Hygiene is fundamental in food processing plants. Yet, when there are barriers to learning best practices, employees may unintentionally create food safety risks. Human resources, facility and food safety managers responsible for overseeing training should understand the depth of the skills gap as well as how e-learning can be utilized to take training to the next level.
Skills gaps and food safety lapses
High staff turnover rates are a serious problem for businesses in the food and beverage sector. When staff turnover occurs regularly, conducting face-to-face training can become expensive and difficult to manage. This in turn creates a skills gap, which can lead to expensive and potentially deadly lapses in food safety.
Ensuring that your workforce is trained to perform their best is another challenge. Rapid innovation in processing technologies means site engineers, managers and specialists need specific knowledge on the systems and technologies in use at their facility. By reinforcing and improving basic skills and knowledge of specific methods of production, businesses can more effectively increase labor productivity without compromising the safety of refrigerated and frozen foods.
The emergence of e-learning
Today, cloud-based training helps solve some of the key challenges pertaining to food safety training. E-learning courses make it easy to educate frontline workers in food processing facilities, as well as managers and executives who may work more remotely.
E-learning platforms also deliver effective management of training costs while embracing and driving a culture of quality and consistency. According to a study by Brandon Hall Group, Delray Beach, Fla., e-learning has the power to increase employee’s knowledge retention rate by up to 60%, online bite-sized training modules provide maximum convenience across all devices.
Food processors should look for the following features in a training program:
- An extensive catalogue of hygiene and food safety courses.
From cleaning in place to hand hygiene, there is a lot to learn when it comes to operating a clean and safe food processing plant. The training program should provide a wide array of pertinent topics, like specific microbes that threaten food safety, and actively incorporate any relevant new food and beverage industry developments as they occur. The program should also offer application courses for specific tasks as well as process courses that allow learners to gain advanced understanding about site-wide best practices like hygienic design and allergen management.
- Courses available in numerous languages.
Today’s workforce is increasingly diverse, and although some employees are bilingual, it’s better to provide training in an employee’s native language. The training platform should offer courses in English, but also give learners access to other languages such as Spanish, Polish and Brazilian Portuguese. Inclusion of multiple languages enables organizations to better train employees across numerous locations, which may be spread out around the world.
- Track employee participation and performance data.
A training program is only effective if employees are actually completing the courses and mastering the outlined skills. Look for a training platform that ensures accountability by tracking employee participation. Managers should be able to log into a dashboard and see progress and performance data for each employee, site or country. Robust reporting not only gives managers peace of mind, but it is also important to have on hand if an audit takes place and compliance is called into question.
- Accredited learning materials.
Be sure to inquire with the training partner on whether courses have been assessed and are accredited by a certifying body. This added level of scrutiny on the information provided in the courses helps to further ensure that the training will be relevant and valuable for employees and the organization.
- Tailor learning and customize the platform.
The training platform should give managers the ability to assign employees a specific course or course bundle depending on their performance and progress data. This function allows flexible learning that is tailored to each employee’s skill level, so that no one falls into the skills gap. The solution should also give organizations the option to deploy their own training courses from the same platform, so that all learning occurs in the same digital space. Lastly, the platform should offer customization, so that brands can bring their corporate colors, logos and voice to the training program.
- Adaptability and scalability for organizations of all sizes.
Some training programs may require a large upfront investment and expensive hardware and software, making them only suitable for large corporations with deep pockets. The training solution should be suitable for small and mid-sized organizations as well, as learning is essential regardless of gross profit and employee count. An adaptable program also ensures that if an organization sees significant growth, or even downsizing, the courses can still be easily and affordably delivered to employees.
A new era of training
From onboarding new employees to continuous learning and career development for seasoned workers, e-learning is a solution that fits every food processing employees’ needs. By providing an in-depth look at food safety risks and offering hygiene best practices, a training program can close the skills gap and make workers feel more invested in their roles. In turn, this can help minimize food safety risks and better protect a brand’s reputation and the bottom line.