Let’s Talk Training

Columns - Beyond the plant floor

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January 30, 2020

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We have training programs because we need to assure that our staff is trained on tasks that are important. So how do we execute a plan for all that training? What is required to meet regulatory expectations? What is needed to meet your GFSI scheme expectations? What will satisfy your own internal expectations?

I’ve given considerable thought to training programs, and my thinking is that your internal company expectations should exceed those of GFSI and regulation. Let’s go back to the inception of training and think about why we have programs. My belief is that training is used to create positive behaviors and assure that those trained understand the “Why” of whatever it is we do. What are positive behaviors? Those that employees (and leaders) exhibit that match company expectations. Do trainees know and understand what they are doing, what the expectation is, and why they are doing it?

Training programs should be designed to create these positive behaviors. So, we need to assure that we create training and classes that provide all the knowledge needed. We need to assure that the trainees can demonstrate the positive behaviors after the training. Similar to my previous column which discussed the “Plan, Do, Check, Act” (PDCA) cycle, we need to start with planning. This should include:

  • Planning for all training needed. Development of a curriculum that notes all trainings that an employee (or leader) needs to have at a basic level, and should have to move to an advanced level. This may mean a matrix for each employee type or position against all the potential trainings you provide.
  • Scheduling. We must assure that we provide the time for training and make it a priority in the operation. Plan training events so that everyone receives the training, and assure that those who missed it get a follow-up class.
  • Development of interesting methods. Course materials must inform the employee but also be of interest to assure they learn what is needed. Making the curriculum interactive and engaging is key to assuring trainees are receiving the message. We must understand our mission and vision to develop materials that create enthusiasm toward the demonstration of excellence and a food safety culture. The plan should excite our trainees to be a part of the culture driving toward a full understanding of everyone’s job, responsibilities, and knowledge, and that we are each accountable for living up to that level of expectation and culture.
  • Assurance of understanding from the employees. Include a process for the trainees to demonstrate that they remember what they were taught and that they are following the procedures. How will we know the training was effective? Shall we use a quiz during or after the training? We, as trainers, need to follow up with friendly questioning of the trainees after they have returned to their tasks, and even to audit and review with the trainees at their worksite to assure they are following the principles and procedures they learned. Trained individuals must be able to demonstrate that they are fitting in with the culture.
  • A plan for remedial training for those who cannot demonstrate an understanding of the training they have received. When we identify that an individual, or a group, has not understood the materials, we must retrain them to prevent a food safety incident. This may mean a repeat class or a redesign of training materials; it will be an individual workplace choice, but it needs to assure that everyone is on board and is following the principles and procedures that are expected.

Once the training plan is completed, it needs to be implemented, and success monitored (plan, do, check, act). It’s important to note that regular communication, education, metrics, teamwork, and personal accountability are vital to advancing a food safety culture, and your training program is where this all starts.

The bottom line for me is that our training plans must be built to meet our demanding internal expectations. If done properly, we will exceed the GFSI and regulatory expectations.

As trainers, we need to assure that what is important to us — and to regulators and the GFSI schemes — is known and understood by trainees. Making our vision “visible” to employees through the training program assures that there is understanding. Understanding by all employees results in positive behaviors and helps the company achieve not just compliance, but culture.