Smooth-talking interviewing skills? Top-notch investigative ability? Understanding technology as if seeing it through the “matrix”? Sure, all of these are probably on your list of skills for a successful loss prevention professional, but do you consider any of them your #1 skill? I don’t. My #1 skill for a successful loss prevention career is…
The ability to form true and trusted relationships.
As the Director of a loss prevention field team, I have occasionally been challenged with staffing, as have most Loss Prevention management members. When I first began the recruiting process, I would stew over resumes in search of the perfect candidate. I’d meet with a variety of candidates, looking for someone with a combination of experience, skill and motivation; hoping to find the next rising star in the industry. Like others involved in hiring, I have made some great choices and some choices that surprised me in a negative way.
Over time, I’ve become able to ascertain within the first 30 days or so if the new hire will be a good fit or someone who will be with us less than a year. You might wonder what it is that singles out those who succeed on the team and those who do not. It is not experience, education or even loss prevention skill that is the common denominator. It is the ability to form relationships; specifically with store and corporate personnel.
Loss Prevention is truly about education, awareness and coaching. Sure, a large part of it is conducting investigations, performing interviews and deciphering situations most people gossip about. But the core of what we do in loss prevention involves coaching, educating and establishing relationships so that store personnel, field management and corporate staff rely on us as a trusted advisor, not someone to be feared or who is demanding results.
Early in my loss prevention career I spent several years working for a variety of retailers. It was during those years that I learned about loss prevention and how to investigate, interview and other related skills. However, as I look back I realize the “mentality” of many companies regarding loss prevention and operations is “us versus them”. We were trained and directed to police and play “gotcha” with the operations team. We were judged on how much dirt we could uncover, how many “dings” we gave on audits and of course how many dishonest employees we apprehended. Loss Prevention was the tip of the spear when dealing with dishonesty and fraud. However, it seemed more often than not, the attitude we had towards conducting an internal investigation carried over into our auditing and training. I realize, thinking back, how employees were put on edge once Loss Prevention entered the building.
Loss prevention has come a long way since I was a young investigator, but surprisingly there are still many loss prevention professionals with that old mentality. In my current position I hire, train and work alongside new hires and have found that this attitude and the inability to build a solid relationship with operations is the barrier that hinders career success.
As a solution provider, working with a variety of retail partners every day, LPI professionals strive to dissolve any barriers that may exist with our retail partners. A successful LPI team member forms true partnerships, at all levels within a company, and is a trusted advisor.
I have learned that being a good loss prevention professional starts with the ability to build relationships. Whether you are working for an outsource service provider or an internal team, your success relies on your ability to work in tandem with your retail partners. Yes, our work requires us to handle negative situations. However, our success comes from our ability to identify opportunities to teach, educate and be a resource to assist in success. Let’s take a page from loss prevention training 101 and provide good customer service – to both internal and external customers.
Hoda Ilyavi, CFI, Director of Field Services