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An LP a day.


MANY ARTICLES ON LOSS PREVENTION (LP) repeat the age-old line that a retailer's best defense is a well-informed, well-trained employee. The truth of that claim is obvious, but what is not obvious is how a corporation can go about informing and training employees well.

In most retail corporations, the LP department attempts to use checks and balances to protect company assets and personnel. Most LP directors do an effective job of putting their priorities on paper and communicating them to senior management. That is fine as far as it goes. However, it is even more important to implement an LP program that can operate in the stores with little direction from above. Otherwise, the LP program is highlighted, discussed, and emphasized only as long as the LP representative remains in a particular store.

Without proper implementation, the program is merely a checklist. Employees learn correct procedures for taking checks at registers or for closing stores but forget them as soon as the LP rep moves on to the next location. The rep then writes a report on his or her store visit, and the report is filed without further study.

Under that system, a company does not end up with well-informed, well-trained employees. At best, such a program enlightens store management as to what the company expects, but it does not integrate LP functions into the other operations at a store. The LP rep's report to the store manager may consist of a five-minute conversation, and his or her address to store employees may run only three minutes. As it is disseminated, the message gets less and less emphasis. Even the store manager regards LP as a low priority when a rep does not adequately promote the message to store employees. Regardless of how much importance corporate management attaches to the LP program, its objectives will never be met unless the program is emphasized at the store level.

One way an LP director can establish LP as an ongoing function in any store is to view the program as a state of mind. That may be a rather cute phrase, but the concept can be extremely effective.

For example, most retail establishments accept third-party bank cards. The framework of such transactions has long been established. As part of such a transaction, the LP department might require the cashier to obtain the customer's home phone number. However, when the rep conducts a field survey, he or she might find that cashiers have not been including those numbers on the charge slips. The point is not that a vital piece of information is missing on a charge sale, but that the company's training method allows a cashier not to understand how to do a charge sale properly. The cashier probably would not neglect to run the charge card through the imprinting machine, yet he or she may neglect to obtain the phone number. The cashier may be told about the lapse, but the store often takes no systematic corrective action. Fortunately, LP directors can take several steps to correct such deficiencies.

Self-audit programs. To avoid the checklist syndrome, the LP department should establish a program in which store managers audit their own progress every month. A self-audit survey would contain only the subjects that are considered paramount in the battle against shrinkage. The survey should be conducted by a member of the store management team, and the results should be presented in writing to the store manager. At the end of each month, the regional or district manager for that store should review the results of the self-audit with the store manager.

Assigning management trainees to conduct the surveys can be an invaluable way to train them in the precepts of LP. The director may even ask store managers to forward the surveys to the corporate LP department. The survey should be designed to take no more than an hour to complete and should be available for operating personnel to review. The survey can also be used as a topic list when management conducts its normal monthly store meetings for employees.

Participation programs. To keep an LP program operative continuously in each store, the LP department must invite the participation of each employee. Bulletins, quarterly posters, and even personalized letters to employees' homes can explain the purpose of the program and encourage employees to participate.

The theme of these participation programs must be the incorporation of LP functions into existing jobs. It is important to show specifics, to teach a salesperson exactly how to participate. For example, the program could explain the concept of defensive merchandising--that is, how the company wants products to be priced on the shelves. The LP function is not a request to perform a new job; rather, it is a request to perform the same job but with LP in mind. That is the true meaning of treating LP as a state of mind.

LP committees. According to management consultants, employees' dedication to their jobs rises when they are asked to participate in the programs that affect their jobs. An effective way to include employees in LP is to establish an LP employee committee on a store-by-store, regional, or corporate basis.

The committee should function as an advisory group to the director of LP and should discuss not only asset protection topics but also safety topics if they fall under the department's domain. The committee should meet monthly or quarterly and have a structured agenda that elicits participation from all members. The committee should include a person from every job function in the store and should not include any person above the level of assistant manager. The committee should be chaired by a member of the LP department. A formal network of reporting should be established so the committee members can clearly see what effect they are having on the company. If the LP department disagrees with and decides not to follow a suggestion of the committee, the department should explain its decision to the committee in detail.

Employee LP meetings. Topics never get more attention than when they are brought to store employees by the person who is ultimately responsible for those topics. At least once a year, more often if possible, the director of LP should meet with all full-time and part-time employees at the store level. At the meetings the director can explain the reasons for the LP program and its financial benefits for the company and employees. The director can also encourage employees to determine how they can prevent losses while carrying out their assignments.

Such a meeting should employ slides, overheads, or a chalkboard so it is distinct from other types of meetings the employees have to attend. The meeting is probably the LP director's only opportunity to present the LP program in its entirety to employees. Thus, planning the meeting carefully is of paramount importance.

Key training programs. If a well-informed, well-trained employee is the best defense against retail shrinkage, then the LP director's best ally is the company's director of training. In most large companies, the training department uses workshops or videos to train employees in how to perform their jobs. Whether a job involves driving a forklift or running a cash register, the training modules must include LP considerations. Those considerations may not need to be directly identified as LP matters; they can simply be shown as normal procedures to carry out while fulfilling a job task. Such an approach is simpler all around. Primary training is easier than retraining.

Monthly or quarterly visits by an LP rep no longer satisfy a retailer's needs. LP surveys that consist of little more than "to do" lists and that are filed away and neglected do not meet today's objectives. The LP function will operate daily in a store only if the LP department builds mechanisms that encourage daily employee participation. Then and only then does LP truly become a state of mind.
COPYRIGHT 1989 American Society for Industrial Security
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 1989 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Title Annotation:loss prevention programs
Author:DiBardino, Daniel J.
Publication:Security Management
Date:May 1, 1989
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