aimed at two distinct audiencesthose who are new to loss prevention and those with experience in the industry. To denote these two levels, the program is broken into LPCqualified and LPCcertified.
LPCqualified. It is important for loss prevention organizations to get new people up to speed quickly, whether that new hire is fresh out of college, ex-military, retired law enforcement, or transferring from other areas of retail.
The LPCqualifed curriculum will introduce the novice LP employee to the basics of loss prevention in the retail environment. The courseware will be segmented in four categories:
- Business. This section will focus on topics for becoming a better business person, such as professionalism, code of conduct, work ethic, building relationships communications skills, sensitivity skills, and conflict resolution.
- Retail. This segment will address topics specific to understanding the retail environment, such as basic retail business operations, understanding shrink, shortage awareness, establishing a controlled environment, customer service, pre-employment screening, general safety and OSHA awareness, and risk management.
- Core LP. This section will address the what, how, when, and where of basic LP tactics and tools, such as identifying types of shrink, observations skills, ORC awareness, food safety, physical security, emergency procedures, courtroom procedures, auditing, and interviewing and interrogation.
- Scenarios. The final segment will use practical application scenarios to bring all of the previous learnings together.
The person who completes the LPCqualified curriculum will be quizzed throughout the on-line courseware. Once they are through the courseware, they are eligible to take a proctored examination to show their comprehension of the material. Successfully passing the examination will earn that person a certificate of qualification in understanding basic loss prevention principles. This is the first step to becoming certified.
LPCcertified. Full certification in loss prevention will require more than simply passing educational courseware. Certification requires some number of years experience working in the field. At this point, the experience level has not been finalized. It will also require passing more advanced courseware.
The LPCcertified curriculum is targeted at those LP professionals who have worked in the industry for several years, who may be district or regional managers, and who want to advance to the next level in their career.
The proposed curriculum for LPCcertified will also be broken into four categories that include a mixture of LP-specific and business and management-related topics that will help produce a well-rounded retail business professional.
- Business. This section will address more advanced business skills, such as building a shrink program, budgets, return on investment, financial analysis, logistics, vendor relationships, information security, and risk management.
- People. This segment will focus on so-called soft skills, such as leadership, mentoring, personnel development, hiring and interviewing, performance reviews, managing a diverse
workforce, and business and personal ethics.
- Core LP. This segment will address more advanced loss prevention strategies, such as Internet, credit card, and gift card fraud, supply-chain security, operational and shrink
control audits, investigative interviewing, organized retail crime, awareness programs, and specialized controls, including food, drug, firearm, and hazardous materials.
- Crisis. This section speaks to those increasingly important topics surrounding crisis management, including homeland security, handling workplace violence incidents, disaster recovery, business continuity, and crisis communications.
Examination. Once the LPCcertified curriculum is successfully completed, the certification candidate may take a proctored exam to earn full certification.
What is meant by a proctored exam? Some certification programs require that candidates travel to specific locations, such as the site of a national association meeting, to take their exam. This requirement can add significant cost to obtaining certification. In order to eliminate that travel requirement, we will contract with a national organization, such as H&R Block, who has locations in most major cities. Such companies can administer the test to meet the requirements of the credentialing authority.
Successfully passing the examination will earn the candidate full certification and the right to use the designation LPC after their name, such as John R. Smith, LPC.
Developing the Program
A great deal of work is required to develop this two-tiered certification program. The Loss Prevention Certification Council, with the assistance of RILA and LossPrevention magazine, are directing this development and making major recommendations for how the program will work.
Much of the guts of the program will be developed through subcommittees who are focused on particular aspects of the program. The following subcommittees have been established to date:
- Educational content
- Requirements and exemptions
- Vendor and sponsors
As industry practitioners work to develop this program, a certification testing specialist will be contracted to develop the examinations. This will ensure that the examinations are fair and comprehensive and meet all accreditation requirements.
Administering the Program
While the LPCC is focusing on content, LossPrevention is working on setting up the online courseware delivery system as well as the other administrative parts of the program.
With the large response anticipated by this initiative, managing and administering the program effectively and efficiently on an ongoing basis is important. The magazine will handle the application process, verifying candidate identity and credentials, and maintaining records.
Since LP certification will have value in the industry, potential employers will want to ensure that a job candidate has, indeed, fulfilled all the certification requirements to claim the LPCqualified or LPCcertified designation. A database will be maintained of all candidates and those who successfully complete the process to allow employers to verify this information during preemployment screening.
Certification does not stop once a person has passed the LPCcertified examination and earned the LPC designation. As with other certifications, certified professionals must continue to educate themselves and be involved in the industry in order to maintain their certification.
We have to be a continuous learning organization, says Frank Johns, vice president of loss prevention for Office Depot. Gone are the days in LP where you simply aim to get by. We have to be agents of change along with the rest of the organization. Continuing education allows that change.
While the specific ongoing educational requirements have not be finalized at this point, requirements, such as attending local, regional, or national seminars and conferences, publishing articles in LossPrevention or other publications, and taking more advanced courseware, are samples of the types of requirements that will likely be necessary to maintain your certification.
To help with ongoing education and to stimulate participation, a number of vehicles are under consideration:
- Regional seminars and classes on specific topics, such as organized retail crime, leadership skills, and homeland security.
- Online webinars and presentations on similar subjects.
- Advanced Internet-based courseware on new and emerging topics.
- Newsletter and magazine articles.
- Chat rooms and online forums.
Some of these mechanisms may already exist and others may need to be developed. At this point, the need for continuing education tools has been recognized by the council and will be announced as they become available.
Timeframe for Implementation
Given the magnitude of the task, an aggressive, yet obtainable, timeline has been agreed upon for launching the various segments of the certification program.
- LPCqualified courseware – First quarter 2007
- LPCqualified prep course and exam- Second quarter 2007
- LPCcertified courseware- Second quarter 2007
- LPCcertified prep course and exam- Third quarter 2007
- Restaurant and convenience store segments- Fourth quarter 2007
At this early stage of development, numerous questions and issues need to be addressed. Here are some of those questions that the Loss Prevention Certification Council is currently considering.
What will certification cost? Everyone agrees that the certification program should be affordable to everyone who wants to participate, whether the costs are paid by the individual or their company. The costs will be based on a fair assessment of the costs to develop and maintain a quality program.
Can other certifications, such as CFI, CFE, or CPP, substitute for certain requirements? Given that segments of the courseware may overlap the requirements for other certifications, it is likely that accommodations will be made. The requirements and exemptions subcommittee is addressing this question.
Will individuals who have been in loss prevention for a long while be required to take the basic courseware? The requirements and exemptions subcommittee is also tackling this question. However, experienced LP managers and executives will certainly be able to skip LPCqualified requirements and earn other exemptions toward certification.
Will loss prevention vendors be able to be certified? Certainly, anyone in the industry will be able and encouraged to take the LPCqualified portion of the program. We believe that individuals who provide products and services to LP organizations can benefit from understanding the issues that their clients deal with. Vendors will have to meet all other prerequisites, such as the number of years experience working in LP, before becoming fully certified.
Is membership in RILA required to be certified or to be involved in developing the certification program? Absolutely not. No association or organizational affiliation is required to participate. While RILA is cosponsoring this program, other industry associations have been invited to join to make this a true industry initiative. Already, the LPCC is made up of companies with multiple association ties.
What happens next? There is a tremendous amount of work to be done. You are encouraged to volunteer your time and expertise to help. In the meantime, we will provide ongoing updates along the way in the magazine and in our e-newsletter. Please contact the magazine or RILA with your thoughts on this important industry initiative.