“Improving food safety is an ongoing industry concern considering the number of recalls and contamination incidents we see in the news,” said Jeff Eastman, CEO of Alchemy. “This study clearly shows that training, coupled with corrective observations by front-line supervisors can drive behavior change, improve safety and increase productivity.”
The research was independently conducted at food manufacturing and processing plants in the U.S. during a 15-month duration. The study measured front-line worker compliance before training, after training and for up to six supervisor-driven observation cycles. In each observation cycle, a supervisor observed employee compliance to a detailed checklist of process steps and actions. If necessary, the supervisor provided coaching or scheduled additional training. The observation and corrective action process was repeated to lock-in the behavioral change.
“The study clearly shows that employee behavior can be changed with training, coaching and corrective observations,” said Robert Meyer, study designer and coordinator. The study found that average pre-training compliance rate was only 68%. After receiving process-specific training, compliance improved to 82%. The 14 percentage point jump demonstrates the value of effective training on actual employee behavior. After three observations, compliance increased to 94%.
“Today progressive companies are using corrective observations processes to drive behavioral change and long-term cultural change,” said Laura Dunn Nelson, vice president of Technical Services & Business Development at Alchemy.
The 26-percentage point improvement has two major implications for companies trying to build a food safety culture. First, companies need to take a training validation approach that deploys effective training, measured learning and targeted coaching. Second, supervisors can play an even more critical role in food safety if they have the right process understanding and tools to observe and measure compliance.