There is a certain degree of dynamism when it comes to generations meshing within the workforce. How we perceive safety as an organization, and as a team, can vary from one industry to another. When it comes to food safety and quality benchmarking best practices, interactions among traditionalists, baby boomers, Generation X, and millennials have an impact on the safety culture as well.
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A recent study highlighted that each generation defines meaningful work differently. This in turn, also influences their understanding of what safety risks are and what measures need to be adapted to reduce or eliminate them. Modern day HACCP and other Food Safety Management Systems are seeing a growing need to be agile, intuitive, and integrated. While the retail and service industries are accustomed to relatively higher rates of turnover, the manufacturing industries in particular, witness a larger percentile of their workforce aging, while assimilating skills, knowledge, and experiences over the years. As generations combine and talent pools come together to solve current day safety challenges, organizations are seeing a disruption with training initiatives, documentation systems, and knowledge transfer processes.
A trend known as the “gig economy,” which is characterized by contract or part-time work as opposed to more permanent positions, is gaining popularity among the current day workforce, especially with Generation X and millennials. Their need to plug-and-play within different organizations, while keeping primarily work-life balance in mind has redefined not only the workplace culture, but the safety culture as well.
If It’s Not Broken, Innovate
Most organizations confuse innovation with change. Change is inevitable; innovation is a choice. Creativity in the workplace has been scientifically proven to fuel an employee’s sense of purpose and belonging. Pooling talents together to come up with “free-hand” solutions will not only encourage teams to think about solutions for future challenges, but also create a space for them to learn from one another and with each other. A few good areas to exercise this would be revisiting food traceability systems and food fraud investigations.
Educate Beyond Compliance
Compliance safety training should not be the only framework that shapes an employee’s learning and professional development. Cultural awareness, process improvements, and cross functional team coalitions are some of the other areas of opportunity for building more efficient and responsive HACCP teams.
Evaluate Existing Communication Systems
Most organizations have come to realize that more frequent online communications such as emails, texts, and instant messaging platforms are not necessarily effective; in some cases, they achieve the opposite of what was intended. Instead of revamping communication systems to suit the needs of one generation over the other based simply on demographics (the brainchild of stereotyping), it is imperative for safety leaders to reconsider how their communication is being received and processed within their own teams. Fostering a culture of safety not only requires crucial observational and analytical skills, but employees need to feel comfortable to report deviations right when they happen. Some of the organizations I’ve consulted have tried gamification strategies to inculcate a positive safety culture. It’s incredible how shifting from simple terminologies such as “non-conformances” to “good catches” can impact the organization’s safety culture.