Food manufacturers face several challenges when it comes to training their frontline workforces. Inherent struggles include heavy turnover, a dearth of skilled workers, high production quotas, tight timelines, and maintaining consistent behavior across all lines, shifts, and locations. Add federal regulations and compliance rules to the list, and training employees well enough to routinely apply correct behavior on the floor becomes a bigger challenge.
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However, even the most complex problems can be overcome with the right tools and an open mindset. Training shouldn’t be designed as “one and done.” Effective training is continuous. Studies show an integrated training solution that combines interactive training, continuous reinforcement, and one-on-one coaching can elevate food safety training—while resulting in a lift in production and efficiency on the food production floor at the same time.
Conducted by Alchemy Systems and its research partners, the Global Food Safety Training Survey is an annual survey and comprehensive industry benchmarking tool that determines the efficacy of food safety training programs across the globe. More than 1,400 food safety professionals in more than 20 food industry sectors participate in the survey to determine best practices for overcoming common industry challenges. Some significant issues uncovered by last year’s study were scheduling time for training, keeping the message to employees consistent, creating engaging training, and verifying training for compliance—and these pertained to companies of all sizes. When examining solutions, it was clear that incorporating technology and innovative tools on the floor went a long way toward overcoming training challenges and building a culture of food safety.
Challenge #1: Scheduling Time for Food Safety Training
It should come as no surprise that finding time for training has been the No. 1 challenge identified each year in the Global Food Safety Training Survey. High quotas and tight schedules often leave safety managers and floor supervisors competing for employees’ time.
The most effective onboarding programs are short and engaging, relatable, and include knowledge checks at every step to assess comprehension. However, according to a phenomenon called the “forgetting curve,” even the most compelling onboarding training can be forgotten—up to 80 percent—if that training isn’t continuously reinforced. Building quick three- to five-minute “refreshers” into daily operations that complement training can reinforce and keep material fresh.
It can be difficult to squeeze in refreshers amid busy schedules. Luckily, the research is in our favor. Studies show the most effective refresher training is short and interactive. Rather than hour-long sessions, five-minute sessions punctuated with questions that prompt understanding and retention are more effective. Adult learning experts agree on the importance of recognizing a tenured employee’s level of knowledge by using brief refreshers as opposed to sitting through the same training as a new employee year after year. These short learning “bursts” take less time and fewer resources, so production can remain humming while employees learn and re-learn on the job. Strategically placing communications tools in high-traffic areas, like posters and video, also helps employees internalize concepts through repetition without taking time off the floor.
A mobile coaching app designed for the food production floor is another way to save time training. When frontline workers receive one-on-one coaching, they’re able to ask questions that create an invaluable dialogue and help them apply safety on the floor. A mobile coaching app conducts formal observations and corrective actions, as well as automatically records and stores observation and remediation data for future audits—which is a must for compliance. Many companies have seen success using such a tool designed for food manufacturing.
“Our mobile coaching app has helped us improve the performance of our workers by allowing us not only to provide the initial training, but to go out onto the floors any time of day, any shift, and verify that the learning that they achieved in the classroom has been sustained and continues,” says Robert Munoz, learning and development training manager at JBS.
Challenge #2: Ensuring Consistent Messaging
A significant challenge to consistency in many companies is having dozens or hundreds of supervisors, each with their own way of doing things. Not all leaders possess the same strengths, and some supervisors may be less experienced or engaging. Ensuring messaging is strong and consistent, regardless of who’s in charge, is imperative for keeping operations firing on all cylinders.