The retail landscape is changing every day, with new ways to shop, pay for goods, interact with customers, and deliver commodities to the consumer. We have innovative items for sale that are changing the world we live in, creative services that can deliver to your car door or your front door, and amazing technology that allows us to scan and purchase merchandise with a phone and a fingertip. With every revelation comes new opportunities for growth and invention—and new challenges for the new generation of loss prevention/asset protection.
The evolution of loss prevention is an ongoing and important topic that draws considerable attention across the profession. As has become the norm throughout the industry, a proactive approach rather than a reactive response has become the method of choice in our ongoing quest for a seat at the table and a voice in the room. We are looking to the future and exploring the many ways that our role may change to meet the emphatic needs of a transforming business.
However, as we look to the future, we can’t overshadow the importance of where we are today. The fact is, we are deep into a new generation of loss prevention. Our role in the field, our place in the business, and our seat at the table have all progressed well beyond the responsibilities and expectations that were conventional prior to the new millennium. Our commitment to growth and dedication to collaboration and partnership have offered a new perspective of our significance within the retail landscape.
We are entering a new chapter as a profession and with the dynamic changes that are currently taking place across the retail industry, loss prevention professionals must have a shared mission and vision as we drive forward. But as we take our next steps, when considering the many important subjects that need our attention and support, are we on the same page?
Are the policies and objectives defined at the corporate level the same messages being implemented in the field? Do we see critical subjects under the same light? Do we agree on what’s most important? How should that influence our decision-making?
This year LP Magazine, the Loss Prevention Foundation, and leaders from across the loss prevention industry have come together to explore just how the loss prevention community perceives key subjects facing the profession today, and whether we share a common theme across all levels of leadership.
The 2019 Survey
As the industry has evolved, doors have opened to reveal a new and exciting culture. Today’s loss prevention professional is expected to be multidimensional, open-minded, global-thinking, enterprising, and intelligent, serving as an integral component of the retail world and part of the foundation for a successful business plan. The retail enterprise understands and respects the importance of protecting a company’s assets against the challenges of total retail loss. This has encouraged a new and improved retail industry where effective loss prevention strategies are viewed as an integral part of a successful business model.
While tremendous strides have been made, we must maintain our focus and attention on every aspect of what we do. Asset protection is not a singular function but a binding objective that is a key aspect of profit enhancement. As part of a global retail culture, this way of thinking must be shared across the loss prevention community and supported by company leadership. There will always be things to work on. There will always be different approaches and opinions on how things should be done or what priorities should come first. But when it comes down to it, loss prevention professionals at all levels of leadership should have a fundamental agreement—or at least an understanding— of what we do, where we are, and where we’re going. Relatively speaking, if we’re not on the same page, it makes it much more difficult to move forward.
The goal of the 2019 survey is to provide an objective window into the thoughts, ideas, and opinions of loss prevention professionals at all levels of leadership regarding these key areas and open doors for additional discussion. By gaining a more comprehensive understanding of how loss prevention professionals collectively and independently perceive these important questions—and whether we see these issues in the same light—perhaps we can spark fresh thoughts and ideas on the best ways to move forward and how we can best address these topics to further enhance our loss prevention teams.
The Question-Writing Process
The survey itself was constructed by leaders across the loss prevention industry to provide a list of questions that they felt represented important and productive topics relevant to the ongoing goals and objectives of the loss prevention profession. Leaders representing many different types of retail backgrounds and a diverse scope of retail organizations were involved in the development process. Several of these leaders further encouraged key members of their teams to participate in the process as well, resulting in a wide spectrum of topics.
For practical purposes this was then narrowed to a pool of fifty-five questions, with the final product submitted to these leaders for additional feedback prior to distribution. All of the those participating in the question-writing process have remained anonymous.
Invitations to participate in the survey were extended through mailing lists, extensive social media outlets, and LP Magazine’s LP Insider. Industry leaders representing retailers across the country were also contacted directly and encouraged to share the survey with all members of their loss prevention teams.
Participation was encouraged for all those involved in the loss prevention and asset protection profession and those in roles directly related to the profession. All participants were informed that their participation would remain anonymous to further encourage honest, open, and complete responses.
While department store and specialty retailers were most common, respondents with retailers across the industry were widely represented.
Collecting and Reporting Survey Results
Construction of the survey and the collection of survey results was managed through a professional survey platform to further protect the accuracy of the results, the integrity of the process, and the anonymity of the survey respondents.
Well over 600 loss prevention professionals participated in the survey, representing different levels of experience, diverse backgrounds, different positions, different aspirations, and every level of career responsibility.
