IMPLEMENTING A BEHAVIOR-BASED FOOD SAFETY PROGRAM IN A FOODSERVICE ORGANIZATION: RESEARCH METHODOLOGY
The goals of the organization are varied, and information was collected from internal sources within Roundy’s, Inc., to better understand the needs and the structures governing the overall state of affairs. The organization is a large food service organization but it has been suffering from some financial problems in recent years, and these financial problems have been associated with expansion. However, the leadership of the company is aware of the need for food safety protocol; the need for food safety protocol transcends the need to make a profit, as lax food safety protocol can be the downfall of an organization.
Both the director of food safety for the organization as well as the manager of training and development were interviewed for this particular analysis. These individuals were chosen because they are fundamentally important to the development of a food safety program within the organization; without the support and integration of the knowledge of each of these two individuals, the ability of the company to implement high level food safety standards is minimal.
The research focused extensively on the needs of the organization, and the interviewees were also asked to discuss the conceptualization of food safety within the organization, focusing on the needs and the potential problems associated with implementing this kind of program for the organization. Although each presents a different understanding of the issues at hand, the two interviews can be integrated into a thorough and extensive understanding of the problem of a food safety procedure in the various companies and groups owned by Roundy’s, Inc.
Data Analysis of the Qualitative Interview
After interviewing the director of food safety for Roundy’s, Inc., a few areas for improvement were found. An overall understanding of food safety in the foodservice industry was found to be acceptable, but there are structural changes that can and should be made to the current food safety program to ensure that sustainable, safe behaviors of the employees and associates are conducted at the lowest possible cost to the organization. Cost is important to the overall success of the program, as Roundy’s Inc. has been suffering from financial hardship and falling profit margins overall in recent years, and maintaining the current level of profit is difficult with the implementation of a very expensive food safety program. However, the director of food safety also recognized the importance of having a thorough and comprehensive food safety program—and notes that there are a number of factors impacting the implementation of food safety programs in the Roundy’s hierarchy (Appendix A).
Training for Food Safety Program
The director of food safety notes that there must be five objectives placed as goals for any training program implemented by the organization: first, the organization needs to perform an audit and determine the critical control points in the food production process. Next, the organization needs to ensure that the fundamental elements are in place to facilitate proper food safety handling practices and behaviors; third, the organization needs to understand the current policies and the reasons for these policies—even if the policies are ineffective, as they were initially designed to solve a problem. Finally, once understanding is reached, interventions should be designed to change inappropriate policies.
The manager of training and development notes that opportunity for change should also be understood thoroughly before any changes are made to the organization as a whole. The manager notes that training methods are only effective if their delivery is effective, and that employees who are personally invested in the organization are more likely to engage with new material and internalize the new concepts and rules.
Encouraging employees to learn new behaviors can be difficult in a business environment, but it is made even more difficult when employees are not personally engaged with the company or with the changes that the company is trying to implement. Implementation of new policies is the cornerstone to a new food safety program, and a new policy is only as good as its adherence—that is, if employees fail to adhere to the new policy, then it is increasingly likely that they will slip back into poor food safety production habits. Internal motivation on the part of employees seems to be one of the primary concerns for the manager of training as well as the director of food safety; both recognize that adherence to the training program will be the cornerstone of success.
Training, the director of training and development suggests, is fundamental to any new program implemented in a location such as Roundy’s, Inc. Once the needs of the organization are identified, management can develop a plan that best addresses these issues; once the procedure is developed, the employees will be trained in these methods to the best of the ability of the training manager and their superiors. The importance of employee motivation and adherence will be discussed in some depth later in the discussion, but the manager of training and development notes that employee motivation and adherence is one of the underlying structural needs of any new program, including a food safety program.
Organizational Culture and Food Safety Program Implementation
Interestingly, the development of not only a food safety program, but also a food safety culture goes with the concept of the development of a new training system. Oversight in the system may be unwelcome or uncomfortable for employees at first, but transparency and goal sharing on the part of management can help alleviate the problems associated with failure to comply with the new program’s requirements. The director of food safety defines continuous auditing of the food safety and food management solutions as one of the most important factors in a new food safety program; the director of food safety also notes that changes in organizational culture will be fundamentally important in changing the processes that govern food safety within the organization as a whole.
