Tag Archives: employees

Erika Miller
FST Soapbox

Employee Buy-in to Ensure FSMA Compliance

By Erika Miller
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Erika Miller

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.

Marc Simony, TraceGains

The Culture of Change Management

By Food Safety Tech Staff
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Marc Simony, TraceGains

Complying with FSMA regulations or GFSI schemes isn’t always straightforward, but that also may not be the biggest challenge facing companies today. According to Marc Simony of the TraceGains Network, the large issue is change management and the culture shift that is happening within companies. In a quick video shot during the 2016 Food Safety Consortium, Simony explains.

 

Frank Yiannas, VP of Food Safety, Walmart

Use Homophily to Deliver Food Safety Message

By Food Safety Tech Staff
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Frank Yiannas, VP of Food Safety, Walmart

Watch part I of the video with Frank Yiannas: Apply Behavioral Science Techniques to Food SafetyWho is your company charging with delivering the food safety message? Are they believable? Frank Yiannas, vice president of food safety at Walmart, provides insights about how companies should be spreading their message when implementing a behavior-based food safety program. By applying the principle of homophily, companies (especially global organizations) can communicate more effectively with employees—and in a more believable way.

 

Lone Jespersen, Food Safety Consortium

Food Safety Culture Series: What’s the Controversy?

By Maria Fontanazza
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Lone Jespersen, Food Safety Consortium

From measurement tools to a shift in mindset and leadership, a recent debate at the Food Safety Consortium brought to light the varying levels of opinion and understanding about food safety culture. In a four-part series with Food Safety Tech, Brian Bedard, executive director of the GMA Science and Education Foundation and Lone Jespersen, director of food safety at Maple Leaf Foods continue the conversation about food safety culture and where it’s headed in 2016.

Food Safety Tech: What is the most controversial aspect to the concept of Food Safety Culture?

Lone Jespersen, Food Safety Consortium
Lone Jespersen debates food safety culture at the Food Safety Consortium in November.

Lone Jespersen: I don’t think there are a lot of controversial aspects. I think the debate in Chicago [at the Food Safety Consortium] showed exactly that—companies understand the importance of food safety culture. The challenges that we collectively face lies in what food safety culture is and how we can best measure improvements within our organization to sustain a strong and effective food safety culture. That, by definition, requires that we know what food safety culture is and what we are going to measure. That is where the lack of clarity, understanding, and alignment is.

Over the last few months, I’ve done a lot of comparisons between the measurement tools, and they’re actually not terribly different, but as usual, we get confused by words. As long as we have a clear understanding of how tools are different and what they actually measure, it will be possible for each of us to select the best method for our organization. It’s more confusion than controversy. If we speak of controversy, I think it is with manufacturers and processors who are increasingly worried about what FDA is going to do when they talk about the food safety culture—will investigators come and look for food safety culture without a clear understanding of what it is? Again, it requires that we have a common understanding, which we don’t have today.

Brian Bedard, GMA, Food Safety Consortium
Brian Bedard of the GMA SEF at the Food Safety Consortium

Brian Bedard: I agree. It’s not really controversy; it’s more of confusion and misunderstanding. We’re seeing some alignment and a better understanding that food safety culture is not something totally different and out in left field; it’s a new way of looking at food safety that is all-encompassing and gets around what was happening in the past, which was an ad-hoc, disjointed approach to dealing with food safety issues. It gives companies a more refined process to drive food safety that everyone can understand, from senior managers right on down.

Regulators around the world are looking at food safety culture as one way to help them do their work better. Our concern is that food safety culture shouldn’t become a regulatory tool per se but should be awareness and [an] appreciation that food safety culture at a company can help regulators better understand the risks they are supposed to be evaluating in a preventive manner.

The GMA Science Forum takes place April 18–21, 2016 in Washington, DC | LEARN MOREJespersen: It’s also about looking at food safety culture and the discussion today, which largely takes place in the forum of food scientists, food safety leaders, heads of food safety at large organizations—in other words, between individuals who are educated and experienced food safety professionals. Their experience is in developing microbiological environmental testing programs, full-scale food safety management systems that go across manufacturing facilities—very complex and technical issues, all of which couldn’t be more different than that required of a professional within an organizational where it’s about behaviors and consequences. The same goes for investigators and auditors [and their roles]—they’re good at assessing written systems, etc. What about behavioural observations and assessments? This stakeholder assessment hasn’t been a part of the debate, and we need to bring it in.

Top 10 Tips for Creating a Sustained Food Safety Culture

By Holly Mockus
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After much anticipation, FDA has finally published the FSMA final rules. If you’ve had time to dig into the details, you most likely noted the new initiative that requires companies to measure food safety culture. The industry is also seeing SQF, BRC and other GFSI audit schemes ramping up discussions around measuring food safety culture. However, FDA and GFSI audits aside, how do you create a culture for sustained compliance with this initiative? Follow these 10 tips to ensure your food safety culture is constant and in line with the new requirements

Photo credit: Dennis Burnett for Alchemy Systems
Set clear expectations for employees across the board. Photo credit: Dennis Burnett for Alchemy Systems

1: Create a solid foundation of programs, procedures and policies

Have a preset annual schedule for review and update of all programs, procedures and policies. Don’t let the schedule slide because there are competing priorities. A small pebble is all it takes to start ripple effect in the company, making it difficult to recover.

