Training, and Doing It Well, Is Key to Food Safety Success

By Samuel Rognon | Friday, 21 June 2013

Generational changes are presenting new challenges for food safety trainers and food plant supervisors. Audiences are not responding to verbal communication or instructions as in the past. As a result, it is increasingly difficult to get younger generations to actively participate in food safety training that haven’t been updated to meet their communication needs. 

Several factors contribute to this trend:

  1. Outdated training methods. Many food safety trainers have not challenged their food safety training techniques and are still using endless monologues, overburdened PowerPoint presentations, too much theory and few concrete tools, and lack of specific applicable examples.
  2. Change in participant profile. Young workers and professionals have different values, expectations, and learning styles than older generations. They are expert consumers of information and are able to filter and process data quickly. If you do not clearly relate the topic to their duties, you will quickly lose their attention.
  3. Demand for in-plant courses to the detriment of public seminars. Participants are no longer satisfied with general information. They need specific and practical tools that are directly applicable to their workplaces and companies, which is why they prefer in-plant workshops to classroom lectures.

How do we deal with this new reality?

training-food-safety-success 1Make your food safety training session attractive! One way to adapt training sessions to today’s participants is to use interactive material and engaging teaching techniques.

Generate expectations as you introduce each topic: Food safety training needs to provoke, impact, and challenge! If your presentation is not compelling from the beginning, you will not have their attention. If the headline for a magazine article is not enticing, people will not read it.

Customize the presentation directly to participants’ needs:
You may not know your participants’ needs ahead of time, but during class introductions ask them, “What are your expectations for the training?” or, “What do you hope to learn?”. This helps you adjust the time allotted to each section and the flow of information directly toward needs. Then, you are able to give more time or detail to topics that students are interested in.

Keep up the pace and keep topics to the pointSometimes so much emphasis is placed on detail that students lose track of the underlying concept being taught. Many students pick up info fast. For those people, as long as you are presenting the material clearly, you can almost never go too quickly. However there are often groups with a mix of young and older students. It is uncommon for the group to express their displeasure if you are going too slow or too fast. It is up to you to decipher facial expressions and body language and use other techniques to keep you aware of the groups’ involvement.

Keep the group interestedFood safety training should strive to provide as many relevant examples as possible. Information must apply directly to the audience. For example, when teaching HACCP principles 2 through 7, ask participants to mention their own potential CCPs according to the definition introduced in the class. Write them on a board and then use them as the platform for examples of CCP determination, definition of critical limits, monitoring activities, etc.

training-food-safety-success-2 1Keep the group interactingEncourage interaction during workshops, discussions, and debates. Instead of providing a theoretical definition when teaching the non-negotiability of food safety or the concept of corrective actions, let the class work together in small groups, to determine what they would do in self-inspection situations.

Have funLife is stressful. You want participants to get out of their routines and forget their professional and personnel problems for a moment. If not, you will not have their full attention.

Keep the group participatingMake participants teach short parts of the course. The best way to learn is to teach!

Use visual aidsOne schematic is worth 1000 words. Drawings, graphs, cartoons, etc. are easily remembered.

Teaching concepts with analogiesVisual aids can be improved using comparison with daily life.

Many interactive tools can be used to adapt teaching methods to the type of audience. They make the life of food safety trainers easier and help attendees have a good time while learning useful tools that are applicable in their workplace.

About the Author

Samuel Rognon began working for AIB International as a HACCP Accreditation Lead Auditor and a QSE Accreditation Lead Auditor in 2002, becoming a full time consultant at the beginning of 2004. Samuel has a Chemical Engineering Degree from the Compiegne University of Technology in France and a Master’s Degree in Chemical Engineering Applied Sciences from the Polytechnic Institute of Montreal, Canada. In addition to living and working in the United States, Canada, and Mexico, he has worked as a consultant for various food companies in Ecuador, where he currently resides. He conducts AIB public seminars and in-plant training across Latin America in HACCP, Advanced HACCP, Integrated Quality Systems (IQS), and Good Manufacturing Practices (GMPs). He has conducted audits all over the world and was instrumental in opening the AIB International Mexico office in 2005.


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