Getting employees on board can be one of the most difficult parts of any major change within a company. When things are operating just fine from the perspective of the employee, the cries of, “but we’ve always done it this way!” can be deafening. As a manager, it is our job to explain the new requirements in a way that encourages buy-in from employees at all levels of the organization, and to always present a united front with the company, even if we do not fully understand why a change is important. It is almost a guarantee a business would not spend money implementing a major change if there was not an impetus behind it. One crack in the façade can lead to an entire shift becoming demoralized and disheartened.
Compliance with FSMA is no exception. Although the aim of the act is to reduce food safety risks to the population of the United States, the added paperwork and regulatory requirements can seem onerous to the employees responsible for doing the work. I would encourage any managers who are experiencing some feelings of “why me?” to search YouTube for the videos made by families touched by major foodborne illness outbreaks. The pregnant mothers whose babies are infected with Listeria from deli meat sandwiches are particularly heartbreaking for those who have children.
Once a manager has convinced him or herself of the importance of compliance with the new food safety regulations, it’s time to get your employees on board as well. If you can, show them the same videos you saw to encourage their buy-in. Listeria is a danger in any plant handling a ready-to-eat product or one that could be improperly cooked by the end user. Remember, cooking instructions do not absolve the manufacturer of the responsibility to produce food free of hazards! With the internet, impactful videos are only a click away. Just remember to always fully vet the video before attempting an at-work viewing party—lots of people on the internet have senses of humor that may not translate well to the workplace.
Making the issue personal also works well. This is a great way to get the message home about allergens. In any group of associates, chances are good that at least one of them will have a close friend or family member who is affected by a food allergy. Ask people to raise their hands if they know anyone who is allergic to food. Ask them what that person must do to protect themselves. Frequently, the answer is that the allergic consumer can only read the label. This is a great teaching tool for the importance of proper labeling and can be used as a lead-in to the introduction of a new Allergen Preventive Control, if one is required. Ask the employees to visualize the people they know with food allergies when completing the required records, or performing the onerous tasks, and imagine themselves as the last line of defense.
Many companies employ the services of temporary agencies. These companies can offer a great solution for a company that is concerned about the exposure to litigation that can occur through employee separation. Some industries have high levels of turnover or seasonal operations, which can prove difficult to manage for busy HR departments. Turnover can lead to a loss of accountability as well, such as when an employee informs you that their training was deficient (leading to a major snafu). If their predecessor was not in the position long enough and the chain of training was broken, it can take a substantial investment of time and energy from a senior individual to train that relatively low-paid position back to base minimum level. Outsourcing some of the work to a temporary agency can seem like a godsend at first. They find them, they train them, and all the hiring company must do is eliminate downtime. Who wouldn’t?
However, over time, many companies find the time and money they saved at the outset comes back around to bite them in the end. Temp agencies often do not keep good records, and if you are relying on them to deliver crucial introductory food safety training before they send candidates to you to begin, you may end up in a bind when your auditor or FDA investigator asks to see your training records. The obvious solution is to bring all training back in-house, but that can partly defeat the purpose of having the temp agency in the first place.