You created the perfect color-coding plan for your facility. Your new hygienic, color-coded tools came in the mail and have been hung on corresponding color-coded shadow boards or wall racks. Everything looks ready to go—but your job here isn’t done and the tools shouldn’t be touched until you do one very important thing: hold a company-wide training on the new color-coding plan.
In fact, your color-coding plan isn’t a “perfect” plan at all unless it makes note of the necessity for regular employee training procedures. While some simple internet searching can return best practices for mapping out a facility color-coding plan, not much guidance is given on how facility owners and managers can best communicate the plan to the people who will be expected to carry it out.
Here are some best practices for conducting training on a facility color-coding plan to get you started.
1. Pick a Time and Place that Works for Everyone
A facility-wide color-coding plan should be understood by everyone in the facility. That means it’s important to schedule training when all employees can be in attendance. In the case of shift workers, consider holding more than one training session. Some facilities choose to record training sessions for employees who are unable to make it to an in-person session. Should you use this method, be sure to follow up with employees who receive training via video to see if they have any questions afterward.
2. Keep Your Training Simple
Facility color-coding plans are more likely to be followed when they are kept as simple as possible, and the same goes for your training session. Aim to develop a quick, easy-to-understand training about the color-coding plan that can be completed in 20 minutes or less. If you find that time limit to be unreachable, consider whether or not the color-coding plan is indeed as simple as it should be.
3. Address the Importance of the Training Right Away
We’ve all been in meetings where the unsaid thought in the back of everyone’s mind is, “Why am I here?” Generally, that thought leads people to mentally check out of the meeting—something you don’t want to happen when discussing something as important as quality and safety of your facility and products. To combat this, kick off the meeting with a recap of the necessity of the plan and the training session. Anyone can look at a color-coding chart and see what each color means. Focus on why you’re color-coding, what it can help prevent, and what benefits it offers to the facility and to keeping everyone, including them, safe. Does the facility handle allergens? Highlight the importance of keeping allergens separate. Does the facility handle toxic or flammable chemicals? Highlight the safety concerns of using them in the wrong area or letting them touch product.
4. Ask for Questions
Create a training atmosphere where employees are comfortable interjecting to ask questions as they arise. Be sure to start the presentation by making this clear and, when you’re done going over the plan, invite questions once again. Some employees might prefer to ask questions without the presence of a large group, so offer yourself up for one-on-one sessions following the training. The last thing you need is an employee who isn’t sure of the right procedure but doesn’t confirm their assumptions due to a belief that questions aren’t welcome.
5. Consider Bilingual Training Sessions
If the facility employs many non-native speakers, you’ll likely need to hold training sessions led by someone who speaks the primary language of the employees. This topic is too important to be lost in communication, so be sure to work with human resources to understand the needs of your team going into training.
6. Use Real-World Examples
Remember in school when you used to question when in the “real world” you’d actually apply what you were studying? When told that what you were learning would indeed be applicable in adulthood, you tended to listen more because it seemed to be more deserving of your attention span and brain space. The same principle applies here. It’s a good idea to use real-world examples that speak to the gravity of what’s at stake. Fortunately, or perhaps unfortunately, there are many examples of food safety breakdowns in the news on a regular basis. These news stories reinforce the frequency of these failures and let employees know that yes, “This can indeed happen to you.”
7. Keep the Plan Visible at All Times
Post the plan around the facility so it’s accessible long after the training is over. Keep signage simple and easy to understand, and consider adding bilingual versions as needed.
8. Revisit the Need for Regular or Updated Training Sessions
Every color-coding plan must be reviewed on a regular basis to identify potential issues and updates. Should anything change with the plan, it’s essential to hold a training session to explain the modifications. It’s also important to work closely with human resources to ensure that when new employees are onboarded they receive proper training. Besides needing to address new plan updates and new employees, you should be holding color-coding plan training on a regular basis to provide a refresher on expectations.
The best color-coding plan is truly only as good as the training procedures designed to interpret it. Food quality and safety is a serious business—just one employee in a facility who’s unclear on color-coding procedures can have devastating effects. The very best way to mitigate mistakes is by holding clear and regular training so no guesswork takes place.
Serfas is the owner and president of R.S. Quality Products. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.