within the framework of food safety. Eventually, costs and value will be improved.
Leaders who put people first, ensure their teams know what is expected, and give the
teams the tools to attain those expectations will have greater success than those that
put cost first.
The difference is in how management sees itself—as the sole creator of solutions
or as a coach, facilitator, and conduit for the teams to actively transform how they
do their jobs each day, which ultimately improves their value delivery (and engagement) at work.
When these systems reinforce company
values, alignment to corporate strategic
plans and initiatives can be realized. Food
companies with a high food safety maturity level have a preventive mindset, and
accountabilities and responsibilities are
aligned for everyone. Employees feel empowered and understand why food safety
procedures must be practiced. When an
employee in a highly mature company
enters the factory, their commitment is
consistent with the company’s values and
Make food safety a habit
Social science teaches us how to turn
instructive actions into habits without thinking. Habitual actions toward situations
must become acceptable norms within the various work groups in the plant and
company. “Acceptable norms” mean the leaders of these various work groups accept
and expect these actions in response to the situation. Think of street gang activity
and their ability to establish acceptable norms. Take your memory back to high
school and the cliques that autonomously formed. Street gangs and high school
cliques create value-driven reactions to situations. The effects on new members initially change beliefs then create habits. How do we, without imposing gang activity,
address the work groups to recognize, accept, and react in a food-safe manner?
Behavioral change tools from social science can help with this, such as those from
the 4E’s model,
15, 16 which considers the systems and capacity to enable change, working with trusted intermediaries and networks to engage change, the shared responsibility needed to exemplify change, and the need for incentives and disincentives to
Figure 2 shows that we need to: Enable, making it easier by providing people
with the support they need to make the right choices; Engage, getting people involved early on so that they understand what they need to do and helping them develop a sense of personal responsibility, developing new “social norms”; Exemplify,
leading by example in line with company values and policies; and Encourage, giving the right signals, reaffirming benefits of change, and providing regular feedback.
Looking at all 4E’s, we need to consider whether the overall package of interventions
is enough to catalyze change; it is important to review this on a regular basis as progress is made.
Transparency and communication
Scientific, technical, and societal elements are different today from what they
were 10–20 years ago. Twenty years ago, social media did not exist as it does today.
Transparency was not a norm. “What you don’t know won’t hurt you” was more
the norm. Today, we all operate in glass houses. Every action and reaction has some
level of visibility. Our current state of communication technology has enabled cell-phone pictures and videos to touch thousands in just minutes. Getting the culture
right is one way of protecting business in this arena.
When you ask, “What can we as
a company do better,” the very common response is, “Provide more communication.” As usual, the devil is in
the details—understanding what sort of
additional communication is needed
along with what the receivers expect
and interpret from the communication
is crucial (Figure 3). The truth is that
most companies that increase the number and frequency of communications
don’t move the needle—it isn’t about
more communication, it is about better
communication—and to make communications better, we need a fundamental
understanding of how the communication process works, what folks expect
and need from communications, and
how that differs from what they are getting. Without that understanding, many
attempts to improve communications
Figure 3 shows the communication
cycle in its simplest form, but we need
to remember that the receiver has to
decode the message to his/her own understanding,
17 and this might be affected
by the chosen communication channel,
for example, email, telephone, in-person
briefing, etc., and by nonverbal signals.
In other words, the chosen communication channel can add “noise” that interferes with the intended message being
Our current methods for sourcing
feedback—annual engagement surveys
and survey technologies like Survey-Monkey®—often take too long and as
a result of the design, build, deploy,
analyze, and report-out cycles required
of our current feedback processes. Leaders are too slow to take action—it takes
3–6 months on average to move from
data collection to action planning on a
typical annual employee survey. Many
companies don’t even get to developing
action plans, which erodes organizational trust. The bad news is that our
organizational feedback processes are
entrenched by habit and woven into the
fabric of core business processes. It takes
a progressive and forward-looking leader
to spot this trend—you have to be courageous to try something new!
Figure 3. A Simple Communication Model