A conversation with Mike Keenan, CPP, CFI, LPC, Managing Director, Retail Loss Prevention at TAL Global Corporation
Mike Keenan, CPP, CFI, LPC, Managing Director, Retail Loss Prevention at TAL Global Corporation, is a firm advocate for awareness programs in retail. According to Keenan, one of the most critical components to a successful LP program is fully utilizing employees in supporting the company’s loss prevention strategy, as every employee can play a role in controlling loss and promoting safety. He states that a knowledgeable and well-trained employee will be more engaged; they will be better at executing processes; they will be more likely to comply with policies and procedures; they will be less likely to steal and more likely to report those who do; and they will be more committed to keeping themselves and those around them safe.
I caught up with Keenan to identify how to create an engaged workforce. Here’s what he had to say.
Keenan: One way to create an engaged workforce is through an effective awareness program. Awareness programs keep the focuses of your loss prevention strategy “top of mind” in every employee. Employees become a partner in executing your strategy every day.
What are the keys to an effective awareness employee?
Keenan: First, employees must be educated on the purpose of what you want them to do. It is important to explain the “why”. Explaining the “why” enables employees to understand your objectives not just the expectations. For example, if employees understand that external theft can impact them personally in terms of reduced hours, smaller bonuses and smaller pay increases, they should be more motivated to do what they can to prevent external theft. The awareness program then revolves around the tactics they can use to better prevent external, i.e., customer service, placement of high theft merchandise where it is more visible, EAS tagging of high value product, etc. These actions help you to achieve your objective to reduce external theft. If done well, every employee is protecting your merchandise from theft, not just the Store Manager or LP team.
Second, the awareness program needs to resonate with your employees. It should be something that enables them to remember the program, as well as, the expectations you have of them. For example, a “catchphrase” that represents your strategy. A common one is “Every Unit Counts”. This phrase can be customized to fit your strategy. “Every Unit” could refer to protecting each piece of merchandise from theft or damage. “Counts” let’s the employee know that each piece that is protected makes a difference. It is critical to explain “why” it is important to protect “Every Unit”. Then your awareness materials can focus on the “how”. Or you can develop a character. For example, a “Shortage Shark”. The “Shortage Shark” hunts for shortage. The character becomes the symbol for your objective of reducing Shortage. The catchphrase and/or character should be included with all of your communications on controlling loss and keeping people safe. These catchphrases and/or characters should be developed in coordination with your internal marketing team to ensure that they are consistent with the overall company communication strategy.
Third is to bring the awareness program to life. There are numerous ways to do this. Posters, videos, physical items like pens or notebooks with your catchphrase and/or character on them, etc. It is important to find multiple ways to communicate because employees all respond differently. Some like to read things, some like to learn in a training room environment, some like online learning and others like to watch videos. The best approach is to leverage as many of these tools as possible. In a store or distribution/fulfillment environment, posters are very common. Make sure that Loss Prevention messages are included with the company’s poster program.
What is the most effective awareness tool?
Keenan: The most effective awareness tool is video. Everyone watches videos. They watch YouTube, news videos and sports videos on their internet devices, they forward videos to each other, they post videos on Facebook, etc. I recommend creating loss prevention videos that are short and are focused on your tactics. These videos should include your catchphrase and/or character. Again, this is where you partner with your internal marketing team to create videos that are consistent with the company’s messaging.
One benefit of creating these videos is, that once made, they can always be available. For example, if you have a monthly topic and create a video each month on that topic, you will soon have a library of videos that can be accessed anytime. In the retail world of high turnover, new employees can access multiple videos at once. This brings them up to speed with your LP topics quickly instead of just seeing the videos on the monthly cycle. In addition, in a certain month you may have a specific situation, like a hurricane, you can have all employees re-watch a video you already made on what to do in an emergency. The one-time investment in each video should result in long term return.
Awareness programs can be done in house or in partnership with an outside vendor. However, whatever process you choose, make the program customized to your company. Employees respond better to something that is personalized.