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Food Safety Training ≠ Behavior Change

Recently, I read a survey about food safety training that shouldn’t come as surprise to food safety professionals. 


Nearly three-quarters (75%) of those working in food facilities said they agreed or strongly agreed with the statement: “Despite our training efforts, we still have employees who do not follow established protocols on the floor.” 


Think about that. Despite training employees on what to do, sometimes they still don’t do what we’re asking them to do. 


Why do you think this is still the case? Clearly, there are many potential factors that can contribute to these results. However, rather than dive into all the potential reasons, I thought I’d share a tool I’ve used over the course of my entire career. It’s 3 basic questions I always ask myself when I see a desired food safety process that is not being adhered to. 


They are:


1. Did we design the food safety procedure or process the right way?

I’ve learned working for large organizations, what’s hard to do will not get done consistently or done the same way every day. When you see a process that is not being followed, the first question or focus should always be inward and not on the employee. If you designed the work in a manner that’s easy to do, it’s likely to get done the right way, every day. 


2. Does the employee have the right tools, skills, and knowledge to do the work the right way?

Only after I’ve asked the first question, do I proceed to the second one. Did we provide the employee with the knowledge, skills, tools, and adequate time to do the work the way we’ve defined or outlined it? If we design food safety the right way, we still need to ensure we’ve trained, educated, and equipped the employee for success. Have we done that effectively?


3. Does the employee have the motivation to do the procedure correctly? 


Only after I feel good about the answers to the first two questions above, will I move onto the third one. While I find it rare, there are times when employees just simply lack the motivation to do it right. Yes, we’ve designed the work with simplicity in mind, we’ve provided them with the right tools, skills, and knowledge, but for some reason, they’re still doing it incorrectly. Only after I’ve addressed questions 1 & 2 above will I even think about any type of negative reinforcement or consequence. 


Again, these questions need to be asked - but they need to be asked in this order.

Much too often, I find food safety professionals, both in the private and public sector, ask these questions in the reverse and wrong order. 


Over the course of my career, these questions have been invaluable to me. I hope you find them useful and, more importantly, put them into practice. 


Until next time, thanks for reading. 






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