When it comes to food safety, the ultimate safety of your products will be only as good as the quality of your training programs. While I think most of us would agree it is essential to have a top-notch training programs supported by stellar educational content, there is a second element critical to the success of any training program which is often overlooked: The quality of the employees being trained.

Too often, when I work with clients who have world-class training programs, I hear them complain in about how difficult it is to train their employees. Or, put another way, no matter how hard they try, their employees “just don’t get it.”  Because of these struggles, they constantly dedicate resources to retraining employees and solving problems that should have never occurred.

While this has been a common theme in the food industry, there are solutions available to reverse these trends. Rather than spending more money to train and retrain employees who are incapable of being trained, the solution may be to let those employees find a job that’s a better fit. In many cases, the most effective solution is to take a closer look at your hiring practices and determine whether you are hiring the right type of employees in the first place. It might be many of the employees you hire are simply incapable of being effectively trained, and thus will never reach the necessary potential. These employees will neither mature nor develop into effective workers, and will thus remain an anchor for the organization.

When developing your hiring and selection criteria, consider putting less emphasis on the experience of your candidates and more emphasis on their demonstrated capacity to learn. Look for employees who have successfully completed degree programs, earned certifications or completed online programs.  Even if those prospective employees lack experience in the specific job for which they are applying, if they have demonstrated their eagerness and ability to learn, they will likely be successful. In addition, these employees will also tend to be more nimble and creative and will likely be able to more effectively evolve with the needs of the company.  They will also take more pride in their work, work to solve challenges and will create fewer problems for the organization.

When we talk about employee training, we typically focus on the quality of the training itself. To get it right, however, we need to take a broader view of what successful training requires. To have an effective training program, it’s essential we start hiring trainees who are capable of being trained. NP