Organizational leadership should define a clear mission statement that encompasses the organization’s goals, including customer safety as well as customer satisfaction. This mission statement must be realistic and must take into consideration the needs of the employees and their training structures. Employees should not be penalized for past behavior, but training systems that are put into place should educate employees on the requirements of the food safety program as well as the reasons why these requirements have been established—employees respond more positively to change when they are able to understand the reasons why management has decided to implement this change, and how their actions impact the overall goals and success of their company. Employee apathy can be fought through changes to food safety culture within the organization as a whole.
Self-Direction and Employee Motivation
As a general rule, employees are often resistant to change. Being resistant to change is a human tendency, and the manager of training and development recognizes this reality—although the manager does not discuss the problem explicitly—during the interview. The manager of training and development suggests, “The key thing here is that the employees feel personally connected. They need to understand, what’s in it for them? How does the employee benefit by following the process or gaining the knowledge? Those are questions that we need to answer and ensure they are bought in, in order for it to be successful” (Appendix B). Perhaps adherence to a food safety program should seem self-explanatory for employees, but in reality, the new plan will have many processes whose purpose will not be immediately clear; employees need to understand why these processes exist and how they affect the overall goal of the organization.
Employees that are happy and fulfilled in their place of employment are more likely to feel a personal connection with the organization, another issue that the manager of training and development addresses indirectly in the interview. The leadership, the manager suggests, should be the driving force behind any change; the leadership must “advocate” change and encourage employees to accept any changes that have been implemented as important to the overall goals of the organization. Without leadership, changes are incredibly unlikely to occur within the organization on any kind of significant scale.
Behavior and Behavior-Based Training
In a behavior-based training environment, teams must learn new behaviors; one of the things that teams must be able to do is identify what kind of change must happen within the organization for success. Individuals in charge of the change process must also realize that there are reasons for the way things are done, even if those things are unsafe, unsanitary, or illogical; employees do not like to be made to feel as though they have been acting irresponsibly for following generally accepted protocol. Teams of employees knew what success looked like in the previous paradigm, but under the new processes, they will be less certain of how to gauge success, another important issue for management to understand and address.
If a team encourages change within the organization, gives the employees a plan, and then leaves without further assessment, it is unlikely that the plan will reach fruition; employees must be able to engage with their leadership on the successes, failures, and struggles of implementing a new plan, and employees must be able to gauge their own success within the organization through very clear metrics.
Tools for Training and Development
Training and development does not happen in a vacuum, of course; there are specific tools that can be used to assist trainers in the pursuit of success within the organization. However, because the gaps in the processes of the organization have not been identified, it is almost impossible to predict exactly what tools will be needed to train employees on the proper processes and the changes to be made to current processes. The manager of training suggests that reference materials should be made available to teams in a variety of different forms, including online references, workbooks, and other physical materials for the employees to peruse during their training sessions. Ongoing training and evaluations of the training sessions can also be incredibly helpful for the instructors of these training sessions, as they can give good insights into the strengths and weaknesses of the training system itself.
Knowledge and Behavior Gaps
There are often knowledge and behavior gaps in industry, and the food service industry is no exception. The manager of training notes that a distinction can and should be made between knowledge and behavior: an individual can often know how to do something or why something is done and fail to act in the manner they probably should because there is some other driving force behind the behavior. For instance, food safety programs might exist within the organization, but they remain abstract because the behavior structures do not exist to encourage employees to adhere to these particular processes.
The manager of training distinguishes between level two and level three learning, noting that level three learning—behavior-based learning—should be evaluated after three to six months, to determine whether or not employees have been implementing the knowledge that they have acquired regarding the program implemented. Although conceptualized differently, the director of food safety suggests a similar failsafe process to encourage adherence to whatever program the analysts determine is the most appropriate for the organization as a whole. Without these assessments, it seems likely that employees might revert to previously abandoned habits and processes.
Interview Guide – Director of Food Safety, Roundy’s, Inc.
What is the primary goal in implementing a behavior based food safety training program within the organization?
The goal is to achieve sustainable safe behaviors of our employees/associates at the lowest possible cost
2. What does the organization need from this training and development program?
a. Protocol to assess existing and potential hazards
b. Development of policies and procedures to eliminate the hazards
c. Interventions (formal education/training protocol) to educate employees/associates of potential hazards followed by activities to ensure execution of standard operating procedures.
d. Continuous monitoring and evaluation of standard operating procedures and intervention (training) strategies
3. Name four objectives to focus on in this type of training program.
There are really 5 objectives that need to be in place to implementing a behavior based food safety and training program..
a. Identify critical control points in the food production process that are influenced by people.
b. Ensure fundamental elements are in place to facilitate proper food safety handling practices and behaviors.
