Loss prevention is a result, not an effort. Senior retail executives run competitive businesses and expect positive results from their management teams. In the case of inventory shrinkage, lower than average losses are often considered a success. Being successful in anything is tough, but it's especially tough in loss prevention, where true success is dependent on many others.
To thrive as loss prevention managers, we need to be, know and do certain things. While not all-inclusive, the list below provides some insight into what our research (surveys, experiments and field observations) has found over the years can make the difference in crime prevention and loss control success.
1. Make sure your goals and methods support your company's goals.
Almost every retailer I know of exists to maximize shareholder value by profitably selling products made by manufacturers. The typical LP support mission is to help the company sell more and lose less. So, LP strategy should include working to make company locations safer for workers and guests, helping to make the total product supply chain more efficient and secure, and using people, procedures and technologies to cost-effectively reduce theft.
2. Be a leader.
The U.S. Army has long worked to understand and produce high-quality leaders. Lives, and our freedom, depend on their getting it right. The Army's latest leadership manual, FM 22-100, bases leadership development on the imperatives Be, Know and Do. The same principals can help managers accomplish their goals. Be a good leader by reflecting sound character, decisiveness and selfless service. Know your people, how to communicate and inspire supervisors, peers and subordinates, and strive for proficiency in the technical and tactical nuances of effective crime and loss control. And do make good decisions, motivate people, and constantly improve LP processes and results with evidence-based solutions.
3. Surround yourself with good people, and don't skimp on their development.
Nobody can do it all by themselves. Some people are good at big picture and/or creative thinking and problem solving; others excel at detail work. Many are good at routine tasks. Some are good with people, while some are better at numbers and technical details. It is important that corporate and field leaders have leadership qualities. Likewise, support personnel should be relatively gifted and reliable. Our research on loss prevention personnel indicates that an individual's personality traits, work experience, and to a certain extent, intelligence, influence how well he or she will be able to handle a particular job.
Use good pre-employment testing, background checks, interviews, and work sample exercises to find the right people. High-impact training usually provides requisite job knowledge and skills, while providing testing feedback to trainee and supervisor alike. Of course, non-LP distribution center and store employees are critical to achieving good loss results, so working with their managers to improve pre-employment screening and ongoing training is paramount. Successful managers tend to put extra effort into selecting and training people at all levels.
4. Focus your efforts on your problems—not the industry's.
Industry asset protection studies and association conferences provide good insight into the challenges others perceive and how they're dealing with them. Peer and expert recommendations can be helpful as well. But it's really important to periodically identify and prioritize your own crime and loss problems. Loss and incident indicators like inventories, ship to scan rates, POS sales, quantity adjustment data, apprehension reports, hotline calls, employee surveys, CCTV footage and audit results alert us to problems, provide an important understanding of our problems, and allow us to assess the total loss impact and to prioritize it.