Three Things to Learn about Food Safety Culture during your First Food Safety EVENT

food safety culture learning series Oct 04, 2021

Yep, you’ve been here before. 

In Food Safety & Quality, this isn't unusual.  In fact, in FSQ, we have an insider joke about Friday afternoon calls. 

Friday afternoon is when you get the call about a less-than-ideal situation that started either early that day, or even earlier in the week.  While this call has your heart pounding and your gut telling you something is a-miss, you have little information to know if this really is BIG or if it’s just an inconvenience.   On top of that, you’re in a new job or a new role and still getting a sense of the company culture around you. 

 Who’s on your side?  Who will jump in and take the lead?  Who will brush the event off?  How will people respond?

When it comes to food safety culture, we know it takes people to make food safety work, yet how can we actually know a company’s culture?  No matter how well you ask questions during the interview process regarding a company’s culture and maturity around food safety and quality, you’ll never REALLY know these answers until you’ve worked there for some time.  On top of that, even if you know someone who works there and vouches the company has a great culture, their experience is theirs, and through their eyes.  Their experience doesn’t mean it will be your experience.

But I’ve learned there is a shortcut to learn about the culture at your organization.  It’s not an easy path, but it certainly speaks loudly about what the company values.  It’s called an EVENT

During an EVENT, here’s where the learning begins:

1-  How do people talk and treat each other? Do they pull together as a team or become divided?  Is it a supportive atmosphere with everyone working together?

2-  What’s happening at the meeting after the meeting?  Who’s involved, and what’s being said?  Is the conversation around supporting each other or looking for blame?

3-  Does anyone pull out work instructions or a checklist to provide guidance?  Are these documents helpful?  Do people use them? Or is it a wild west show?

In one of my early experiences, I remember an all-hands-on-deck situation around an event.  It wouldn’t have needed to be an all-hands-on-deck situation, except a group of team members thought they could handle it without following procedures or escalating for support.  Their intentions were in the right place, but without following procedures and including others on the team and within the organization, the investigation was slow and incomplete, which ultimately delayed our ability to take swift, meaningful action to protect the brand.   It told me A LOT about the food safety culture, which told me a lot about how I should navigate forward to help the organization. 

Next time you’re faced with an EVENT, take a moment to notice the energy, the interactions, and the commitment to following procedures.  What you find will tell you exactly what you need to know about the company’s food safety culture.    After your last EVENT, what insights did you learn about your team? Organization?  Share your experience!

Thanks for the read!