Training Staff on Food Safety Monitoring
We all went to school to learn reading, writing and arithmetic. Some of us moved on to college to study food science, hospitality and management. Others hold advanced degrees in highly-sophisticated fields. Yet few of us ever formally studied Food Safety Management (FSM), which is now pervasive in almost every area of the restaurant and retail food industry. Everywhere you turn, there is a FSM policy needing attention and compliance, especially implementation of your HACCP Plan.
How can you train globally and pervasively across your organization?
There are three main Training Channels:
On The Job Training (OJT)
This is the primary way to transfer knowledge, one-on-one. This is also the most labor-intensive and expensive way to train. But it has the benefit of the trainer having 100% of the trainee’s attention. The trainer can make eye contact and ask questions directly of the trainee. OJT is an ideal way to train a new employee in FSM. Once you have trained a staff member, let them train the next staff member. In medical training, this is called the See One – Do One – Teach One method to teach surgical competency.
This is the ideal training channel for teaching a new regulation, quickly. You can assemble staff either before hours at morning huddle, after customer hours. If you want to avoid potential overtime, you can schedule group training between peak guest periods, with a higher chance of having everyone present.
The challenge of group training is that some people may not grasp the concept or the task, and the trainer is unaware. It’s intimidating to ask a question in a group setting, and questions are how we tend to learn new information quickly. Also, my question might be on the minds of every person, and the answer is helpful to the entire group. As a group trainer, it’s best not to ask binary questions that only require a yes or no answer. Ask questions which make the staff member give a full answer. Or better yet, let them demonstrate the task to the group.
The beauty of online training is that staff can learn FSM procedures and tasks on their smartphone or laptop, on their own time. Many companies are using online videos, audio podcasts or Powerpoint decks for training. It’s probably the most efficient way to train, but the least personable. There’s little give and take between staff and the trainer. One way to bridge the gap is to develop a hybrid method of online videos and in-store training, so staff can prove competency in the actual environment.
To follow on these three channels, here are five training tips we’ve found helpful:
1. Tailor content to the audience.
One of the advantages of having a younger demographic of staff (Millennials and Generation Z), is that these “digital natives” are already familiar with mobile devices as digital teaching tools. To make your training materials mobile-friendly, make sure to go light on text and heavy on pictures. Most people are visual learners.
Avoid long paragraphs and long sentences when developing mobile content. They create dense prose, which inhibits your learner’s comprehension and grasp of the material. Use white space and bullet points to emphasize key concepts.
2. Use real world examples.
The challenge of FSM training is translating regulations like your HACCP Program into simple step-by-step instructions that relate practically to restaurants and retail food environments.
Take for example GMP policy and procedures, making sure allergenic materials are stored separately from non-allergenic materials. You’ll want to hold (or film) your training session in front of the fixtures where these two categories of ingredients are stored. You will also need to map the usage of these ingredients beyond storage, to make sure they are not mixed on the loading dock (right term?) or at the presentation point on a guest’s plate or tray.
3. Assess Baseline Knowledge and Progress
It’s always a good idea to give staff a pretest and a post-test. You’ll want to see where the base of knowledge is before you start training. Ideally, you should take a topic like return procedures and pre-test a week ahead of the training session. That way you will know the gaps in your training group. Wait a week after training to give your post-test. This way you will see what information has sunk in and what areas need emphasis on a second pass.
Pre and post tests are also a good way to assess your trainer. Did the group’s FSM knowledge needle move at all because of the training? If it did, great. If not, why not?
4. Bite-Size Learning
It’s best to break each FSM task down into the simplest of steps, even if it seems ridiculous. The food industry is very experienced in breaking down food prep, cooking and presentation, so think of your FSM training session as an entree, side and beverage, and within each element there are smaller components, the same way a prepared salad includes ten or twelve exact ingredients, in the same proportion every time.
5. FSM Thinking
It is one thing to train staff on specific tasks that you have determined are important under the wide spectrum of FSM guidelines. It’s another thing for staff to have the ability to proactively grasp independently what might be an area covered by FSM. Said another way, it’s going to be critical for staff to have their “FSM radar” turned on all the time, alert to anything that might become problematic.
The way you teach FSM thinking is to have impromptu FSM meetings where questions and initiative are encouraged. With larger organizations, you can share success stories and best practices between stores or retail locations. You can even have incentives and prizes for the best “FSM idea of the week.”
This approach keeps you out ahead of the regulators and auditors, and is just good common sense for ensuring public safety, a strong customer experience and shareholder value.
PAR’s SureCheck® solution is helping business owners ensure they are meeting FDA regulated standards. This innovative device reassures that restaurants, grocery stores, and food distributors are in consistent compliance and eliminating procedural risks.
SureCheck® is an excellent backstop to your FSM training efforts.
Critical control points are monitored and proper corrective actions are taken when necessary. The intuitive interface needs little to no training, which is ideal for the high-turnover environment of the food industry.
Workers are reminded to complete Food Safety tasks, so more tasks are completed on time and fewer are missed.
If you’d like help thinking through your FSM training or guidance creating a Food Safety Solution, please reach out to us.