must we be aware of language differences, four to six different
generations including millennials and cultural variations, and
addressing those with customized training specifically using
their desired language or recognizing their cultural perspectives, but we must also refine training and tools to be job specific and relevant. This approach is critical to quickly getting
the shorter-term workforce up to speed with the appropriate
norms and behaviors, without relying on legacy knowledge or
systems. By making training and tools job specific, we make
the expectations real to the employee, and they are better able
to internalize the requirements of their role.
Combined, the socioeconomic influences and the demographic changes add new complexity to the challenges faced
in changing and sustaining a strong food safety culture. To
sustain the culture, a level of resiliency must be created in the
culture that allows for changing employee populations and
business dynamics. It is no longer enough to develop a food
safety policy statement and train the workforce using a generic
approach. Much deeper leadership commitment, support of
supervisors, and engagement of employees will be needed.
The battle for a resilient food safety culture, one that will
stand strong in the face of socioeconomic and demographic
winds of change, will be won through employees’ hearts and
minds. To be successful, there are several critical steps to be
taken. This includes management alignment, defining/institut-ing expectations, communication programs, aligned incentives
and disincentives, education, and supervisor support.
Unlike strategy and leadership, culture cannot be planned
like a rebranding exercise. You can’t just say “we are now a
learning organization or purposeful organization.” The company culture is all about employees’ behaviors and beliefs; it
is how they work and get work done. Changing the culture
requires changing the way the company gets work done.
Strategies to Define or Redefine Your
Company’s Food Safety Expectations
Faced with the changes described, today’s food industry
professional has to be constantly on the lookout to learn from
others, be flexible to constantly incorporate new tricks, and
persistent to stay the course. We want to share some activities
that we have found to work effectively to adapt our com-
pany’s food safety expectations and engage our colleagues.
We chose to define a food safety expectation as “a simple and
easy-to-understand description of how a person is to act spe-
Creating organizational change can be daunting, will take a
long time to achieve, and requires relentless effort. For culture
change to take effect, the CEO and top management team
must align with the target culture desired. 6 The food safety
professional must work to create top leadership alignment
around a food safety culture that may be new to the organiza-
tion. Alignment requires management to communicate the
new cultural elements through their actions, not just their
memos, white papers, and words. The change must consistent-
ly cascade throughout the organization from the top down to
the front-line worker.
After obtaining senior leadership alignment, one of the first
steps in instituting a new culture is to define expectations. It is
important to set up clear expectations so that each individual
understands how food safety—and even quality in its broader
sense—fits with their job. Expectations are key to setting up
clear accountabilities. They help get results and drive the right
behaviors. Most importantly, the message needs to be credible
to people at all levels in the organization.
In setting expectations, there are several challenges to overcome. First and foremost is the need to adapt to the audience.
This means that you must ensure that you target everybody. It
is critical to make the message specific to each person’s role;
in this way, they will be more engaged in the culture change,
having a full grasp of the expectations specific to them. It is
also important to remember that expectations should not be
only about standards or tangible outputs but also about mind-set and behaviors. Also important to understand is that one
company’s set of expectations does not fit every company.
Tailoring expectations to roles and to an organization is critical to ensuring their successful implementation.
Make Leadership Decisions
Mission and vision statements
These guiding principles should be short, memorable, and
core to all activities in your plant. Employees should not have
to look at a poster or pull a card out of their wallet to read
their mission statement. Simply put: This is how we work—
every day, every job, everyone. Simple is always better; it helps
to ensure understanding and retention.
Organizational norms: See something, say something
Create a safe environment for employees to identify and
even correct unsafe situations without fear of retaliation. Too
many incidents have occurred because a worker did not take
action when they could have. While no one in the plant wants
to see a production line stopped, everyone should want to see
a zero tolerance for potential recalls and poor-quality product
going out the door. Create a safe climate for fixing the problems rather than “shooting the messenger.”
Position titles and job descriptions should include food
safety expectations. Ideally, food safety responsibilities should
appear in everyone’s job description. These responsibilities
should be clearly defined and role specific. Identifying food
safety leaders with titles such as “food safety and quality assurance supervisor” demonstrates your commitment. Food safety
committees involving line workers as well as supervisors and
managers also communicate your seriousness of purpose in
creating a strong food safety culture.
Changing culture requires hard work, persuasive buy-in
from the organization (especially at the top), and a compre-