Only minor edits were made to respondents’ comments to correct spelling and grammar, further protect the anonymity of the respondents, and alleviate similar concerns. Otherwise, the thoughts and opinions shared in these comments are strictly those expressed by the individual respondents as they completed the survey.
The content summarized here represents a high-level overview of the survey results. Those interested in a more detailed perspective of survey results and comments should download the full report on the survey.
The process of career development is important in many ways, with the need for both employees and employers to be prepared, keep up with the changing environment, and respond accordingly. Employees need to upgrade their skills and competencies on an ongoing basis to meet current and future demands, whereas organizations must hire, develop, and retain employees who can successfully handle those changing needs and move the business forward. Ultimately, this opens doors to new and different opportunities for all involved.
How do loss prevention professionals feel about their career prospects and the need to continue to develop and refine professional skill sets? Several questions focused on gauging responses concerning this topic.
- Loss prevention professionals at every level of leadership feel they have the opportunity to further their careers in loss prevention if they choose to do so, with those in high-level positions slightly more confident in their prospects.
- Generally speaking, loss prevention professionals at all levels of leadership tend to feel that they have the respect and support of supervisors regarding career aspirations
- Overall, 75 percent of those participating in the survey indicate that they have had one or more mentors that have influenced their professional careers. This trend appears to be fairly consistent at every level of loss prevention leadership, with the numbers increasing slightly at the higher levels. Many comments supported the concept of mentorship programs as a development tool.
- Career growth and development remains a primary objective of most loss prevention professionals. In general terms, loss prevention professionals at all levels of leadership strongly emphasize that they seek out opportunities for continuing education to support growth and investment in their careers.
- Loss prevention professionals at all levels support an ongoing commitment to professional growth and development through the certification process. Overall, nearly 70 percent of those participating in the survey have either earned an industry-related certification or are currently pursuing an industry-related certification, and just over 1 in 5 indicate that they hold multiple certifications. Those at the higher levels of leadership were slightly more likely to hold these designations.
- Similarly, loss prevention professionals at all levels of leadership showed an interest in pursuing one or more of the industry certifications over the next twelve months. Interest in pursuing these certifications did vary slightly based on the particular level of leadership involved, with those at the higher levels of leadership slightly less likely to show interest in pursuing additional certifications. However, this would actually align with those leaders indicating that they have already earned designations.
- Overall, 85 percent of those participating in the survey agree that using online tools and social media is an important way to remain educated and current. Interestingly, this trend appears to increase in importance among LP professionals as they progress up the career ladder.
- Loss prevention professionals at all levels of leadership tend to agree that two or three regional loss prevention conferences per year designed for up-and-coming professionals would be a valuable, effective, and worthwhile way to develop talent. This trend also appears to increase in importance among LP professionals as they progress up the career ladder.
- There was disagreement as to whether most loss prevention professionals are legitimately prepared for the changes that will take place across the profession over the next five to ten years, with numbers for those that agree (37%) very similar to those that disagree (38%). However, results remain fairly consistent when breaking down the numbers by leadership position.
Company support is and will remain a primary concern to the health of the loss prevention profession. For the loss prevention program to be successful, the company must be committed to communicating the purpose and importance of the program and instilling a culture that reaches all levels of the organization. However, it’s just as important that this commitment is made to those responsible for carrying out the plan and moving the program forward.
Do loss prevention professionals believe they have the support of their companies in terms of professional development and career advancement? Let’s take a closer look.
- Loss prevention professionals at all levels of leadership overwhelmingly believe that retail companies should do more to support continuing education opportunities for their loss prevention teams, with 95 percent in agreement.
- While loss prevention professionals at all levels of leadership did reveal a slightly positive response in how they rank their company with respect to developing talent for leadership roles, there is some opportunity for improvement, with respondents indicating 6.5 out of 10. These numbers were consistent across all levels, with every level of leadership falling between 6 and 7 out of 10.
- With respect to promoting diversity in loss prevention, survey respondents graded their companies at 7.8 out of 10. These numbers were consistent across all levels, with every level of leadership falling between 7 and 8 out of 10.
- Support for women in loss prevention was also encouraging, with respondents grading their companies overall at 8.1 out of 10. These numbers were very consistent across all levels of leadership.
- Survey respondents had a very mixed response in regard to whether they believed that they have experienced or witnessed signs of discrimination when they or others were considered for hire or promotion. Overall, 35 percent of those participating in the survey indicate that they have experienced or witnessed signs of discrimination, 50 percent disagreed, and 15 percent offered a neutral response.
