Organisational Culture & Change

BY Gerda Britz

‘Everybody by now has accepted that change is unavoidable. But that still implies that change is like death and taxes – it should be postponed as long as possible and no change would be vastly preferable’ – Peter Ducker.

In all my years as a food safety auditor nothing is more frustrating that returning to a shop, manufacturing plant, restaurant etc, just to write the same report as I did previously. I often wondered why. Then I realised that if the culture within these organisations does not change, nothing will change. That made me think, how can you change the corporate culture within a corporation to a food safety culture?

Is it a question of what we have is perhaps more valuable than what it actually is? In a classic book by Spencer Johnson, “Who moved my cheese”, the main two characters, Hem and Haw could not comprehend that anything can be better than what they currently have, so much that it became more and more difficult to even think of exploring the maze for new cheese.

To be able to change corporate culture I think it best to define it first. Corporate culture can be defined as patterns of accepted behaviour, and the beliefs and values that promote and reinforce them. To elaborate on that a bit more, patterns of acceptable behaviour are things that are OK to do. Beliefs are what I think is true and values are what are important to me, personally. We can now see that people’s hopes, dreams and fears can have a major impact on their job performance.

During my research on this topic I came across a very recent article In the Food Safety Magazine (authors Crandall, O’Bryan, Neal and Delery) that gives a few pointers on how to create a food safety culture within our organizations. In this article they describe that although there are a growing body of information on about 14 pathogens, very little understanding exists about how people contaminate food, PEOPLE MAKE PEOPLE SICK. People remain the major source of contamination of foodborne illnesses. They found that this can the contributed to a few points:

  • Employees work sick, mostly because they are paid per hour, and hours off sick means less pay.
  • Poor personal hygiene.
  • Inadequate cleaning of equipment or not following correct food preparation practices.

Although most regulations mandate food safety training, how is training turned into action? How do leaders and managers turn training into practice? While there are many answers to these questions, three are the most important: employee comprehension, communication and leaders willing to take action. Comprehension requires an environment that encourages communication, both from workers and leaders. If an employee is given the opportunity to express an opinion that will be heard and may make a difference in the decision making, a strong food safety culture that allows for open dialogue can be created.
It is not only important that employees are trained and assessed, but that they are motivated to learn. It is also important to understand the each person learns in a different way and to understand that, so that the trainer is best able to choose the suitable methods to train persons best.
It is also important that management creates an environment where employees are capable of their best sustained performance. Three ways of doing this is when employees possess the abilities, knowledge and skills to perform their jobs above expectations, when they are motivated and are given the freedom and opportunity.
How do we adapt best practice to make long term changes in employees’ behaviour? Begin with end in mind (Stepen Covey). Set realistic goals that are understandable and with realistic time lines. Write measurable individual learning objectives. Research has shown that high expectations coupled with high care for employees’ increases their commitment to company goals. Especially when employee ‘buy in’ is achieved.
So in conclusion food safety is everyone’s responsibility. From the factory worker on the floor to top management, we need to protect the safety of our consumer, goodwill and reputation of the food industry. We can achieve this by hiring the best employees available, motivating and training them properly and verifying that they are complying with the prescribed behaviour.
Source: Food safety magazine June/July 2015, Best Practices for making long term Changes in Behaviour, Authors Crandall, O’Bryan, Neal, Delery.

 July 01, 2015
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Food Safety
Gerda Britz

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