Authored by Vikas Menon, Food Safety Professional

Conventionally, the food safety and quality department work together closely to plan and execute upon food safety goals. However, a constructive relationship and partnership with the human resources department can also be beneficial. Here are three keys HR can contribute to elevate your food safety culture.

1. Hire for Higher

"HR can help you understand how interviewees make decisions that may impact food"

The most obvious area for partnership to heighten your food safety culture is through the recruiting and hiring process. This starts with development of job descriptions, detailing the specific food safety and quality responsibilities and accountability for each employee. Through the interview process, HR can help you understand how interviewees make decisions and how they will react to policies and situations that may impact food safety and your culture. If their values don’t align with those of the culture, they may not be a good fit for the position.

By prioritizing food safety through the hiring process, HR can serve as highly visible leaders in the development and maintenance of your food safety culture. For instance, when HR understands the importance of food safety culture, that will be reflected in the way they work with new hires. By also beneficially explaining the “why” behind food safety practices, they can play a significant role in cultivating food safety among employees from day one, while then nourishing those beliefs across the organization.

2. Communicate Expectations

"HR can help develop a plan to effectively communicate your organization's food safety and quality expectations."

By partnering with HR, you can develop a plan to effectively communicate your organization’s food safety and quality expectations through the appropriate internal tools and channels. This could include team meetings, spot briefings, short huddles, mentoring, food safety circle meetings, and awards and recognition. These should be delivered in a way that is not only informative and interactive, but also affirming of the culture you are working to create.

Food safety culture should also be prioritized as you develop and periodically measure the food safety specific key performance indicators (KPIs) or food safety goals for employees working at various levels of the organization. By then constructively recognising and reinforcing the efforts made in support of food safety culture, you will encourage future positive behaviours, opportunities for growth, and even advancement among employees. The HR team is most apt to create organizational culture that recognizes significant food safety contributions and innovative food safety achievements that are consistent with the expectations of the organization.

3. Evaluate Confidently

Another significant contribution HR can make is through the critical evaluation of observations raised during internal food safety audits when employee performance may not be meeting expectation. Often, this is because an individual or team did not fully understand their role, or they know what to do but something was holding them back from performing to expectation. In each case, there may be several root causes. By coordinating with HR, you can identify the causes of the behaviours demonstrated by an individual employee or a team and work to successfully remedy them. Left unaddressed, poor practices may become obstacles to improvement, thereby negatively impacting the organization.

When then selecting, designing, and implementing corrective actions to elevate the food safety culture of the organization, you should work closely with HR to assess embedded culture like the ethics, beliefs and other key cultural attributes. Such behaviours can be studied to understand both positive and negative trends amongst employees. Each can significantly influence and alter the outcome of any work to improve the culture, so understanding them can benefit advancement strategies.

"HR can evaluate the maturity of your food safety education and training programs."

HR can also contribute by evaluating the maturity of your food safety education and training programs. Such an evaluation will highlight improvements that need to be made, whether with your frontline team or senior management. Based on the outcome of that assessment, appropriate corrective actions can be executed.

Partnering with HR in the development of your organization’s food safety culture cannot be overlooked. As these three examples show, their involvement through hiring, communication and evaluation is critical to establishing and developing a strong food safety culture.

To learn more about how to develop a food safety culture in your organization, you might be interested our new Food Safety Culture Online course, which debuted this week. This 5-hour, self-paced course will provide a comprehensive understanding of the role of psychology and behavior-based approaches to build a mature food safety culture. Its practical approach will also guide you in the development of a food safety culture plan and how to implement a food safety culture model within your organization to ensure the success of your food safety management programs.

You may also be interested in “How Food Safety Pros Can Leverage HR to Build Better Culture” from Quality Assurance & Food Safety Magazine, featuring my colleagues Raul Arroyo and Stephen Ward. You may also be interested in “Pro Tip: HR plays a vital role in disseminating food safety culture,” which I authored for BakingBusiness.com.

Please contact us at info@aibinternational.com should you have any questions or need additional information.

Vikas Menon, Food Safety Professional, AIB International

Vikas has more than 20 years of experience in food safety, including expertise implementing food safety and quality improvement projects with several food manufacturers. He has also conducted several food safety culture training sessions and supported numerous companies in the implementation of their food safety culture enhancement plans.

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