We often discuss the importance of the evolving role of loss prevention—how this impacts our jobs, how we perceive our role within the business model, and the importance of working hand in hand with our sales and operations peers to achieve the goals and objectives of the organization. Partnerships and cooperation will remain a big part of that moving forward, but the way that retailers in general understand and respect the role of loss prevention will also remain a key aspect of our success.
- As a whole, loss prevention professionals feel there is some opportunity for improvement with the retail industry’s support of loss prevention, ranking that support as 6 out of 10. While survey respondents ranked the importance of having a strong understanding of loss prevention as a retail professional as a 9 out of 10, only 64 percent feel that their sales/operations peers have an understanding and respect of the role of loss prevention in the overall success of the business. These numbers remained consistent across all levels of loss prevention leadership.
- Overall, survey respondents had a very mixed response as to whether the loss prevention department is undervalued within their company—42 percent agree that LP is undervalued, 41 percent disagreed, and 17 percent offered a neutral response. These numbers remained fairly consistent across all levels of leadership.
- Survey respondents ranked the importance of loss prevention professionals having a strong understanding of retail as a 9.3 out of 10. They ranked the importance of loss prevention professionals having the ability to build strong partnerships with their operations peers as 9.61 out of 10.
- Seventy-eight percent feel that most loss prevention professionals have a strong respect and understanding of their retail partners and the retail profession as a whole, while 74 percent feel that they have the respect and cooperation of their sales/operations partners.
Training and awareness programs that emphasize the role of reducing losses as part of successful sales and profit enhancement models have widely been seen as an important part of a robust loss prevention program. While these results would indicate that respondents believe that respect and cooperation are at strong levels of support, results would further suggest that greater emphasis on shrink management and the value of these programs within our sales and operations teams would appear to be an area of opportunity. In other words, while respondents believe there is a willingness to partner and learn, the level of understanding isn’t where it needs to be amongst our sales/operations peers.
Leadership and Communication
One of the most critical aspects of determining whether or not loss prevention professionals at every level of leadership are on the same page is through our ability to effectively communicate our mission, vision, and culture throughout all levels of the organization. Even when we agree on the fundamental concepts of loss prevention as a profession or the retail business in general, without the ability to effectively communicate our message or channel our ideas and opinions, we will continue to face challenges moving forward.
- Perhaps not surprisingly, loss prevention leadership was much more likely to believe that they do an effective job of communicating the goals, mission, and other critical objectives of the department to the loss prevention team in the field. However, while 83 percent of department leaders feel they do an effective job, only 65 percent of those in the field believe the goals, mission, and objectives are effectively communicated.
- Generally speaking, the results were very similar when respondents were asked if loss prevention leadership has a firm grasp on the way that LP policies and procedures are actually carried out in the field and in the stores. While 80 percent of department leaders feel they have a firm grasp on the way that policies and procedures are carried out, only 63 percent of those in the field believe this to be the case.
- Survey participants are also less likely to believe that their supervisors are open to new and creative ideas from members of the loss prevention team. While 84 percent of department leaders state that they are open to new and creative ideas from members of the loss prevention team, only 67 percent of those in the field believe this to be the case.
- While 83 percent of department leaders state that they agree with the goals, mission, and approach that their company holds with respect to loss prevention, only 69 percent of those in the field agree.
It’s not uncommon for senior leadership to have slightly different opinions based on their experience and unique exposure and perspective to all areas of the business. There are many different factors that come into play, many different responsibilities that are faced, and a litany of considerations that most in the field will fail to fully appreciate or understand.
Unfortunately, this does appear to be an ongoing area of opportunity. However, this is a shared responsibility across all levels of leadership. There are areas that can be improved upon—both at the corporate level and in the field—that can help bridge some of these gaps.
General Loss Prevention
Where do we stand on many of the more fundamental concepts of loss prevention? Where do survey respondents believe we have the greatest opportunities for improvement? How closely aligned are we with these concepts across the various levels of loss prevention leadership? Let’s take a closer look.
- Overall, survey participants rate importance of having a strong and successful background in interviewing as a loss prevention professional as 8.3 out of 10. This remains in concert with their views regarding the role that internal theft plays in the overall shrink performance of their company as a 7.4 out of 10. These ratings were consistent across all levels of leadership.
- Participants also view the importance of the audit function and strong operational controls as an important function in the overall shrink performance of their company, rating this as a 7.7 out of 10. This ranking was consistent across all levels of leadership.
- Survey participants ranked the role of shoplifting as 7.4 out of 10 in the overall shrink performance of the company and the ability to identify and apprehend shoplifters as a 6.7 out of 10 for loss prevention professionals. These numbers were fairly consistent, although not surprisingly, that role was seen as slightly more important at the lower levels of loss prevention leadership.
