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Who’s Most Likely to Succeed at Store Detective Duties?: A Featured LPRC Study

Two US retail chains participated in an extensive study of how to select individuals most likely to win as in-store loss prevention specialists (store detectives or “SDs”). The report is based on a very rigorous job domain and performance analysis process and should also provide practical input for retailers. Following are some of the highlights of this study.

Specialist versus Generalist. Store-level LP people have traditionally focused on customer theft control. Some retailers have all or just select in-store detectives conduct general duties as well as tracking and mapping store incidents and problems for analysis, training in-store LP staff, auditing LP efforts, and apprehending high-impact offenders. Many retailers also use store detectives to provide “bench strength” for promoting investigators, trainers, and supervisors. Each subset of store detective duties is slightly different in mission focus and therefore in requisite knowledge, skills, abilities, and other characteristics needed to successfully handle the position.

Sample Size. Two-hundred-one store detectives were administered a test of their G factor (or cognitive ability), a personality inventory known as the NEO PI-R, and a sheet listing their age, gender, years of education, years of LP experience, and so forth. Their scores and biodata were entered into a computer and statistically analyzed with various job performance scores provided by their immediate supervisors.

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Distinctive Characteristics. As hypothesized, there were generally different characteristics that were predictive of job performance scores for each of three types of SD. IQ or G (general cognitive ability) was not particularly important to SDs focused primarily on shoplifter catching, nor for generalist SDs who were in charge of all LP functions in a single store. G was important, however, for SDs rated as likely supervisors. Future leaders also tended to be slightly less gregarious while also being a little more emotional and prone to appreciate fewer tangible things like art and culture.

Perspective. In-store LP people are critical to preventing losses and other crime events in their assigned location(s) and should be treated accordingly. They are in positions to save companies considerable dollars or conversely generate huge liability with their actions or apathy-driven omissions. SDs can also create goodwill and inspire ongoing LP procedural and ethical compliance or help create ill will and motivate apathy or even further deviance.

Homework. Conduct a thorough job analysis for the in-store position. Use your documents, high-performing SDs and field supervisors, and external sources to list out the top or most-critical job tasks for the position, as well as the top dozen or so most common situations SDs will be dealing with. Use the data to formulate prioritized lists of these items and build your selection and training programs.

Legal Review. Make sure your job analysis and follow-on selection and training processes are carefully conducted, designed to meet job position and departmental objectives, and vetted by a trusted attorney experienced in this topic area.

This featured LPRC summary was excerpted from “Winning Loss Prevention,” which was originally published in 2017. This post was updated February 22, 2018.

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