How to empower food safety team?

Strategy 101: Your Team Matters!

Your team is what makes or breaks your food safety programs and your food operations. Your food business is as weak as the weakest link in your business, or shall we say the weakest personnel or departments. If you already implemented food safety management systems (FSMS) such as SQF, BRC, FSSC 22000, you are in luck because FSMS is one of the strategies to keep your operations running smoothly to prevent food safety issues (and beyond).

However, many food businesses have challenges because although they have FSMS procedures, the actual programs are not implemented properly.

Common problem: Employees are not properly onboarded, not knowing what to do and the turnover kept repeating. When you keep retraining your staff because they keep leaving, you are trapped in this cycle of turnover. Why not try something different to empower your food safety team?

Here are what you need to empower food safety team?

Setting Employee Expectation

The first step to set employee expectation is to create a clear understanding of the expectations and requirements for each position. This includes writing a job description that clearly defines what skills are needed, how these skills will be utilized in their day-to-day work and any barriers that might exist for them meeting these expectations.

Educate -Make sure all employees are aware of the importance of their role in keeping customers safe from illness by providing them with information about what they can do to protect themselves, other employees and company profits

The next step is supporting the employees by identifying gaps in knowledge and skillsets in their position so that they can be addressed by providing training opportunities or coaching. Create an action plan to help build competency for the employee’s day-to-day tasks.

Supporting employees through coaching helps the employees to learn in a safe space, and allow the employee to grow and continue to appreciate working in your company.

If an employee has any concerns, they should feel comfortable discussing them with their manager or supervisor without fear of consequence. They also need to have clear goals on what is expected from them so there are no surprises in the future (such as being written up). Lastly, when mistakes happen, always educate and train the employees. It is important for them to understand that speaking up will not result in them, getting fired as long as they have done their due diligence to prevent the mistakes.

By giving the food safety team member the responsibility, authority and accountability for meeting their own objectives, you are empowering actions. This will make them feel more invested in the process which will lead to a higher level of commitment.

Open Communication

Coping with production runs, on top of the everyday tasks of managing employees and departments are tough. The role of a manager or a supervisor is to oversee the tasks but sometimes, we are also working on the floor. It can create a stressful situation for the person. Open communication is very important to ensure that the team can support each other throughout the process.

Keeping all employees at the same pace is important to align the company’s goals and objectives. When Senior Management shares goals and objectives with employees consistently, the message turns out to be “We care for you. That’s why we want you to know!”.

Create an environment of trust, where employees are encouraged to speak up when they see something that doesn’t seem right or safe. Allow staff to share issues and challenges with the food operations. While their issues seem mundane or not important, sometimes, that’s the keyword to the issues that we are having. Always remember production employees are the expert with production. They run the machine more than we do and having open communications allows them to flag small issues before a larger problem arises.

We want to stop the problem when it started. Not after 20, 000 kg of the product was produced and now, we realized the seams of the packaging are not intact or the labels are not applied correctly.

Listen and they shall share the information. Shut them down and never hear until problem arises.

Empowering your staff is not equivalent to asking them to tell you everything. It is about setting them with success by coaching them to solve their problem before going to you, for resolutions. It takes time but the effort is certainly worth it.

Employee Voice in Decision Making

The members of the team need to have sufficient authority and support from management, they must be given access to resources needed for their jobs, they should have a voice in decision-making and there needs to be an organizational culture that fosters collaboration.

Setting Food Safety Objectives? Don’t dictate your food safety objectives. Collect your team’s ideas for food safety objectives. What were the challenges that you see in your food facilities? How can you use each other’s expertise collaboratively to build better food safety systems and operational program that works for the team?

Your team can help build your food safety programs. It is important that Senior Management understand and support the team with sufficient resources that the team will need. It is so that the team can focus and dedicate their time to the project, instead of, worrying and stressing over lack of resources.

Fool-Proof Your System through Continuous Improvements

Connect with your food safety team. Don’t just have your food safety team approve procedures and go to management meetings, to meet food safety certification requirements. They are valuable resources and representatives of different departments.

Turn their expertise and experience into continuous improvement projects. Ask the members can come up with new ideas and share knowledge on how to make FSMS work for them, not the other way around. While the food certification has specific requirements to ensure food safety, there are many ways we can make it work. Your food safety program is not rigid and can be revised if the new process or procedure meets all the following checkmarks:

  • food safety risks are mitigated
  • meet regulatory requirements
  • works for your food operations.

In fact, we recommend all new procedures be run through their users before we approved them. It is to ensure that it can be followed properly and continuously. We find that procedures that are written by the manager without approval by the staff usually will result in the procedures being abandoned or missed. In addition, asking for feedback also helps with staff empowerment.

What do you think about our Strategy here? What do you want to try out first?

If you are looking for assistance to set your food safety culture, why not also review our articles below? We are all about the strategy to make things easier. We love to chat about building and implementing an effective food safety management system for your facility.  Contact us here.

Employee Retention Strategy

Food Safety Culture 101

Building Food Safety Culture

Want something more? Get our Customized Food Safety Culture training, intending to help empower your employee and set a food safety culture.



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