Magazine Article | May 18, 2006

LP's Human Element

Source: Innovative Retail Technologies

Acceptance of LP/security programs requires tech-savvy diplomats.

Integrated Solutions For Retailers, June 2006

Retail LP, risk, and security executives have a tough gig. They’re the cops of the enterprise, ever-tasked with making sure employees and customers alike are complying with the loss prevention and risk management measures they put in place. This responsibility breeds a diplomatic lot by necessity. I’ve had the pleasure of making the acquaintance of many professionals in this space, and I’ve observed the LP community’s culture. Most of the LP execs that come to mind when I think of my interaction with their ranks are colorful conversationalists and excellent relationship builders. Dale Carnegie might have developed a succinct course on how to win friends and influence people, but it’s my contention that the LP community has learned this art from the school of hard knocks. They face relationship challenges at every turn, most notably at the corporate, IT, facilities, employee, and customer levels.

Gus Downing, CEO of retail LP and HR consultancy Downing & Downing, Inc., recently told me that Q1 2006 was the “bloodiest ever” in terms of layoffs in the retail LP space. He surmises that dependence on automation via technology has something to do with that. But retailer beware: technology has not relieved the necessity for diplomacy in retail LP. In fact, it’s heightened the awareness of the astute LP professional’s diplomatic efforts. Lots of new LP technology is sexy, sophisticated, bandwidth-hungry, and expensive to implement (see DVRs, integrated video and exception reporting, and biometric technology). It’s also very effective, which makes LP pros want it. Therein lies the first opportunity for LP pros to walk a narrow tightrope. On one side, it’s easy for LP’s best-laid plans to fall victim to a resource-stingy IT department. On the other, poorly proposed initiatives won’t land softly with fiscal decision makers. Expert diplomats will find balance between the two.

LP Technology: Making Friends Or Foes?
Fortunate LP professionals persuade IT departments to swallow technology-driven LP projects (often at the skeptical behest of C-level spend managers). Assuming the very technology they’ve implemented doesn’t displace them, it’s at this juncture that LP leaders open the door to whole new adversaries. They show up in the form of facilities-level employees, retail customers, and even trading partners. Ever mindful of the eyes in the sky monitoring their every move and constantly made aware of risk management efforts via training and awareness campaigns, customers and employees require the highest level of diplomacy in their interactions with LP departments. The necessity for relationship-savvy LP executives is inherent in the job itself, which, at its core, is associated with negative reinforcement as a means of correcting improper behavior. Adding technologies – both visible and not – that create new layers of micro-monitoring will inevitably be met with some level of resistance. If unexplained and misunderstood technology is hampering the acceptance of an LP culture in retail, the best salve a retailer can apply has good, diplomatic LP professionals as its active ingredient.