From The Editor | December 21, 2017

Is Achieving Interdepartmental Collaboration In Retail A Loss Prevention Professionals Problem?

By John Oncea, Digital Editorial Director
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Healthcare Businesswomen’s Association

Loss prevention is tough. Internal theft, external theft, operational errors, spoilage, data errors, delivery errors — the list of crises an LP professional is expected to handle is seemingly limitless and complex. These complexities are compounded by any number of factors: employee complacency, cuts in resources, economic pressure, and change of personnel to name but a few.

One often-overlooked factor disrupting the lives of LP professional is the lack of interdepartmental collaboration. In a conversation with Loss Prevention Insights, Axis Communications’ Retail Business Development Manager Hedgie Bartol says, “In today’s retail landscape, loss prevention is eager to connect with their IT counterparts to improve the overall security of their respective retail facilities. “(If) these two departments are able to learn together and build a stronger relationship, (it) will help to improve further collaboration.” Bartol went on to say a retailers desire to learn how to improve internal collaboration and bring together the loss prevention, IT, marketing, and operations teams is key to finding a total solution that can benefit all parts of the business. 

The Proof Is In The … Boots?

Cavender’s, a family-owned and operated western wear retail chain based in Tyler, TX, serves as an example of where operations, merchandising, and marketing work as a cohesive business unit — all under the interim direction of VP of Store Operations Monica Rattay. When Cavender’s marketing head retired, Rattay was tasked with leading both the operations and marketing departments, integrating the responsibilities of the previously distinct teams.

“We immediately set about an exercise to determine, from every angle, who’s doing what and how they’re doing it,” Rattay tells Loss Prevention Insights. Reaching further back into the supply chain, she allocates hours of every day to communicate with the company’s vendors to ensure supply is meeting demand.

Rattay is emulating that collaboration on the operations side, as well as bringing merchandising into the fold. “Developing synergy there is a big, important opportunity for us moving forwards” she says. “Now, we’re all working together to the nth degree, as opposed to just a bit.”

It Starts With Changing Culture

A search for “interdepartmental collaboration” on the NRF 2018 Big Show site yields little, perhaps indicating this topic may not be of interest to the entire retail industry. Maybe this problem is specific to the LP professional and, if that is the case, where does one turn for help? It all starts at the top.

Driving collaboration — whether within a company or jointly with consultants and advisors — isn’t something that happens in a vacuum. Planning and resources are needed, as well as assessing and changing the culture of the company.

Some companies have fun days — a day set aside to reward a team for a job well done. Employees will go bowling, take a day sail, or go to lunch and happy hour. Others go even further holding day-long or weekend retreats. The point is, we go offsite and interact with each other in a low-key, stress-free setting. As a result, people in different departments get to know coworkers they don’t normally interact in a more intimate way and a foundation for collaboration is set.

There are other ways to enhance interdepartmental communication and, according to Susan Cucuzza, executive coach at Live Forward LLC, it starts at the top. Cucuzza told mismanaged collaboration can be disastrous because when interdisciplinary groups try to come together “intended collaboration can turn into whose idea is better, whose solution should be followed, and who is smarter.”

Other ways to drive collaboration include leveraging technology such as an enterprise content management system; maintain an open and transparent line of communication; develop a common language by removing jargon and department-specific terms; and ensure teams are involved in other departments’ processes to effectively align the strategic vision of the project.

While pushing for interdepartmental collaboration may seem daunting, it’s important to remember it is mostly about people, communication, and transparency. Keeping this in mind — and involving everyone who will be affected along every step of the process — will go a long way towards achieving your collaboration goals and improve your business outcomes.