Food Safety Culture – Thinking Simplified

10 Nov 2020

FSC Thinking Simplified

Chrisna Viljoen is the owner of Food Safety Excel. Her purpose statement is: To facilitate people to simplify thinking and communication in order to get to answers themselves and to reach their full potential in their unique and authentic way.

When we talk about food safety culture, it is always done in a team, so let’s look at what makes a team work?

Four questions (repeats) developmental questions to ask:

1. How do team members see each other?

In a food safety culture survey conducted in 2019 by Food Safety Excel in which over 1500 employees across South Africa, participated:

42% of employees felt that the departments don’t work well together whereas 29% of employees felt that senior management does not visit the factory regularly and talk to the employees.

There is unfortunately a boss mentality that should be turned into a leadership mentality.

2. How does it start with me?

Before you look at the others in a team to change, start with yourself. Your personal brand is who you are, what you believe and how you live it…consistently.

There are three elements that make up your personal brand:

Trust is build in you, because the team knows what you believe in and how you are going

to conduct yourself. This then gives you authority to be who your are in every situation and as a result will build a reputation of you so your team knows what to expect from you.

When the experience is consistent, building your brand is the minimum standard accepted by all in every context. The term ‘personal brand’ should become a well-known term and concept to yourself and your team to form the platform for meaningful teamwork.

Referring to the food safety culture surveys conducted, a total of 45% of employees felt that their colleagues are not very supportive of each other regarding food safety and quality. This shows that there is not a sense of working successfully as a team.

It is maybe time to ‘Ctrl, Alt Delete’ yourself: Control yourself, alter your thinking and delete negative thoughts.

3. How do we make others feel?

The number one need of the human being is to have a sense of belonging. In surveys conducted, a total of 62% of employees felt that their colleagues speak in other languages on purpose; thereby excluding them from the conversation and possibly even discussing them.

When staff feel that they belong at your organization, it will lead to staff engagement and this will increase productivity. It is therefore clear that having a healthy food safety culture, has a direct impact on the bottom line.

Maya Angelou said “I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.”

Practical ways to create a sense of belonging:

4. How do we invest in our teams?

Invest in employees by providing time for training, mentoring and coaching programmes. The results from surveys conducted show 38% of staff felt that they don’t have enough managers to coach or mentor them. 39% felt that they don’t have enough time to attend meetings or training.

When we provide employees with fair opportunities, we allow them to become excellent individuals by unlocking potential.

There is strong technical background that is instilled at university level. It is however paramount to cross the bridge into industry. Food Safety Excel has a mentor programme for students whereby students accompany us into the factory environment to learn, ask questions and gain practical experience.

From left: Demona Schnetler (Food Safety Excel), Kyle Corbett and Sebastian Orth (final year Food Science students at the University of Stellenbosch, 2019).
In South Africa, there are many different cultural groups to consider and there are often various cultural groups working in one organization – often speaking up to four different languages. In a country with racial tension, we all have to be culturally sensitive.

How do we do this:

Let us rather celebrate our country’s Rainbow culture. Madiba once said “We, the people of South Africa, have made a decisive and irreversible break with the past. We have, in real life declared our shared allegiance to justice, non-racialism and democracy; our yearning for a peaceful and harmonious nation of equals. The rainbow has come to be the symbol of our nation…

When it comes to food safety culture, we cannot add simplicity, we should rather remove complexity.