- However, when asked whether retailers should put less emphasis on apprehending shoplifters and more emphasis on deterring theft in the stores, agreement amongst survey participants varied considerably by level of leadership. Eighty-four percent of top loss prevention leadership were in agreement, while less than 50 percent of those in store-level positions were in agreement. Very few believe that loss prevention professionals should have the discretion to pursue shoplifters beyond the boundaries of the store.
- Ninety-two percent of survey respondents believe that organized retail crime (ORC) is a real and growing problem in today’s retail environment. Eighty-nine percent believe that it’s important and valuable to have members of our loss prevention teams active in organized retail crime associations (ORCAs).
- Just over 6 out of 10 (62%) of respondents agree that incidents involving violent behaviors have increased in their area of responsibility over the past twelve months. Sixty-five percent believe shoplifting incidents involving those addicted to opioids and other addictive drugs have increased over the same period. Approximately 7 in 10 agree that this is influencing the way their companies are approaching shoplifting incidents. These beliefs were consistent across all levels of leadership.
- Only 61 percent believe that their loss prevention team is adequately trained and prepared to handle disruptive behaviors/incidents if they occur in the stores. Even more significant is that only 29 percent believe that store management/associates are adequately trained and prepared to handle disruptive behaviors/incidents if they occur in the stores. Although top levels of leadership were slightly less likely to be in agreement (25%), these beliefs were also consistent across all levels of leadership.
- Loss prevention professionals across all levels of leadership believe that the overall responsibilities of loss prevention will show significant changes over the next five to ten years, with 92 percent in agreement. Ninety-six percent feel it’s becoming much more important for loss prevention professionals to learn more about information technology and the retail supply chain, while 81 percent feel that they have adequate understanding and training regarding the technology and other resources used to accomplish loss prevention goals.
- Just over 1 in 5 respondents (22%) state that they have experienced or witnessed incidents of sexual harassment in the workplace over the past twelve months. These responses were consistent across all levels of loss prevention leadership.
- Only 34 percent of respondents feel that there is adequate staffing and resources to accomplish the goals of the loss prevention department. Seventy percent agree that there are times when the ability to use/access contract security guard services to complement loss prevention efforts is essential to the operation and protection of retail locations.
- Overall, 68 percent of respondents believe that when used correctly, merchandise protection standards (EAS and other security measures) are truly effective in deterring theft in retail stores. Those at the higher levels of loss prevention leadership held stronger beliefs that these measures are effective (75%).
- Seventy percent of survey respondents feel that legislative changes, changing demands on police, and police response are negatively impacting our ability to effectively protect retail stores. While those at the higher levels of loss prevention leadership were in higher agreement (75%), responses were highly consistent among all levels of leadership
- Eight-seven percent of respondents agree that providing loss prevention professionals an opportunity to voice their ideas and opinions can and will have an influence on LP leadership. Ninety-three percent of those at the highest level of loss prevention leadership agree that this is accurate.
What Does It All Mean?
The survey process offers practitioners a forum to share their true thoughts and opinions on a variety of critical loss prevention subjects. Yet while having the information is always important, the ability to take that information, interpret what it means, and apply it in a pure, logical, and meaningful way takes things to an entirely different level. Leadership and responsibility should always go hand in hand, and it all comes down to what we do with the information that’s presented to us.
We should be encouraged that in most areas important to the health and well-being of the profession, the survey would appear to indicate that, whether a positive trend or an area of opportunity, we are fundamentally in agreement. In fact, in some areas it was astonishing just how closely aligned the responses were across all levels of loss prevention leadership. But there are still some critical areas that we need to work on. There are a few areas where we are not on the same page, and some of these inconsistencies can present hurdles.
It’s not simply that we disagree—there will always be areas where we disagree for any number of reasons. In fact, there are times when having alternative opinions can have a healthy and positive influence. It’s when we don’t know we have a difference of opinion or perspective that can lead to more serious challenges, some of which that can be difficult to overcome. For example, if loss prevention leadership believes that they are doing an effective job of communicating critical objectives of the department, but those in the field don’t necessarily agree with that perspective, this can lead to serious concerns in any number of ways.
Self-reflection is always an important element of growth. While the survey offers us a great deal of raw information, it’s what we do with that information that will make a difference.
So what do you think? We encourage you to take a deeper look at the survey results as part of the free special report that provides more detailed information on each survey question along with comments offered by the loss prevention community. You should also look for leadership response to the survey results in a future issue of LP Magazine.