It’s all about the “buy in.” People need to believe in what they are doing, what makes it important, and have the knowledge to move forward in a positive direction. Here are some basic suggestions to get the food safety message across:
- A simple “please” and “thank you” goes a long way. That may sound ridiculous, but it does not get expressed as often as it should. A “good morning” or “see you the next time” is essential. A strong first impression is critical as well.
- Take extra time to help a struggling employee. Make it a point to let them know you are available. Don’t just simply let them sink.
- Follow through. If you don’t, your message will slowly come apart and return to square one. Sometimes you have to be relentless. Know when to drop the hammer on non-compliance.
- Show best practice. Don’t just “talk the talk”, but also “walk the walk.” How can you be a role model if you don’t take the time to wash your hands before entering a food processing area? Do you dress appropriately?
- Stand firm on your belief of doing the right thing. If you sway from the original message, it will become convoluted.
- Know what you are talking about. If you don’t, your credibility will be compromised. Reach out to someone who does. The wrong information can be disastrous. Swallow your pride.
- We all know what happens when you assume, right? Something about making an ass out of you and me? Don’t assume an employee automatically understands everything. Some employees need to be physically shown how to perform a task and then repetition has to come into play. Handing a book to someone about procedure sometimes does nothing for comprehension.
- Make sure to emphasize law, company policy and procedure. Hold them accountable. They need to know what the expectations are. If they are unsure or the picture is cloudy, it needs to be cleared.
- Explain the consequences of a foodborne illness by using real-life examples. This is what can happen if you don’t properly cook raw chicken, or this is the real reason why we wash produce before processing, or proper cooling is essential. Match a disease with a food or a process.
- Assess whom you are speaking to and communicate in such a way that the message will get through. If you are talking to someone who lacks understanding in science, present the information accordingly. Slow down. That is not the time to be Einstein and show off what you know.
- Be approachable. If you come off as too stern and actually scare someone away from asking a question, you may never get the closure of knowing that your message was understood.
- Listen. You will be amazed at what you find out. Too many people like to listen to themselves or don’t know how to listen.
How you come across is just as important as the message you are trying to convey. I know this all seems like simple and proper communication principles, but I think a return to basics is all that is needed in some circumstances in order for employees to understand compliance, or maybe I should say, “want to understand compliance.”