It might be argued that those working in the food and beverage industry have to comprehend more crucial information than many other professions. After all, the health and happiness of the general public is at stake and any omissions or oversights may have consequences.
However, while recognizing the significance of consumer safety is one thing, managing to remember and apply best practices to business insights such as quality control is another thing entirely. This can lead to some food and beverage training falling well short when trying to educate employees about complex themes and complicated subjects.
The main reason for this is because traditional corporate training usually consists of uninteresting PowerPoint presentations narrated by uninspiring lecturers. What’s more, these courses often take place in windowless classrooms or conference centers, which are completely detached from actual working environments.
Thankfully, there is an alternative and it’s called spaced repetition.
What is Spaced Repetition?
In many respects, spaced repetition is fairly self-explanatory. It involves repeating the teaching of a subject again and again, but spaces this out over a prolonged period of time. The intervals between each teaching are gradually increased when the student gains a greater understanding of the subject in question. For example, you could start a fire safety topic and the interval time would be one day. Once you start to understand the topic and have a greater knowledge of fire safety, then the interval time would increase over time, to around one month.
Dating back to the 1930s when Professor C.A. Mace discussed the notion in the book Psychology of Study, this process takes advantage of the psychological spacing effect that is also known as expanding rehearsal, graduated intervals, or repetition scheduling. Spaced repetition has the power and potential to increase the human brain’s ability to learn, memorize, and apply new information.
As the book states, “Perhaps the most important discoveries are those which relate to the appropriate distribution of the periods of study…Acts of revision should be spaced in gradually increasing intervals, roughly intervals of one day, two days, four days, eight days, and so on.”
While various researchers, scientists, and psychologists began to explore the idea more fully, it wasn’t until the 1980s that spaced repetition really started to gain traction, thanks largely in part to the rise in popularity of personal computers. Software could be developed that adjusted repetition spacing intervals based on how well the student was performing. Harder materials would come up more often, but subjects that were thoroughly understood appeared less frequently.
Since then, spaced repetition has come a long way and those with smartphones and tablets will find that the most popular language learning apps are invariably based on this technique, as they require individuals to recognize, remember, and recall pieces of information they have never come across before. For this reason, it can be incredibly effective with food and beverage training.
Food and Beverage Training Challenges
Despite the fact that educating employees is of utmost importance, which most members of staff will recognize, there are challenges the food and beverage industry faces with corporate training.
First, it is easy to become overwhelmed with the sheer number of industry regulations and government laws. These exist for the right reasons but are sometimes defined or explained in a way that isn’t particularly obvious. On top of that, guidelines and requirements change all the time, which forces companies to change or adopt new ways of working. This is in addition to their own values, practices, and procedures, which will also need adhering to.
Secondly, there is the issue of staff turnover. Numerous job roles in the food and beverage industry, particularly hospitality, will be occupied by temporary or part-time workers who are not pursuing long-term careers. Training these members of staff may be viewed a wasted effort if they decide to leave after only a few months on the job.
Other challenges and obstacles are true of every industry, such as time con-straints and employees’ willingness to learn, but it is obvious that the need for effective training is paramount in food and beverage circles as so much rests on protecting the public. However, can spaced repetition really tackle and overcome these problems?
The Need for Different Approaches
Food Quality & Safety has already highlighted the need for fresh approaches to training. In July 2013, an article concerning food safety for grocers stated that storeowners and managers should not assume that training has been successfully completed because an employee has signed an attendance document or barely passed a test. Furthermore, the article found that training has to be presented, repeated, and updated so that employees can develop a sense of commitment to recognize and avoid cross-contamination, maintain cleanliness of hands and equipment, and promote a safe workplace.
The intervals between each teaching are gradually increased when the student gains a greater understanding of the subject in question.
In addition, another piece from 2013 called for allergen training to be given greater importance, but this would only be viable if food companies changed their whole outlook on the subject. The article says that with the number of people with food allergies and the number of recalls due to undeclared allergens increasing, a company’s culture in terms of how it handles allergens has taken on a whole new importance.
Through the right training, it is within the realms of possibility to continually teach staff about critical issues like the ones in these examples. By the same token, organizations can also change the behaviors and attitudes staff have towards subjects such as allergies or dietary requirements, thus reworking the company culture at the same time.
But once again we must ask whether spaced repetition is the answer? And if so, how can it be introduced and implemented?
Implementing Spaced Repetition
In today’s tech-orientated world, spaced repetition is extremely easy to implement and can work around stumbling blocks that the food and beverage industry faces without too much disruption or interference.
Primarily, spaced repetition can fit in with the existing training requirements of any organization. Work schedules do not need to be interrupted and employees can complete their responsibilities without having to attend lengthy and ultimately pointless training courses.
This is due to various spaced repetition solutions that are available online and can be accessed through a range of devices.
Although this means learning can take place in the working environment, it also allows for studying at a time that is convenient for each employee. The employee can potentially learn about new legislation on the way to work or while relaxing at home, whichever is more effective for the individual.
You’ll also find that some spaced repetition applications are hosted remotely in the cloud, which doesn’t require the installation of expensive software. Along with being cost-effective, this also allows for greater control too, as employers can update or revise learning materials whenever they want.
Another benefit is finding out if employees are actually benefitting from training, as spaced repetition software usually comes with some sort of reporting tool. In the past, it would take a mistake to discover that your employees didn’t learn about a critical subject. But with feedback and data about performance, you’ll know for certain whether the workforce is increasing its knowledge and understanding.
The Final Word
As we have previously seen, training is a constant requirement in regards to implementing food safety. From understanding the allergies of customers to avoiding contamination through human contact with food, the average employee has countless things to remember, which cannot be memorized and applied through standard teaching techniques.
But while this can strike fear into grocery owners, restaurant managers, quality control operatives, and laboratory technicians, there is a viable solution. Spaced repetition has been proven to increase an individual’s ability to learn new information and apply it effectively.
In addition, software solutions can fit around the requirements of nearly every organization working within the food and beverage industry. It can be integrated into daily operations, continually adjusted to meet changing legislation, and help to engage employees more than classroom-based courses.
It also provides member of staff with control over their learning, but gives companies that ability to monitor performance. For these reasons, space repetition can noticeably enhance food and beverage training.
Simmonds is the founder of Wranx. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.