Winning Loss Prevention

We always want to win, not just execute. In fact, we must win. When LP loses, life safety, brand image, and financial performance are all at risk. At the Loss Prevention Research Council (LPRC) and University of Florida (UF), that’s our mandate, to support LP/AP success through process and people improvement. We’re retailer-driven, and our teams are working with dozens of leading retail chain leaders to align LP focus on building winning capabilities to fully support their total retail enterprises.

If an offender perceives there is no doubt his contemplated crime will be unsuccessful, then and only then will we deter him. If we deter a single or most offenders, we win. If an associate knows why and how to execute his or her job in a well-designed process and has the needed tools, then we reduce errors and omissions. Again, we win.

If LP/AP efforts make a retailer more successful, key merchandise gets to and stays where the customer can conveniently buy it, and she feels safe while doing so, that is a very capable LP program, and that is the program we’re all striving to build. We’re doing this together via real-world innovation chains; ongoing, collaborative working groups; monthly webinars; the online Knowledge Center; and the annual Impact Conference.

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Winning Often Means Asking the Right Questions

Many of us are always looking for answers without realizing we aren’t asking enough questions or maybe even the wrong questions. George Washington University Professor Michael Marquardt’s research indicates most leaders succeed because they frequently ask the right questions. In 2014, Marquardt wrote, “Good leaders ask many questions. Great leaders ask the great questions. And great questions can help you become a great leader.”

Think about what you want to know and how you will use the information. In an excellent Inc. magazine article in 2016, Mirasee CEO Danny Iny pointed out when it comes to getting answers, the quality of your questions matter. You don’t get answers to questions you don’t ask. And you get useless or even catastrophic answers when you ask the wrong questions.

Below are commonly asked wrong questions and what you should consider asking instead.

Wrong Question: How do I prevent this growing problem?
Right Question: How can I build a more capable LP/AP program to better prevent problems?

Carefully define your goals, so you don’t ask the wrong questions. Strive to ask questions about the ultimate outcomes you want. So instead of asking, “Will this action create a good result today?” you should be asking, “Will this effort get us to where we want to be in three to five years?”

Wrong Question: How do I deal with this problem?
Right Question: What’s the opportunity here to address and prevent this and future issues?

Try not to get totally caught up in a surging problem where you don’t see anything else but that problem. We can become consumed with questions about how to solve this one problem. We do need to solve our new issue, but we should also be asking questions to put together a more capable preventive process and team. Mr. Iny believes the better questions to ask are about what you can learn and what opportunities you may be missing.

Wrong Question: Should I do A or B?
Right Questions: Can I do both A and B? Or should I do C? Or what other options do I have?

Asking “should I do A or B” may be creating an artificial choice. This scenario suggests A and B are mutually exclusive, and you can’t have them both. It also implies there aren’t other options. Keep thinking and brainstorming with others. There are good questions to ask that lead to better options and ideas. Try not to rush it; think of good questions. The take home: ask the right questions to get the right answers.

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 of these SD types 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.

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 that 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.

2017 LP/AP Conferences

As I write this column, I’m just back from the one-two punch of RILA AP and NRF PROTECT. Both conferences were great in my opinion—plenty of practitioners and solution partners to confer with, very good content, ample solution exhibit opportunities, and great fellowship with good people. I’m always impressed with the talent and energy of LP professionals.

Next up is the LPRC’s 2017 Impact Conference at UF. It is designed to complement the industry association conferences, never to compete with them. Most LP executives’ companies belong to one or both of the major retail associations, and they can participate in their excellent conferences.

With LPRC, the AP/LP department itself belongs, so their team can participate year-round in the eleven working groups and over thirty-five research and innovation projects (chains). And Impact is the opportunity for these professionals to gather and debrief on the year’s research findings in the Learning Labs, poster session, the Zones Experience, and expert discussion panels. They also reset the working groups’ goals and plan for the next twelve months of projects.

We sincerely hope you’ll consider participating in 2017 Impact. The planning team takes great pride in putting together an amazing learning and planning atmosphere with practitioners and scientists working and brainstorming side by side on the beautiful University of Florida campus. Learn more and enroll at lpresearch.org/impact.

SOCLab Tabletop

At the time of this writing, a team of retail LP and governmental experts alongside our team and innovative technology partners are scripting a realistic active-attacker scenario designed to use the full capabilities of the cutting-edge Security Operations Lab in our UF and LPRC Innovation Lab facility. The plan is to hold one to three tabletop rehearsals to work the bugs out and greatly enhance the SOCLab, with the goal being to demonstrate the exercise this fall. Please stay tuned for details.

UF Now and Next

The University of Florida is laying out its formal retail LP/AP support strategy, and several retail AP executives are serving as advisors to this program. The program has placed one UF intern in a leading LP program as part of refining the program to provide excellent talent to the industry. Likewise, UF’s Evidence-Based LP Online Course and Certificate is completed and being tested now for deployment. More details to come on these and other initiatives.

Recommended Reading

Theory for Practice in Situational Crime Prevention, Crime Prevention Studies, Volume 16, edited by Martha J. Smith and Derek B. Cornish, published by Criminal Justice Press (Monsey, New York). While this book was published in 2003, it is still a powerful primer with several criminologists laying out how to apply opportunity and environmental crime control theories to real-world problems.

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