Category Archives: Theory/Research

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.

    Satisfied Employees May Not Be Most Productive

    “Are happy workers more productive? If you enhance workplace conditions to improve morale, do increased output and higher quality necessarily follow? The short answer is no.  There are no consistent research findings that correlate employee satisfaction to performance. Although organizations are more likely to retain happy workers than those who are unhappy, one can’t assume satisfied employees are the most productive.”  Read more here

    How Do You Measure the ROI on Loss Prevention?

    If you have not already seen it, Adrian Beck has published a report titled Preventing Retail Shrinkage: Measuring the ‘Value’ of CCTV, EAS, and Data Mining Tools that explores how organizations measure the ROI on their loss prevention investments.  Adrian is a leading academic researcher based at the University of Leicester and has contributed some valuable work to our industry.

    Does Theft Go Up in an Economic Downturn?

    There have been numerous articles, surveys, and reports about whether shoplifting and/or employee theft go up during an economic downturn.  I have hesitated to comment on this issue when called by reporters because I believe it is very hard to determine over a short period of time.  I’ve also heard others argue that employee theft goes down during an economic slump.

    One executive recently told me that he thinks theft goes down because you have fewer part-time hours being used and his company has more theft by part-timers than full-time, tenured employees.  There are also some theories that employees are less likely to steal during an economic downturn because it will likely be more difficult to find a new position and, therefore, the risk of losing their job is a greater deterrent than when there are more opportunities available at other companies.

    Vangent has released a report, Organizational Ethics and Counterproductivity Risks During an Economic Downturn: Causes and Mitigation, on this very issue.  They say that, “ increase in unethical and counterproductive employee behaviors during the current economic downturn seems inevitable.”  Does anyone else want to weigh-in on this question?

    Industry Research

    As a follow-up to Friday’s post about the need to understand theory as a foundation for what we do in practice, we thought it would be helpful to highlight a few organizations and individuals who are doing research work and studies in our industry.  We have listed a few below and added permanent links to them on our links page.

    • Loss Prevention Research Council (LPRC) – Led by Read Hayes, this group of retailers have come together to develop a research agenda on practical issues that retail LP executives make decisions on all the time, often without enough data.  The goal of this group is to conduct studies and research that inform the decision making process with data.
    • ECR Europe Workgroup on Shrinkage – With Colin Peacock from P&G as a strong advocate and Adrian Beck from University of Leicester as the leading researcher, this group has done some great work in exploring key issues around shortage and have had some great success stories in implementing their Shrinkage Roadmap in the real-world with outstanding results.  Some of the studies that have been produced under this group’s auspices can be found at the PCG Solutions website.
    • Dr. Richard Hollinger, University of Florida – Perhaps best known for producing the National Retail Security Survey (NRSS), Dr. Hollinger has been a leading voice for retail loss prevention and assets protection over the past twenty years.  In addition to the NRSS, Dick’s research on applied topics such as employee theft attitudes and dishonesty in the workplace has been the foundation for much of our thinking around these issues.
    • Martin Gill, Perpetuity Group – Martin has played a key role in producing original research in the area of security, policing, and loss prevention and is the chair of the ASIS Research Council.  Gill has published 13 books and over 100 articles on a wide range of subjects of interest to those of us in this field.
    • PCG Solutions, Inc. – We have conducted both informal surveys and more in-depth research into areas of interest to retail loss prevention.  Surveys on pre-employment screening and inventory counting practices in the retail sector can be found on our website.  We have just finished a white paper that will be published in the upcoming months in the ASIS CRISP series.  We are also about to release a case study, done in conjunction with Adrian Beck, on the importance of visual cues for deterrence when using EAS.