Research suggests that the average human attention span has shrunk to an astonishing 8.3 seconds,1 and people forget 90% of newly learned information within one week.2 Perhaps not surprisingly, 62% of food industry employees aren’t adhering to their food or workplace safety programs on the floor,3 which raises a big red flag because it increases the likelihood of safety incidents occurring. So how can we overcome this tendency to forget and boost employee knowledge retention to support correct and safe behaviors on the floor?
Try these three communication, reinforcement, and awareness tools to keep safety top of mind and help training topics stick:
Coaching with on-the-floor observations
With the fall comes football season. Coaches stand on the sidelines barking orders in their quest to be winners. Coaching in a food industry setting is a little different from what you’ll see at a sporting event. In the food production plant, hazards abound—both for food and workplace safety—and the coach provides the corrective performance feedback to keep the plant functioning efficiently and to keep both products and frontline workers safe.
Anyone can be a coach, although it’s typically the supervisor that conducts the on-the-floor observations and reinforces the desired employee behaviors. Providing corrective feedback can be the difference between a safe and unsafe product, or between an employee sustaining a life altering injury or returning home to his or her family in good health. Food industry coaching is about recognizing an at-risk behavior, bringing it to the employee’s attention, discussing the consequences, and demonstrating the safe way.
Reinforcement with posters and digital signage
Just like football players, food workers need passive reinforcement tools to help keep their heads in the game. Posters are effective when displayed appropriately in high traffic areas and changed out regularly. Rotating posters on a regular basis will maintain interest and ensure they don’t blend into the background. Strong images that easily convey a key message with a minimum of words is most impactful. Digital signage is another excellent method of reinforcement. Think of the jumbo animated scoreboard in the stadium, sharing fast facts, replays, and public service announcements to keep the crowd in the game. When used in a food manufacturing setting, digital signage should similarly make use of eye-catching images, animations, and fast facts. Digital signage is the new, dynamic way to continuously reinforce training information to all employees.
Team talks with huddle guides
Just like the quarterback, supervisors are critically important in setting the game plan each day at a food manufacturing plant. Taking a few minutes at the start or end of each shift to discuss the plan, talk through challenges, and provide an important reminder to work safely and follow the food safety procedures just makes sense. Huddle guides are large-format quick guidebooks with bold imagery and scripted reminders to keep employees focused on safety topics. People don’t always know intuitively what needs to be done or how it needs to be done. They forget, get distracted, have old habits that are hard to break, or just simply need a nudge. By using a huddle guide and taking a few minutes to talk with the team, a supervisor can strengthen his or her relationship with the group. Employees who feel their supervisor cares about them and keeps their best interests at heart will feel empowered to work better as a team, look out for each other, and not hesitate to ask questions or provide suggestions so they can achieve their goals for the day.
Manufacturing teams, just like football teams, need a winning strategy to become champions. Providing training and then extending that training onto the plant floor through huddle talks, coaching, posters, and digital signage comprises a winning game plan that not only strengthens the frontline but also strengthens supervisors. Together, they can become champions. Start developing your champions today!
- National Center Biotechnology Information, April 2015
- Kohn, A. (2013, March 13). “Brain Science: The Forgetting Curve – the Dirty Secret of Corporate Training.” Retrieved June 1, 2016, from Learning Solutions Magazine website http://www.learningsolutionsmag.com/articles/1379/brain-science-the-forgetting-curvethe-dirty-secret-of-corporate-training
- Global Food Safety Training Survey, 2016