4 reasons why staff don’t follow food business procedures

Do you struggle with getting your staff to follow food business procedures? You are not alone. It is one of the hardest things to do, especially when there is a poor food safety culture. I have found that when you understand the ‘why’, positive changes can be made.

Understanding the human psyche

Before you can change the food safety culture in your food business, you first need to understand why staff don’t follow your food business procedures. Let’s look at four (4) common reasons.

1. Optimistic bias

Optimistic bias is when staff believe that “it will not happen to them”.  In this situation, staff underestimate the probability of negative events. This cognitive bias can lead to staff making poor and risky decisions, taking shortcuts or not appreciating the overall impact of their behaviour.

2. Illusion of control

Illusion of control is the belief that “nothing has gone wrong in the past when rules were not followed”. I love this one. Some people subconsciously believe that because there was no immediate negative impact experienced, when they did not follow the rules, they themselves have controlled or influenced the situation.

3. Cognitive dissonance

Cognitive dissonance is where a staff member knows that they are doing something wrong, for example, not following food business procedures, but will then try and justify their actions with a so-called ‘good’ reason. This is one that I come up against regularly in my food consultancy business. I have an ongoing joke with one of my clients when I find that food business procedures are not being followed. I will say to the employee who tries to justify their actions with “we are not an excuse farm; we are a potato farm”.

4. Attitudinal ambivalence

Attitudinal ambivalence is the belief that “there are more important matters”. When this belief is the case, the importance of following a particular procedure may be lost.

Changing the Culture

Now that you have an understanding on the psyche of rule breakers, how can you improve the situation? Here are a few suggestions:

  • Education and Training. Tell employees why the procedures are important and stress  the impact of non-compliance. You may need to include important food business procedures as part of any refresher training.
  • Make your procedures accessible to all relevant staff. Having procedures written down also helps to ensure consistency.
  • Reward compliance and guide stragglers. Rewards and recognition for compliance is a great motivator for staff.
  • Implement an innovation hub. Encourage staff to suggest ways to improve the procedure. Not only can this provide ownership, but it can help staff to be more engaged in their work.

Have Your Say

How do you encourage staff to follow procedures in your food business? Share your experience and knowledge so others in the HACCP Mentor community can benefit from your success.

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