Is Loss Prevention a Profession or a Trade?

I’ve said before that I find some parallels between loss prevention and human resources in regards to how they struggle to get recognized for the value they provide to their organizations.  There is an interesting column in June’s  Talent Management Magazine that explores the question of whether HR is a profession or a trade.  You can read the article here.  In summary, the writer puts forth four criteria to qualify as a “profession”:


  • A body of specialized research
  • Intensive academic preparation culminating in advanced degrees
  • Expert skills and knowledge among the practitioners
  • Published standards of conduct such as professional ethics
  • Now, we certainly don’t have to accept his definition, but he says in in his column that he is purposely being provocative to the HR world.  Perhaps we should be provoked into thinking about these same issues.  For years, we have run around complaining that we don’t get respected for what we do and we should have a “seat at the table.”  But, perhaps we need to look within and compare ourselves with some of the others who do have the proverbially seat at the table.

    For example, take the CFO of your organization.  I’m going to guess they likely have at least a Master’s Degree and it would be hard to find many that don’t have their bachelors’ degree.  There is clearly a large body of knowledge in the areas of corporate finance and accounting that is agreed upon and accepted by all who hope to work in this industry.  There are accepted certifications such as the Certified Public Accountant (CPA) that are required to work in certain capacities.  While somewhat tarnished by recent scandals at major firms, there are published standards of conduct and ethics and practitioners are sanctioned and can have their certifications revoked if they have violated these standards.

    These aspects of finance have not always existed.  If you were to go back 75 years, economics and finance was a murky science, at best.  Similiarly, only a 100 years ago doctors were not too far removed from tribal witch doctors as they had very little science and research to guide them until the early 1900’s.  It is possible to evolve and gain greater recognition and respect as a “profession” but perhaps we should do a little bit more work at establishing the foundations that will earn that respect instead of just complaining of its absence.

    2 Responses to Is Loss Prevention a Profession or a Trade?
    1. Shawn
      June 27, 2009 | 7:06 AM

      We in LP are a profession when we act as one. For too long LP as seen itself as strictly arrest and chase and has not stepped up and stated to our companies exactly how we are profitable. We are profitable to our companies when we prove ourselves. When you catch shoplifters you send a message that we are not the company to mess with. When we catch employees we not only send a message to other employees but when successful we send a message to the community that this is not a store to go to work for if you plan to steal and other employees that might go bad will think twice but most of all when you have a handle on shoplifting, employee theft and paperwork errors you impact your inventory which in turn impacts your gross margin and in turn your bottom line. If you loose your companies investment then you loose the profitability your company has made in it’s product, and all who handle it. How many unites must you sell to pay your salary? Now more than ever we have to show that we are profitable and are a valuable investment with a measurable return. A truly successful LP employee makes a connection with their managers and employees and gets a buy in to the program they run and shows them how as a team they can increase company profits and in turn job safety and company growth is assured.

    2. Bryan Strawser
      July 16, 2009 | 7:48 AM

      One of our biggest challenges as an industry is bringing in talent that sees loss prevention beyond the traditional “cops and robbers” approach that so many retailers continue to focus on.

      Want a seat at the table when major strategic decisions are being made? Then be willing to get the MBA, understand capital finance, perhaps work in a couple different organizations within your corporation during your rise to the upper ranks of your loss prevention organization.

      Being a well rounded business leader is what will get LP professionals a seat at the table.