Employee Retention Using Food Safety Culture Ways in 2022

We have been talking a lot about how to retent employees in a highly competitive, yet low pay and margin business, food manufacturing. Consumers are expecting the food to cost less and employees are expecting salaries and wages to go higher.

The question is how do we package what the food industry offers (or what you are offering as a food business) to your employees. In this article, I like to boldly explore the impact of your food safety culture on employee retention in the food industry.

Here is a quick 5 questions checklist looking into how are you currently retent employees in the food industry.

  1. Employee salary -is the salary that you offer the lowest salary in the market? Are they fair and competitive? If not, what do you offer to compensate for the lack of salary?
  2. Employee Onboarding -are employees properly going through the onboarding process or are they just simply sent to another employee? Are there employee competency assessment programs in-place for new hires?
  3. Working Environment -What working environment are you providing your staff? Have you considered all possible ways to make what they do, easier?
  4. How do you hire? – Do you hire to fill a position? Or do you hire for fit? Do you include the hiring manager or simply gave them a person to work with?
  5. Leadership -do your Manager, Supervisor, Lead hand etc have leadership availability? Do they deal with issues fairly? Or do they sweep the issues under the carpet? Do they follow procedures?

Of course, we can go on and on but, we are just going to keep this short and sweet here. Let’s analyze a few analogies here.

Employee Retention Using Food Safety Culture Ways in the Food Industry

The Salary Alternative

Salary might be one of the big ones that people go for, especially for those that have financial commitment but the salary is not everything. Today, employees are seeking benefits beyond salary! Perks such as working hour flexibility, learning opportunities, being appreciated and being led by a great leader.

The question is are you prepared yourself for success, by helping your employee (and future employees) to grow as your business grow! Or are you purely filling up a “body” -just another human being that does the work? People will watch what you do and get the food safety culture (and organization culture) fast and if that is not what they want, they know where to look! Remember, the market is hot and I forecast, as our younger generation gets into the job market, the job market is going to be hotter.

If you are not preparing yourself today for the competition, then you are preparing yourself for failure.

Phew, You Finally Got Someone

Now, this is common and many companies are acing this! Onboarding means HR sending the new staff for mandatory basic GMP training (some skip them, hopefully, not yours!) and then, tell the employee good luck, please follow your colleague here to learn what you need to do!

I have personally seen a new employee is assigned by a Supervisor to an employee who, in turn, asks the new staff to go pick up the cart but never shows them the direction. If I am that person, I am lost!

Two consequences that are equally not helping the situation are likely to happen.

  1. The employee quit.
  2. The employee stays but you kept having quality or food safety issues.

The tricky part about this is because we kept hiring more and more employees through this circle of quitting and hiring, we never really know when the defect/ food safety issues start to arise until they became big. Remember, no complaint = no issues!

We don’t want to see any of these issues. Therefore, it is very important to have your food safety team and HR (including operational, maintenance, sanitation, warehouse etc) in the same “food safety culture” state on how to properly onboard a staff. List the process, follow and implement it!

You don’t want to repeat the hiring, firing, quitting and rehiring process. It is tiring and doesn’t pay off! Imagine you are hiring one or two extra HR just to go through the screening process.

Don’t Be Short-Sighted with the $$$ savings

I like to comment on the working environment for our food production staff. Be sure to recognize that all of our staff are working in a different environment that might be hot or cold continuously. There are many labour works that are involved. Consider how you can make the environment better? Do you need to provide protective clothing for a refrigerated environment, better ventilation for the hot environment, better tools or equipment that helps with the weight lifting etc?

We are talking long-term and not short-term. Taking care of your employees means taking care of your business.

Look at the Bigger Picture

If you are thinking salary costs you $$$ and you want to be frugal, think twice. Keeping a deserving staff before they decide to leave is important. If you don’t appreciate your staff, they will see it.

This is what I heard if you don’t keep an entry-level staff for at least a year, you are losing money on the training, skills that they learn and will take away with them, hiring etc. So, the question is how do you keep your staff at minimum 1 year, 3 years, 5 years or 10 years. There is no turning back when your loyal staff got fed up with your food safety culture. I am sure you have seen this happen somewhere along in your career.

Be proactive in keeping your employee happy. Use a combination of food safety culture, payment plan and learning opportunities to grow your staff.

Weak Candidates Apply

They say hiring is a skill and it is. They are no perfect individuals for a job. Everyone including myself has strengths and weaknesses. Accept your candidates as human beings.

We hire people that we can work with, and fit into our culture and depending on the position, we are also looking for food safety skills and communication skills. Are you putting thoughts into whether or not they can stay and are you willing to commit to supporting their growth? If the answer is yes and you are lucky, you might get someone I call a “gem employee” that is loyal to your company because you gave them chance and as long as you appreciate them, are you afraid they will leave?

My Employee Just Kept Leaving

Well, there might be just that reason why your employee kept leaving. Do you care that they left or do you check in with them on why they left? Is there a common trend when it comes to department, salary, and working conditions? Don’t forget leadership too!

People leave managers and not their jobs. I have personally done that and many others do too! So, why are people leaving their managers? Some of the potential reasons may be inadequate support for the role that they are in, not being appreciated, not being recognized for their work, or even not getting work satisfaction and being unable to meet their career objectives. Ask what makes your staff leaves?

Build Your Weakest Employee Retention Link

They always say the weakest person is your weakest link. It is true. If we have poor leadership even in one department, it impacts how others work! It is important to consider building and implementing strategic organizational (and food safety) culture to keep building a stronger team, that would help current and new employees to have job satisfaction. There are so many ways how positive food safety culture will promote leadership and inter-departmental collaborations.

Set Food Safety Culture Experience

It is all about the experience that you intend to make your future staff feels and continue to have throughout their employment. We want to work with a great food company. If you are not providing a cutting-edge experience, then, there is another company next door that is hiring. Check next door!

Do you agree?

I like to end this blog by encouraging you to look deeper into the inter-relationship between organizational culture and food safety culture, in employee retention in the food industry. Don’t just complain but build a company that truly cares about your employees, food safety and food brand!

We at SFPM Consulting, strongly believe that delivering and setting food safety culture expectations will help build better employee retention, reduce food safety and quality issues and eventually, lead to a stress-free quality management system. Admit it, we as food professionals, just want to get away from the day-to-day firefighting. It is an endless fight and this is the time to make a 360- degrees change.

We’ve got a team-building and food safety culture training, exclusively designed to build impactful food safety cultures. Do book a Strategy Call with us, to get a free quote or discuss how we can help you and get a free copy of our Food Safety Culture Commitment Sheet, our gift to you!

Previously published at https://sfpmfoodconsulting.com/food-safety-culture-ways-to-retent-employees-in-the-food-industry/.

Author: Felicia
Felicia Loo is a Certified Food Scientist and registered SQF Consultant, focused on assisting food business to obtain food business license, achieving effective food safety management system and automate food safety system.