It’s been said that people are the best investment in any organization. The stakes are high in the food business, so this is really an understatement. But in order to optimize that investment, organizations are tasked with providing a strong foundation and consistent training in order to grow and prosper. Standardization is a key ingredient, as training is applied across many departments and geographical locations.
First, let’s consider the obvious: that the right person for the job is important. Finding people that fit company culture and the mission/values of the organization is paramount to achieving passionate employees who thrive, drive improvements and contribute to company success.
Once they’ve been hired, first impressions are important — opinions on the organization are formed from the get-go. When onboarding new hires, ensure that the information is clear, concise, consistent, correct, up-to-date and well-delivered. Communicate points of contact and ensure that the new member of the team is welcomed into a culture that is positive and proactive in reaching its goals.
Key Steps To Ensuring Long-Term Success:
- Set them up for success: Have a clearly defined training plan with tangible metrics and goals. Teach the history of the organization and the background needed for the job. People perform better, and are happier, if they are well-trained and making a difference in the world.
- Share the passion and culture from the start: Focus on the quality and significance of what you do (in our case, to ensure food safety and security to the public). What is the foundation of your management/quality system? What are the standards you need employees to adhere to? How is compliance met with your management system?
- Assess understanding of critical material: After the big picture overview, employees should be gauged on how well they understand and retain the information. From there, an assessment is recommended to ascertain areas to revisit.
- Teach the science: Food science is a specific niche, so spend time reviewing the science behind what your company does. For example, if your business is related to food safety, review the major pathogenic bacteria including morphology, onset of sickness (intoxication vs. infection), symptoms, notable outbreaks and potentially hazardous foods (PHF) associated with that bacteria. In addition to pathogenic bacteria, the foundation is laid for indicator testing, as well as how quantitative analysis is important to food production facilities and/or consumers (testing for shelf-life, use-by and expiration dates). Laying a strong foundation in the science gives employees the confidence and knowledge to succeed. Apply the science across the industry by completing industry training in HACCP, EMP, BRC and various other programs that are within the food safety sector.
- Have a structured, well-defined plan for job responsibility training: In order to not overwhelm a new employee, start with foundational skill sets and build on those. After all the administrative training is complete, move on to specific training related to your business focus. Start with the foundation of good practices to instill this culture from the beginning. To reinforce important practices, review the material in the form of exams to ensure competency, and continuously monitor and provide immediate on-site correction as needed, teaching employees the skill sets to succeed.
- Each job description has a set of criteria they must accomplish: Provide this information in a structured way so employees know the expectation (and offer resources for technical questions 24/7, 365). For some organizations, this would begin in the classroom and move into the on-the-job training once skills and understanding are assessed.
- Practice the skills needed for the job: Once the skill set is mastered, the employee-in-training should demonstrate competency. While training is the responsibility of the entire organization, identify a key person at each location or department. Assign them the tasks of ensuring proper and adequate training of that specific area. This can be achieved by training the trainer or a demonstration. This process should be repeated until all skill sets applicable to their job have been completed. For skill sets that have specific goal metrics with weights associated with them, grade the individual so they are aware of developmental opportunities, as well as items they excel at.
- Allow continuous learning: Invest in both the organization and the employee by promoting continuing education. Invest in cross-training different skill sets between the employees. This demonstrates that you are interested in their growth and advancement within the organization. Refresh the material and ensure that employees maintain proficiency in their skill set. In addition to hands-on, continuous learning, there are additional techniques that are proven to be effective, including webinars and interactive meetings.
Once employees have mastered the skill sets in their current roles, they begin their advancement to various levels of seniority. Each progression should, of course, have a structured list of requirements. Continuing education is just as significant to ensure employees are continuously improving. As science advances, food laws change and production evolves, companies must facilitate a culture that is constantly learning, updating and improving. Aside from requirements of an ISO-accredited organization, the drive to continuously learn is a major part of culture that promotes growth. Skill sets are constantly reviewed, assessed and documented for compliance using auditing guidelines. Technical analysis is monitored through participation of external programs that assess an organization on its skill sets, which can be directly correlated to its training program.
In the end, the success to employee training is to invest in education and training programs. Well-trained employees lead to happier employees, leading to continuous improvement, higher productivity, increased efficiency and improved tenure with an organization.