2: Set clear expectations, driven from the top down

Everyone should follow the rules and guidelines—from visitors to the CEO to the plant manager to the hourly employee. A “no exceptions” policy will drive a culture that is sustainable and drive a “this-is-just-how-we-do-things” mindset.

3: Use record keeping to ensure that food safety culture is well documented and data-driven

Collect the data that is measureable and non-subjective to help drive continuous improvement. If you collect it, you must do something with it. Good documentation is imperative to proving you did what you said you were going to do, especially in the event of an audit. Be stringent in training, and review all documentation before it hits the file cabinet to ensure it is accurate and appropriate.

4: Implement a robust continuous improvement process

Forward momentum through a continuous improvement process cannot be achieved unless management nurtures the program. If you are not continuously improving, you are falling behind.

5: Have a 360-degree approach to employee engagement with 24/7 awareness and communication

Top-down communication is critical to highlighting the priorities and needs of an organization and will not be effective unless an organized program is in place. Organizations that are not making the necessary pivots to communicate with the multiple generations within their workplace today will struggle to sustain change.

6: Foster an atmosphere of mutual respect

Treat people as you would like to be treated, turn the other cheek, etc. There may be lots of adages you quote, but which one best describes your facility and the relationships with management and peers on a daily basis?

7: Be sure employees have consumer awareness for the products they produce

Do your employees know who the end consumer is of the product that they are producing every day?  Does your culture include a review of consumer complaints and customer complaints with your frontline workers?  Listening in to a call center is a very powerful way to help employees understand what affects consumers and how their job is critical to avoiding a food safety or quality issue.

8: Create accountability across the board

Hold folks who do not support the culture in which you are striving to develop or maintain accountable, regardless of their position or stature.

9: Provide positive reinforcement. It’s the best motivator

Work to catch people doing things right and make a big fuss when you do. Positive reinforcement for a job well done is the most powerful motivator. It helps keep every team member on board with food safety commitments.

10: Celebrate often

We spend too much time at work not to celebrate all the good things that are accomplished. Whether it’s a cake and recognition for those that served in the armed forces on Veterans Day or a successful launch of a new product—celebrations are a great way to recognize and reinforce your employees’ hard work. Identifying and correcting mistakes should also be celebrated; they are fertile ground for making changes and provide great nutrients for continuous improvement.

Holly Mockus, Product Manager, Alchemy Systems
FST Soapbox

Inspiration for Frontline Employees and Supervisors

By Holly Mockus
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Holly Mockus, Product Manager, Alchemy Systems

No experience in our lives prepares us for working in a food manufacturing plant. It’s noisy, cold, hot, dry, wet, dark, or extra bright. It has a variety of aromas that are beyond description. And it has more rules about how to dress, personal hygiene and traffic patterns than can be committed to memory. Every day, frontline food workers make individual decisions that impact food safety, workplace safety, product quality, and operations. So inspiring employees to learn, apply and retain knowledge requires multiple touch points.

At this month’s Food Safety Consortium conference, Holly Mockus will moderate the session, “Gathering Data to Gather Data: Don’t Learn the Hard Way!” LEARN MOREAt most plants, employee onboarding is usually done through formal classroom training. Group training is a great way to learn in a focused setting and interact with an instructor and co-workers. But ensuring that the training is clear and easy to understand can be a challenge. A recent survey of frontline food workers by the Center for Research and Public Policy, Mind of the Food Worker, reveals that 39% of employees say that training is sometimes too complicated or difficult to understand. Learning must be contextually accurate to resonate with the learner, and alignment with the diversity of today’s frontline worker requires new approaches.

Ensuring employees learn, apply and retain knowledge requires multiple touch points because attention spans are getting shorter. According to the National Center for Biotechnology Information, the average attention span is now just 8.3 seconds. Training content has to be presented through different channels in order to stick in the employee’s mind and drive the required behavior.

Companies are increasingly using digital signage to show relevant and eye-catching visuals to reinforce the formal training. The content is more impactful when played at strategic times throughout the production day—continuous or too infrequent may cause the retention level to wane. The content also needs to be changed periodically. Truly effective digital content display will be managed effectively to get the biggest bang for the effort.

Mind of the Food Worker survey
The Mind of the Food Worker survey found that just 43.2% of food workers rarely or never receive coaching from manager/supervisor. Figure courtesy of Alchemy Systems

Leveraging the supervisor and employee interaction through shift change meetings is another important delivery channel for training reinforcement. According to the Mind of the Food Worker survey, only 56.8% of workers said they receive coaching from supervisors. By providing supervisors with scripted huddle guides, they can effectively and consistently reinforce key messages. In addition, supervisors and managers who observe and provide reinforcement or correction individually to employees have found a winning combination that will strengthen and drive culture so that everyone will know the right thing to do every day.

Supervisors are the hub of the wheel that keeps manufacturing on the road and pushes the industry forward every day. Anything that can make life easier for the frontline supervisor will have a high potential for return on investment. Tablets are increasingly being used by supervisors to complete tasks in real time, as it eliminates the need to spend hours deciphering and following up on notes after a shift ends. This in turn gives the supervisor more time to spend on the floor coaching and reinforcing employees. The bond between supervisor and employee is the absolute core of the culture of each manufacturing plant.

The survey, Mind of the Food Worker, was sponsored by Alchemy Systems.