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Make it all about your people

17 April 2017

John Husband argues that achieving a good organisational culture is vital to ensure that goals 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, it may also be necessary to meet the needs of owners, shareholders, employees, suppliers and banks.

So, how does a company meet all these needs? Firstly, you need 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 achieve this.

This provides the information needed to devise an overarching company strategy - 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 and leadership styles 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.

Objectives and goals
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. Indeed, it forms a solid foundation for any company management system. But what’s missing is that it does not take into account the culture in the organisation. Organisational culture is a system of shared assumptions, values and beliefs that govern 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 that it is appropriate for delivering the company objectives and goals.

totrain has recently launched an on-line training product called ‘enlighten’ ( which, for the first time, allows companies to meet their compliance training requirements and at the same time measure the food safety culture within their business. 

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 good training solutions, companies are able to scratch beneath the surface to reveal what is really going on and from that information can create a more consistent approach to culture.

John Husband is consultancy and E-learning director at totrain.

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