Make it all about your people

Originally published in Food Processing Magazine April 2017

John Husband argues that achieving a good organisational culture is vital to ensuring that business goals and and objectives are met.

All food manufacturing companies have a legal and moral duty to produce food that is fit for human consumption.

Alongside this, they also need to meet the needs of its interested parties, such as owners, shareholders, employees, suppliers and banks, to name just a few.

And, at the end of the day, it’s all about ensuring they have a profitable business.

So how does a company meet all these needs? Firstly, they have to understand what the different needs and requirements are. SWOT Analysis, PESTAL Analysis and Porter’s Five Forces Model are common tools which can help them to achieve this.

This then provides them with the information they need to devise an overarching company strategy. This is a high-level plan for meeting specific business objectives and goals and is developed and authorised by the company’s senior management team.    To deliver the plan, a company needs in place the 4Ps: policies, processes, procedures and people. I’d like to focus on the people element of the 4P’s.

When looking at people and how they impact on delivering the company’s business strategy there are two key elements: culture and competency. Culture in its simplest form is defined as “the way we do things around here.” Companies need to realize that culture is created by the minority which affects the majority and can have a major impact in the way a company is operated.

Companies who view organisational culture as a type of management thermostat can turn it up and reap the benefits, but it’s turned down at their peril. It may be turned down through lack of vision, conflicting management styles leadership or through relying on group rather than team dynamics. There may also be miss-communications, lack of accountability, ineffective training and development initiatives and a redundant reward systems.

Too many food companies believe that to achieve business objectives and goals all they need to do is develop high level policies then document the business processes, relevant procedures and work instructions. The objectives and goals are then monitored and measured using Key Performance Indicators. Add risk assessment and you are describing a typical Food Safety Management System that the majority of food manufacturers are required to implement by their customers.

There is nothing wrong with this approach and, in fact, it forms a solid foundation for any company management system. But what’s missing is that it doesn’t take in to account the culture in the organisation.  Organisational culture is a system of shared assumptions, values and beliefs that governs how people behave in organisations. Organisational culture is like a person’s personality and everybody’s personality is different. It is therefore important that the organisational culture is there to support the delivery of the company objectives and goals and NOT the goals of the individuals in the company.

Food companies would be well advised to evaluate their organisational culture and provide leadership, direction, environment and structure to ensure the organisational culture is appropriate for delivering the company objectives and goals.

This is one of the reasons why, at totrain we are launching our innovative on-line training product known as ‘enlighten’.

It means for the first time, not only will companies be able to meet their compliance training requirements, they will also be able to measure, at the same time, the food safety culture within their business. Enlighten draws on latest research and academic findings to offer a single solution for food manufacturers, which will make them potentially, audit ready.

If it’s true that culture is like an iceberg in that only 10% of it is visible and the other 90% is hidden beneath the surface. Then, through enlighten, we hope that companies will do a bit more scratching under the surface to reveal what actually is going on and from that there will be a more consistent approach to culture.

You can view the original article here on page 42.

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