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How to recruit, develop and retain a diverse LP team

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If there was only one key takeaway from Wednesday morning's session,

The Human Capital Conundrum

, it's that a diversified workforce is key to strengthening a company at it's core.

The term diversity has evolved over time, just like the loss prevention field - and the professionals who make up the loss prevention and asset management community come from a variety of professional backgrounds. Carol Martinson, VP of Asset Protection for SUPERVALU, Inc., noted that the level of talent that now looks toward these communities as a career is continuing an upward climb. "People with law degrees or those who would not traditionally consider loss prevention or asset management are now attracted to the opportunities in these fields. It's a testament to the growth and value of the profession over the last few decades."

Sears Holdings Corporation's Suni Shamapande echoed Martinson, lauding the Loss Prevention Conference attendees for their show of support. "If there’s one commonality in loss prevention and asset protection, it's that the idea of a career in loss prevention has changed. Many years ago, a 12 year-old may not have even considered a career in this field. But we all sit here today showing the value of the profession has truly grown."

Carol Martinson, SUPERVALU, Tom Arigi, National Stores, Inc. and Suni Shamapande, Sears Holding Corporation[/caption]

However, many young professionals get their start in the LP field without graduate-level work, or even college degrees. While a bachelor's degree would help in the application process, Tom Arigi, SVP of Loss Prevention for National Stores, Inc., said this was not a roadblock in starting a career. "Only around 30 to 40 percent of those applying for jobs have a a bachelor's degree, but this does not eliminate candidates from consideration. We encourage our employees to utilize our tuition reimbursement program to go back to school or the certification programs offered in the Loss Prevention Foundation to advance their loss prevention and asset management skill sets."

The panelists agreed that a recurring need in these communities is for not only a diverse workforce in background, but in opinion as well. "I found some of my greatest talent from those who may not have ever considered this field from other areas of store operations," Arigi said.

Shamapande added, companies must keep an open mind to maximize the potential of every LP team. "The key to diversity is the broadest dimension of thought processes possible on one team, but you have to be open to different opinions and be willing to use them in your business." Both the panel and audience agreed that company "town halls", mentorship and employee development programs catered to the individual were critical in building a sustainable loss prevention program for the future.

When it comes to strengthening a company through diverse cultural backgrounds, Shamapande said this must start at the top. "Ultimately, it's up to loss prevention professionals to justify the ROI in creating a diverse workforce to corporate executives. Diversity in young talent, minds and cultures strengthens the profitability of a company." Making your professional network as inclusive as possible, Shamapande went on, is imperative for aspiring professionals to get their foot in the door. And in order to effectively find the right mix, Martinson summarized, companies must be constantly changing the way they think about diversity.

"This is not an item to check off on the quarterly business plan – it’s a personal and professional journey that is in constant need of reflecting and fine-tuning."