The Great Resignation continues to affect the economy, slowing growth in nearly every industry. In 2022, the Consumer Brands Association analyzed data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics and found that an estimated 100,000 jobs remained unfilled in the consumer packaged goods industry, including the food and beverage manufacturing sector. Business leaders are desperate to maintain shift coverage and meet market demand.

As The Wall Street Journal reports, a growing number of businesses are turning to temporary workers to fill vacant roles. While it does help improve shift coverage and maintain productivity, relying on temporary labor comes with a number of risks, especially to food safety. What can food and beverage businesses do to ensure temporary workers maintain company standards? Here are five tips:

1. Streamline food safety policy documentation

Food safety policies are incredibly complex and often require dense documentation. While thoroughness is necessary to ensure safety, overly long training materials can make it difficult for new workers to understand procedures and follow instructions. New employees are met with an overwhelming amount of information and stimuli, making it difficult to learn complex processes. Streamlining the volume, length, complexity, and design of policy documentation will more effectively educate employees about procedures, ultimately ensuring better compliance.

2. Provide adequate food safety training

Before temp workers’ first shift on the floor, provide detailed training about the food safety protocols and procedures they must follow, prioritizing the most important information to maximize efficiency. Temporary workers have a high turnover rate, so if training takes too long, the time, effort, and cost involved won’t be worth it. Try to focus as much as possible on just the procedures or policies they need to know for their specific role, rather than highlighting company culture or food safety values.

3. Assign temporary workers to appropriate tasks

Even with proper training, temporary workers’ lack of familiarity with processes and food safety standards can endanger food safety, so it’s important to limit their involvement in high-risk tasks. For example, avoid assigning temporary workers to tasks involving measuring chemicals, food processing parameters, or performing batching processes. If necessary, reassign trusted full-time employees to more sensitive tasks and leverage temporary employees in less risky processes where full-time employees and CCTV cameras can monitor them.

4. Address food safety issues promptly

While monitoring performance, address compliance issues as soon as possible. Identify where the employee deviated from procedure and demonstrate what should be done instead. Where necessary, walk workers through corrective actions, including notifying supervisors about a food safety breach. A prompt response will help prevent additional incidents from occurring and minimize future disruptions to operation.

5. Incentivize adherence

Rewarding good behavior is often more effective than punishing mistakes. Incentivize more rigorous compliance with food safety policies and procedures in as many ways as possible. Tangibly, management can reward top performers with bonuses and recognition, including cash bonuses, gift cards, and free merchandise. You may even introduce friendly competition to the mix and reward the employee that’s most diligent about food safety.

On the emotional front, strive to create a positive workplace culture that celebrates dedication and effort. Use positive reinforcement when you see workers following procedures correctly or improving compliance metrics. This encourages frontline workers to take more ownership of their roles and their inherent responsibility to protecting public health.

It’s unclear when the labor market will tighten up and create fewer challenges for employers, but production must go on. Temporary labor is a great way to fill essential roles when full-time talent is unavailable. However, you may have to take extra precautions to ensure these workers uphold your company’s rigorous standards.

AIB International offers a wide array of support for food and beverage businesses trying to improve both compliance and productivity, providing a full spectrum of food safety, sanitation, and labeling education, including a detailed Food Safety Essentials course. This online training equips frontline workers with the skills they need to keep food safe. With more than 100 years in the industry, AIB International has also developed an extensive talent network to help customers fill essential frontline roles. Learn more on our Assign An Expert service page.

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