Loss Prevention Certification - Who Needs It?
June 2012 Integrated Solutions For Retailers
By Gene Smith, president, Loss Prevention Foundation
Suffering a lack of academic integrity keeps LP personnel from becoming LP professionals.
What makes you recognize someone as a “professional?” The Merriam-Webster dictionary defines a profession as “a calling requiring specialized knowledge and often long and intensive academic preparation.” For many years now, I have heard loss prevention (LP) practitioners refer to themselves as professionals. I know most of us have the desire to be recognized as professionals, but are we really in a profession?
Is Loss Prevention/Asset Protection A Profession?
For LP to be a true profession, we must have specialized knowledge, academic integrity, and educational standards. Yet, how many academic degree programs are specifically focused on LP and asset protection? Not many, and definitely not as many as we would like. Industry-specific research conducted by the Loss Prevention Foundation estimates that only 30% to 40% of us have degrees. That statistic doesn't go very far in supporting the claim that we have a significant emphasis on education in our profession. Creating industry-specific degrees is a time consuming and costly endeavor for universities. While we owe a debt of gratitude to universities like Eastern Kentucky University, Fairleigh Dickinson University, Northern Michigan University, University of Florida, and most recently the American Public University System/American Military University that have developed LP degree programs, there is still much room for growth in developing academic programs.
Since so many LP practitioners lack college degrees, how do we confirm their knowledge level and attitude toward learning? What tangible validation do they hold as part of their professional credentials that complements their experience? Just because someone has experience doesn't mean they have the knowledge necessary to be successful. What kind of experience do they have? How much have they learned that translates into success? Sometimes a person can learn more working two years in a great LP program than they can in four or five years working for a program lacking important learning opportunities. Could 15 years of experience really be 1 year repeated 14 times?
How do we know that their knowledge will translate into success within our program? Do we just take someone's word for it? How do we expect a hiring manager to really know the difference? Are a few questions and a brief interview truly effective in validating what someone actually knows? How many assumptions do we make when hiring someone for a loss prevention position?
Should We Expect Something More?
How do we measure acceptable standards of knowledge and information? Professionally developed certifications like the LPQ, LPC, and CFI serve to help corroborate industry-specific knowledge. Certification can help authenticate our professional perception among our retail counterparts. But, can it help elevate our perception outside of retail? Can it help bridge the gap for those entering our industry without industry-specific degrees? Let's look at some other professionals.
Are accountants, insurance agents, real estate agents, financial planners, internal auditors, human resource managers, and nurses considered professionals? Most would agree that they are. What about teachers? Would you ever want your child being taught by a noncertified teacher? What about having your taxes done by a noncertified tax preparer? Is it preferable for insurance agents to take a proctored exam that demonstrates they know something about insurance? With numerous retail customer service certifications as well as certifications for human resources, safety, and internal auditing, why should loss prevention be considered any less complex or important?
We can't say we want to be respected and treated as professionals and then resist opportunities to continue our education through academic courses and professionally developed, industry-specific certifications. We can't encourage our children to absorb as much education as possible and then neglect our own growth as adult learners. Isn't it time we push for higher educational standards and catch up to the hundreds of other professions who are ahead of us? Certification is an investment that we make in ourselves. It is not simply a commitment to learning more, but also to achieving a higher standard.