4 Ways to Enhance Food Safety Culture Plans to Meet the Demands of 2020 & Beyond

Kari Hensien, President of RizePoint
Kari Hensien, President of RizePoint

by Kari Hensien, President of RizePoint

4 Ways to Enhance Food Safety Culture Plans to Meet the Demands of 2020 & BeyondFood safety culture used to mean “what you do when no one is watching.” But understandably everyone is watching, and the stakes are much higher in 2020. So much scrutiny can make or break a brand in this climate, and that’s why enhancing food safety culture plans must become a priority.

The conversation in the food safety community is abuzz with food safety culture and with good reason. As we move into more modern processes and technologies, it’s become clear that a strong food safety culture directly enhances compliance to standards, starting at the store level. This means that your food safety culture plan isn’t just another thing crowding your to-do list, it can be a program that elevates the success of your quality management systems and food safety programs.

Here are 4 ways you can start enhancing food safety culture plans today.

1. Treat Location Employees Like Assets (Not Liabilities)

Your location employees are your first line of defense when it comes to publicly meeting standards and protecting your brand. This means that they also have the potential to be an amazing asset or an upsetting liability. (Of course, any employee at any level is a potential liability, but are we setting them up for failure when they’re treated as such up front?)

I believe that location employees are an untapped asset that have been subject to more blame than true support. It’s time to help them feel more important and heard, so they value what they’re doing.

The first thing you can do to boost employee confidence is show them the purpose behind all the rules, regulations, and standards. If rules seem arbitrary, they don’t feel important. So, employees may think “why does it matter if things are not done by the book?” In the end, employees perform better when they know the “reason why” behind their tasks. No one likes to feel like they’re doing busy work.

2. Move Toward Supportive (Not Punitive) Programs

One key way to treat your employees as valued assets is to take away any sort of “punishment” for noncompliance. This kind of punitive system only encourages location employees to do enough to stay under the radar.

On the flip side, if employees know they are going to get help and support by being honest with store evaluations and self-audits, they are more likely to help you catch small issues that can be fixed immediately instead of growing into huge problems or liabilities. And of course, this inherently trickles down to improve customer experience and brand management.

I don’t mean for this to sound like a magic wand that will automatically fix all your problems, but I do believe that you catch more flies with honey than vinegar.

3. Get Tools that Give You a 30,000-Foot Perspective

Another way to improve your food safety culture plans is doing more to gain a 30,000-foot perspective as well as deeper insights into locations, regions, and your business as a whole. When you make this effort, it becomes easier to see trends and hotspots, so you know where your attention is needed most, from trainings to supply issues.

Gaining this perspective is difficult at best, and in some cases near impossible, if you’re using manual processes — such as paper, emails, and spreadsheets — or if you’re using a tech solution that only does one thing — such as a checklist app. There are many quality management system software options, and quite a few facilitate valuable benefits for your food safety culture plans.

Some benefits include updating any rules or standards to every store at once, creating a single source of truth that employees know is up-to-date and accurate; sending out automated CAPA plans when there is a noncompliance; and seeing where training and your attention is needed most.

4. Use Quality Management System Software

I know I mentioned this above, but I cannot emphasize enough how the right software for your business will set you up for success with your food safety culture, your quality management systems, and your food safety programs.

In my mind, spending less time in spreadsheets and saving that time alone is enough reason to invest in software solutions, but there are so many benefits to adopting software. You can gather data quickly and aggregate it from many sources, store data in one place to create a single source of truth, automate corrective action (CAPA), and much more.

It is especially clear that now is the time to reevaluate your use of software with the advent of the FDA’s New Era Blueprint, which clearly shows that technology advancement will be the bare-minimum requirement in the near future.

I hope these four steps help you think through the changes and updates that are available to you when it comes to enhancing your food safety culture. Prioritizing food safety culture plans now will give you a stronger base to work through our current crisis and any crisis that may follow — from recalls to pandemics. You don’t have to change overnight, just choose one of the four steps above — treating location employees as assets, moving toward more supportive systems, gaining a 30,000-foot perspective, or investing in the future of your company with quality management system software — to get started.

As President of RizePoint, Kari Hensien is championing a new continuous quality initiative. Since travel and interpersonal interactions have been devastated by COVID-19, it’s been challenging for businesses to obtain regular third-party audits, which are integral to access and analyze key data and ensure safety compliance across the enterprise. Kari is facilitating an increased self-assessment auditing model, where businesses and their locations can use RizePoint’s digital platform themselves, resulting in more frequent audits and broader visibility during the pandemic and beyond. For more information or to discuss RizePoint’s solutions, please contact Kari at kari.hensien@rizepoint.com.