Training Solutions to Advance Food Safety Culture in a Global Supply Chain

By Brita Ball

People in the food business know that having food safety management systems in place doesn’t guarantee food safety. Inspections and audits may support confidence in the food supply, but they show a snapshot of the situation at a particular time. The best solution to reducing risk is to have a strong, positive food safety culture. One of the big drivers of culture (and the behaviour and work unit commitment that lead to it), is training, followed closely by management commitment to food safety.

The global supply chain creates training challenges for companies with multiple locations and multiple suppliers. Here are three problems and some solutions to help you advance food safety culture in your organization and supply chain.

The global supply chain creates training challenges for companies with multiple locations and multiple suppliers.

  1. Cost and Time of Food Safety Training

Issue: Cost and time are two of the most common objections to developing powerful training initiatives.  How can you handle them when they arise? Let’s look closer to the two core issues here:

  • Management Commitment to Food Safety –

Solution: Management needs to show a leadership role in food safety and leaders need to devote resources towards developing and implementing food safety management systems. Senior management correctly focuses on business at a strategic level, so communicate with management in the language of financial cost and risks of not training.

  • Food Safety Training is Hard to Fit Into the Schedule –

Solution: Food safety is everyone’s job yet if training is only delivered formally by food safety and quality personnel it can be seen as taking time away from production. Training can be a shared responsibility. Operations, for example, can deliver daily or weekly micro-learning about food safety. Regular team huddles could include brief discussions on different food safety topics throughout the year. Provide Operations and other departments with key messages and tips to use throughout the year to show an ongoing focus on food safety.

  1. Clear Training Outcomes around Food Safety Behaviour

Issue: The best food safety training initiatives start with clear objectives and outcomes they are designed to meet. Without this clarity, any training will do. Most food safety and quality professionals are well versed in their technical areas but have limited experience in effective learning design. Designers start with the end in mind and develop content that meets specific goals.

They design training that answers the questions:

  • What will learners know?
  • What attitude will learners have?
  • What will learners be able to do?
  • What aspirations will learners have?

Solution: To advance food safety culture, create or buy training material that fills the learning gap your organization has, and deliver it in a way that facilitates the achievement of desired food safety outcomes.

  1. Consistent Expectations around Food Safety Culture

Issue: In the global supply chain, businesses have to deal with numerous languages, national cultures, organizational cultures, and environments. These factors affect people’s inherent beliefs and attitudes about food, food safety and food safety practices. Beliefs, attitudes and behaviours will need to change if food safety culture is to be advanced.

Solution: To help this shift in culture,

  • Consider context to understand potential resistance to training about food safety practices in different locations, and proactively explain why the practices are required
  • Be clear and consistent about required food safety behaviour
  • Ensure management in each location understands the supporting role they play and shows leadership by following the required behaviours.

Training and management commitment to food safety influence food safety culture through work units. By addressing time and resource challenges, being clear on training outcomes and having consistent expectations for behaviour, work-unit commitment to food safety can be improved.

To make training stick, be sure to follow up. Workers can be encouraged to practice desired food safety behaviours when there’s coaching and reinforcement of positive behaviours, and correction when needed.

As new behaviours become habits, the food safety culture will shift to a new normal. Expectations and consistent action to support food safety throughout a location, and in other organizations within the supply chain, will advance food safety culture globally.

About the Author

Brita Ball, PhD, CTDP, ECPC, helps organizations be audit ready all the time. She helps by improving their training effectiveness, food safety culture and bottom line. Dr. Ball is President of the international consulting firm Brita Ball & Associates.

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