Does your investment in food safety learning and development programs work?

Developing people’s capabilities, skills and competencies in food safety is essential for securing the brands and reputation of a company and ensuring its growth. It raises performance standards and assists in the production of safe food. It also supports companies in becoming trusted, more efficient, competitive and profitable.

People ultimately drive the success of an organisation but food safety learning and development programs sometimes fail to meet organisational objectives and participant expectations.

Does your investment in food safety learning and development programs work? Are you satisfied with the return on investment? Do your programs help raise the bar?

The only thing worse than training good employees and losing them, is not training your employees and keeping them.
— Zig Ziglar

Many companies learn the hard way as food safety issues occur when employees are not properly trained or training is neglected. Meanwhile, other organisations succeeded in leveraging their food safety learning and development programs.

Three important things learned during my international career in food safety specifically relate to people’s capabilities:

  1. Without first creating a top-down culture of compliance and living the values, everything else that needs to be done is made more difficult or even impossible. This culture needs to respect and value food safety at all levels and have buy-in from everyone in the organisation.

  2. There is a need for ongoing diligence within the food safety program. Food safety is a permanent activity that needs to live through the management system and not something to do just on the audit day.

  3. Training and education are essential factors in any food safety system. Not only the initial education and training but also continuing education plays a key role in maintaining a successful program.

Investing in culture, a management system and in robust learning and development programs ensures compliance. It has a cost but let’s never forget that non-compliance has a much bigger one: food recalls cost companies an average of USD 10 million in direct costs alone, according to a study by the Food Marketing Institute and the Grocery Manufacturers Association (GMA) in the US. This excludes the reputation and brand damages.

If you think compliance is expensive — try non-compliance.
— Former US Deputy Attorney General Paul McNulty

Investing in learning and development programs has huge benefits.

It maintains and advances knowledge and skills. It helps organisations keep up with industry changes and to stay ahead of competitors. Developing people reduces employee turnover and increases productivity, which directly improves profitability. It prevents competitors from taking away your best employees by offering training incentives. It also attracts better talent from the start, as this gives the business a good image and is a key feature many people look for within their job search. 

In addition to the above, there are specific benefits in developing people in food safety such as improving product quality, preventing contamination, reducing food waste, improving efficiency, promoting a positive culture and building a positive reputation. 


Why then is employee development often a problem?

Organisations tend to focus most on the here and now. In an environment where many businesses are in a constant state of change and trying to do more with less, leaders and managers tend to be most focused on essential day-to-day operations and are less interested in longer-term activities perceived as having less return on investment. Sometimes food safety learning and development programs are designed and deployed but do not answer training needs and participants’ expectations. As a result, knowledge is not converted into action. Sometimes, organisations express that there is just not enough time for training, but we must make time for these vital activities. 

In my experience there are critical factors that need to be taken into account to ensure food safety learning and development programs are successful:

  1. There must be continuous sponsorship, participation and involvement of leadership and stakeholders during all phases of the design and the implementation of the programs.

  2. Training needs and gaps must be understood. There is a need to assess the required skills, competencies and capabilities to address current and future gaps, building a plan and prioritising based on this.

  3. Determining and approving the level of resource requirements dedicated to the food safety learning and development efforts is critical.

  4. A communication strategy must be included as an integral part of the food safety learning and development programs.

  5. There must be a system in place to measure the effectiveness and impact of the training and the knowledge acquired.

Experience gained in developing and implementing successful — and award-winning — learning and development programs has shown me that ensuring these criteria are included from the start is the key to success. 

Programs developed with various companies, such as supply chain end-to-end food safety training, food safety community of practice and food safety awards included these criteria in addition to the strong belief that we can do better and bigger when we are connected within organisations and within the supply chain. 

What if you do not develop your people in food safety and keep them within your food and beverage organisation? Keep asking yourself… What If?

Interested in learning more and getting support in developing robust food safety learning and development programs that suit your needs and bring value to your organisation?

Please get in touch.

Marc Cwikowski