Working hard for something we don’t care about is called stress; working hard for something we love is called passion.—Simon Sinek
What makes or breaks a food safety and quality management system is not the type of system certification, but the people involved in making the system work. Organizational practices, especially in the world of food safety, reflect how people show up at work, how they feel about what they do, and whether they are really working with their heads, hearts, and hands in harmony. One of the most common requests that I have received as a speaker is to develop an organizational culture workshop that will enable professionals to “get along with each other and work together as a team.” If only it were that simple to flip human behavior (and adult behavior at that) by 180°.
Before we set our sights on building a stellar food safety culture, we must collectively look within ourselves and be able to answer this question truthfully, “Does everyone on my team feel the same sense of belonging as I do?” The essence of an effective food safety culture lies in fostering an environment that feels safe and inclusive to everyone involved.
Here are some ways to incorporate an empathic approach to food safety while creating a sense of belonging.
Align Organizational Values with Personal Values
Passion is a personal feeling. To be and feel passionate about food safety is going to take a lot more than “fun” training programs. Begin with the organizational values. Ensure that individuals from the C-suite all the way to your interns can relate to the company’s values at a personal level. Reminding them of what food safety means to the organization is not a topic that should be just limited to just onboarding programs or health and safety re-certification programs; examples of good food safety culture need to show up more at work during regular conversations. Leading by example should be normalized.
Build on Transparency Before You Build Trust
Celebrate wins such as meeting quarterly key performance indicators or passing a certification/re-certification audit. Share “good-catches” and highlight situations that didn’t go as planned. We are creatures of habit; building a new habit may mean making a few mistakes at first. When perfection takes the place of progress, it has a negative impact on building trust. For instance, when you’re integrating new technology into existing operations, check in with your team on a regular basis and share what’s working and what’s not to reinforce their trust in your leadership. Afterall, one of the foundational principles of HACCP requires the multidisciplinary team to share and process their data collectively.
Integrate Food Safety Management with Employee Engagement
As unusual as it sounds, employee engagement has a direct impact on the overall effectiveness of the established food safety management system. Organizations that struggle most with maintaining the standard and quality of the implemented system are the ones in which employees feel disengaged or not motivated enough. Invest in their development and encourage them to participate in feedback forums.
The future of food safety is not only smarter, but human centric. We all have a role to play in creating, fostering, and passing on that future.