In the first part of this interview, we spoke to Terrence Donahue, vice president of instructor quality for the National Restaurant Association Educational Foundation (NRAEF). He's the one responsible for supporting the extensive network of registered ServSafe instructors and exam proctors that have awarded over three million ServeSafe Food Protection Manager certifications. In that column (see December 07 issue of FM), Donahue explored some of the ways NRAEF has sought to improve the effectiveness of its programs and suggested ways managers could better prepare staff in advance of training so they will get more out of it.
In this second part of the intervew, Donahue offers suggestions for how managers can follow up with employees after training has been completed. We also asked him to provide some tips for improving employee retention of what they have learned and for encouraging better application of that knowledge in the work environment.
When an employee returns from food safety training, what else can a foodservice director or manager do to improve retention?
DONAHUE: Just as a manager should conduct a pre-training briefing of the employee, laying out the expectations you will have for that person as a result of training, he or she should also conduct a post-training briefing.
You can do this individually or in groups, depending on the situation. Review the objectives of the program. Explore what the employees learned and how they think they will apply what they've learned. Get them to be specific: when and how? See if they can point to aspects of your operation where practices or processes can be improved.
One of the best things you can do is to have them teach what they've learned to others. Have them conduct a session with their peers where they share the knowledge they are bringing back to the organization. NRAEF has some handouts for national food safety education month that managers can download for free that will help with this (see sidebar).
If you do this, you as the director should provide careful oversight to ensure that the concepts have been correctly grasped and are being directly communicated.
What kinds of things should a director keep in mind when evaluating instructional posters and signage?
DONAHUE: Two criteria for any instructional material are that it has to be instructionally effective and cost effective. Also, you want signage that can support your goals in multiple ways. It should be more than just a reminder of best practices.
If a task is fairly infrequent, but important, you want to post a job aid or chart that serves as a ready reference. You'll want to ensure that staff know you don't expect them to memorize the material, but that they are expected to refer to it and use it as the information is needed.
Tools like this are used to help ensure consistency in performance. You have a consistent standard that is posted, and staff are trained to comply with that standard and have their performance measured against that standard.
How would that work in practice?
DONAHUE: Think about signage not only as a reminder of best practices, but also as a performance measurement tool, a feedback mechanism, a how-to reference. Use it to define a standard, something you can train towards, measure performance against, help you provide meaningful feedback to the employee about how well they are doing and how they can improve.
For example, the same list that is a reference poster can also become a checklist that is used during an evaluation, so the employee sees that each step is being checked off and is part of a measurement standard.
Here's another example: say a trainer is in the kitchen conducting a demonstration. He or she will be doing that in a series of four stages: telling, showing, doing, reviewing.
Now consider how the wall chart fits in. First you tell them how to follow the steps on the wall chart. Then you demonstrate how they are done. Then you have an employee perform the steps. Finally, you review the process after the fact, using the wall chart as a checklist. Some people learn best by seeing, others by hearing. Most learn best by doing.
What are some of the things to watch out for when training is delegated to others?
DONAHUE: It is not uncommon to find that in such situations, even a senior employee will present the information this way: “The official way you are supposed to do a task is like this, but let me show you a couple of shortcuts.” If consistent performance is important, as it is in food safety practice, there is no place for shortcuts.
Food safety gets talked about so much, I've heard directors say that staff sometimes becomes numb to the topic. How does one prevent that?
DONAHUE: The best approach is to always look for fresh, creative ways to communicate the importance of food handling practices. I'm sure you've heard the expression — ”If the only tool you have is a hammer, everything starts to look like a nail” If you keep pounding and pounding the same way, everyone will become numb to the blows.
The solution is to make sure you have more than one tool at your disposal. Using different items as props can often help, depending on the nature of the group. Recently I observed a class in which one trainer used different animal Beanie Babies to help a group associate different temperature ranges and cooking requirements with different types of proteins.
Graphic association is a very effective way to emphasize an idea. You might use a photo or drawing of raw chicken being stored on a top shelf with some dripping occuring, and overlay that with a large red “X” through the image. You could follow that with a photo of properly stored product with a large green check mark through the image.
Another technique is to use a “Spot the Error” exercise. For example, if you were doing some pre-shift training, you might take staff into a cooler or back of the house where you have intentionally misplaced some items to violate standards and then have them find and correct the errors. Does everyone know that it is bad practice to store a mop standing in a bucket rather than hanging it up? If not, it is an opportunity to explain that some common insects like to hide in wet mops.
I understand that you have just announced a series of enhancements to the ServSafe Instructor and Proctor programs. How can our readers find out more about these changes?
DONAHUE: We are upgrading our own standards and also making investments in tools that our instructors can use to improve their instructional abilities and techniques. You can find out more about these changes at www.servsafe.com/irc/service/index.asp
Here are some additional resources from the NRAEF that can help you with food safety training:
Promotional materials and posters to help you raise awareness of food safety's importance in the workplace www.nraef.org/nfsem
Free National Food Safety Month training activities, also available in Spanish: www.nraef.org/nfsem/training/asp
Resources for managers, access to newsletters and publications, etc. at the ServSafe Resource Center: www.servsafe.com/foodsafety/resource
Downloadable educational handouts in English and Spanish in archives from 1998-2006: www.nraef.org/nfsem/archive.asp