Recently I have had to deal with staff who have not followed the correct business procedures and also those who just do not listen. This can be a frustrating position to be in, but a position that I am sure some of you have also been in. One of the hats that I wear is that of the “Food Safety Consultant” to a handful of food businesses. These food businesses are generally family run businesses that do not employ a full-time qualified food safety specialist or specialist quality manager. As a food safety consultant I am responsible in developing, implementing procedures and training staff in food safety, quality and compliance procedures. This is similar to the role that you may play in your food business as a quality assurance manager.
Right product, right label
Labelling is a pretty big deal in all of the food businesses that I consult to. We need to make sure that the right label goes on the right product. This is for legal compliance, customer satisfaction but more importantly allergen advisory. Pretty simple concept. Put the right label on the right product.
I complete intensive training of staff responsible for this activity. This training is delivered both face-to-face and on-the job. At the time of training and during subsequent follow-up training, all people trained were deemed competent in the work instruction of placing the correct label on the correct product.
So every thing is going well (well so I thought) until I get a phone call from the business owner. A shipment of product had been withdrawn by a major retail customer after the selected product had been identified with the incorrect label applied. I was left wondering why and how this happened when I knew that all staff responsible for the labeling activity had been adequately trained in the task.
It didn’t take long for me to get to the bottom of my ‘how’ and ‘why’. With any non-conformance identified, we always conduct a thorough investigation which includes identifying the root cause. The investigation uncovered that:
- Pre-operational checks (which check that the right labels are available for the correct product to be packed) were not been completed at production ‘start-up’
- Records for start-up checks were being falsified by the supervisor. Records were completed at the end of the production shift.
- Records to support checks completed during the production were also being completed at the end of the production shift.
When the supervisor was questioned as to ‘why’ the standard procedure was not followed, the reply was “I don’t have enough time to do the checks and fill out the paperwork before start-up”. To correct this issue more time was allocated along with re-training for the entire packing team.
Fast forward 2 days
I decided to undertake a spontaneous inspection two days later to see if the pre-operational label checks had been completed and recorded as required and at the correct times. I was astounded to find that the checks again had not been done and the records not available to support the checks had been completed. Short of slamming my head up against a brick wall, I took several deep breathes in and out, and then repeated that process…again
So how do you deal with staff who just won’t follow the correct business procedures? Getting people to change their behavior is tough – especially when they have been doing things a certain way for a long time and, from their point of view, it’s working for them. In a nutshell, there is really only two choices:
(1) You can make it more appealing to change, or
(2) You can make it less appealing to continue to behave in the way that they have been behaving.
When deciding on your action, keep in mind, that a simple non-conformance with a labeling procedure can potentially harm or injure your customer or cost the business tens of thousands of dollars in product recall and/or withdrawal action. The following actions are what I normally follow:
Explain business procedures
Explain what the procedure is, why it needs to be completed, and what the consequences are if the procedure is not followed. These would be covered off in the initial and refresher training process. It would also be covered again during any staff performance counselling.
Check the Process
Check the process. This may mean every day and during every production shift you as the QA manager, walks the production line and observes the workers implementation of the procedure. When you consistently observe no issues, you can cut down to less frequent checks.
Human engineer the process
Build in a stupidity factor into the procedure. The more you can remove the need for staff to make a choice, the better. For example, rather than have five (5) different labels available on the line at once, just have the one for the product that is being packed.
Have a strong performance management system in place. You will most likely need to talk to your HR (human resources) department about this. If you are consistently finding a staff member not complying with the procedure, it may be time for them to move on or you relocate them to another section of the business.
Have your say!
I would love to hear from you regarding this issue. Do you face the same problem, or is it just me? Do you have trouble with some of your staff not following business procedures? Let me know how you deal with situations like this by leaving a comment below.