Food Safety Update: Employee Training

We recently surveyed Food Manufacturing readers from across the industry on trends, topics and considerations as it relates to employee training.

Editor's note: This article originally appeared in the November/December 2015 issue of Food Manufacturing

The Food Safety Update section of Food Manufacturing is designed to offer our readers insight into the state of food safety concerns across the industry. We received hundreds of responses to this month’s survey on employee training.

An engaged and educated workforce is a key component for success in the food manufacturing industry. And it is also a crucial ingredient as it relates to food safety.

We recently surveyed Food Manufacturing readers from across the industry on trends, topics and considerations as it relates to employee training.

Survey respondents reported that their plants have seen a direct correlation between more training and several key areas of their operations. Those include: Fewer mistakes, better product quality (35.8 percent), better food safety (14.8), higher efficiency (13.6), fewer worker injuries (12.5), higher employee morale (7.95) and lower turnover (6.8).

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While more than 52 percent of those surveyed reported that training is ongoing at their facilities, 18.4 percent reported that the average length of time their plant spends training news employees is two-to-three weeks. Slightly more than 15 percent said that new employees receive one week of training, while just shy of 14 percent reported that new employees receive a few days of training.

Those surveyed reported that employees undergo various types of training at their facilities. They include:

• Equipment specific training — 89.9%
• Industrial safety — 83.2%
• Mandated workplace training — 78.2%
• Compliance training — 64.8%
• Company background/mission — 51%
• Maintenance procedures — 50.8%

Respondents also noted several types of training tools that are used in their respective plants. Those include:

• In-plant instruction — 81.6%
• Handouts/manuals — 68.7%
• Group instruction — 67%
• Videos — 59.8%
• Web-based programs — 30.7%
• Outside classes — 24%

When asked what their plant’s biggest obstacle is when it comes to plant floor employee training, 31.5 percent indicated training costs. High turnover was noted by 29.8 percent, while slightly more than 16 percent cited a language barrier. More than 21 percent of those surveyed selected “other” in this category, and when asked to specify a reason, many noted time considerations as the biggest obstacle.

Lack of time for training was cited by 51.1 percent of those surveyed as the greatest challenge relating to food safety and employee training, while difficulty with employee buy-in was mentioned by 24.7 percent. Just less than 13 percent reported a language barrier, and 7.9 percent cited an unwillingness from upper management to implement food safety training programs.

When asked what the most difficult part of their plant’s employment process is, 30 percent indicated training, with 27.5 percent citing retention. More than 26 percent of those surveyed indicated recruiting, with 13.5 percent reporting hiring.

In terms of plant floor employee retention, more than 28 percent reported that their employees stay an average of 3-5 years, while more than 22 percent indicated 1-2 years. Just more than 20 percent percent said their facility retains plant floor employees for an average of 10 years or more, while more than 16 percent cited 6-10 years. More than 11 percent reported retaining plant floor employees for six months or less, on average.

When asked what has been the most successful staffing method for their plant, more than 37 percent indicated employee referrals, with more than 26 percent citing outside employment agencies. Nearly 14 percent reported advertising in local newspapers, and 10.6 percent indicated the use of online jobsites. An additional 8.4 percent cited specific-to-industry online jobsites.

Nearly 56 percent of those surveyed said the current economic climate has not caused their facilities to cut back on the number of employees. Just more than 44 percent said it had.

More than 84 percent of those polled said their facilities often advance workers to plant jobs that involve higher skill levels once they become proficient.

Lastly, two-thirds of those surveyed said their facilities involve plant floor employees in Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Points planning and food safety protocol development. The remaining one-third said that is not the case.

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