This includes determining if there are food safety training programs in place and if food handlers are given time and access to proper tools to follow safe handling practices.
c. Understanding current food handler behaviors and the reasons for them.
d. Interventions (training protocol) to change improper or unacceptable behavior
4. That differentiates a food safety culture from a food safety program?
A food safety culture is where both leadership and front line food handlers understand that people will follow correct behaviors if they understand implications of mistakes and are confident in their knowledge. A food safety program develops and enhances the food safety culture through assessment, monitoring, and training.
5. Who creates culture in an organization?
The organization mission statement should define the organizations goals that include both consumer satisfaction and safety.
It must include a commitment (willingness) from organization leadership to ensure policies and procedures are in place to protect the brand.
Interview Guide – Manager of Training and Development, Roundy’s, Inc.
What is the first step that should be taken to increase food safety knowledge and improve behaviors?
The first step is to identify what the need is and the largest areas of opportunity. Where are the teams least knowledgeable? What areas are constantly missed in the audits? What critical information about food safety should be common knowledge but simply is not? This information can be gathered based on reports or incidents recorded along with gathering feedback from various audiences. Ask the team members where they feel like their biggest gaps are, and then ask the managers what their struggles are.
The next step should be to identify a delivery method. What’s the best way to get the information to the employees? This should also be discussed when gathering feedback. In Roundy’s case, we have a technical tool of our learning management system, we also have store huddles and training passports that can help communicate what the requirements are. In identifying the delivery method it is also important to understand what is realistic in the environment for the end users. It is important to work with any constraints or road blocks that they face in their daily operations to find what would be most effective.
What is the best way to internally motivate employees to become self-directed?
The key thing here is that the employees feel personally connected. They need to understand, what’s in it for them? How does the employee benefit by following the process or gaining the knowledge? Those are questions that we need to answer and ensure they are bought in, in order for it to be successful.
Another key component is that it needs to come from the leadership. The management and area leadership needs to be advocates to motivate employees and not only make these daily tasks, but daily culture.
How will this new behavior based food safety training program encourage food handlers to learn new behaviors?
In order to ensure the teams learn new behaviors, the teams must be able to identify the change that needs to happen. What is being done now, and would needs to be done differently? In adult learning, it is important for the learner to understand why they need to do the behavior and what the consequences are if the behaviors do not change.
Another area that will encourage the new behavior is for the learner to know what success looks like. They need to know that these food safety behaviors are at the top priority from their leader and by following these behaviors, this will lead them to success in their position.
Lastly, follow up is crucial. The learner needs to know that the follow up is coming and to see it in action. This goes along with understanding what the outcomes or disciplinary actions are if the behavior is not changed.
How will the organization identify gaps between knowledge and behavior?
Gaps between knowledge and behavior are found through evaluation. In Kirkpatrick’s Four Level Evaluation Model, Level 2 evaluates on learning and Level 3 evaluates on behavior.
Level 2 Learning – This evaluation requires a test to take place before and then after the training has been completed. The evaluation would be provided in the format of a pre-assessment and post-test to ensure the knowledge was transferred and then retained. The learning evaluation identifies – Did the participants learn anything? For the food safety program, a pre-assessment would need to be provided focusing on the objectives and content outlined in the program. At the end of the program, a final test would be provided before completion to measure what was learned
Level 3 Behavior – This evaluation would come 3-6 months after the training is complete. This would be testing or observing to ensure the behavior has changed based upon the content learned. This could also be gauged in the sanitation audits that are completed in the stores on a regular basis. The key would be to ensure the information that was taught was directly reflected in the audit.
What tools will be used for the training and development?
Tools that would be required would be the learning content/materials based upon the specific learning gaps identified. This should contain reference materials for the teams to refer back to after the training is complete, along with a workbook or material to follow along with during the class durations. I would also suggest keeping the materials available online and ensuring the teams are taught exactly where to find this information during the training. The evaluations can be done electronically or on paper, and a follow up eLearning module would also be ideal for those that are newly hired or promoted.