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The power of reward

This week’s blog takes a break from the GFSI position on food safety to have a party.

Last week I was privileged to attend a prestigious retail event. It was interesting to see the elaborate corporate paraphernalia, the impressive collections of branded foodstuffs to entice retailers and all the makings of a very festive event. Guests included dignitaries, retailers and regional staff but also nominated brand ambassadors from the stores and distribution centres – by special invite only, as recognition of their valuable contribution.

Although the event was not only about food safety, it was also exciting to note the multiple touchpoints where food safety was included. The need to protect brand, the importance of people and developing them to contribute, community projects and the role of retail in the community, were some of the subjects presented from the executive and retailer team.

Part of the ceremony involved the handing over of certificates for food safety audits conducted in the previous 12 months. The bar for the certificate has been set high and it was encouraging to see 6 stores achieve this remarkable feat of more than 90% for 4 successive audits. In shaking hands, it was clear that this was indeed a coveted award. Given the level of the event and pomp and ceremony, one could only conclude that food safety was considered an important business success factor.

I was also encouraged to see that food safety was included on the annual retailer award criteria and significantly weighted in this region, further encouraging retailers to do ensure safe retailing practices. This time to win a luxury cruise.

While my experience has shown that in some cases, audit scoring can become self-limiting as a motivator and even a perverse incentive, it has its place to encourage and motivate improvement.

It was clear that the competition created was a clear motivator in this region but not just for the sake of the incentives. For a competition to create the right culture, the achievements in food safety must be valued and be the driving message from leadership – this message was clear. Adding credibility to the competition such as the addition of an unannounced audit has also gone a long way to ensure the results are valid.

While this certificate was only handed over to the store owner/manager, I was delighted to see that a badge was also presented for each staff member in the store who plays a food safety role. I can only hope that a similar ceremony took place in the store. For a competition to really motivate the people that make food safety happen EVERY day, we need to reward and acknowledge them too. We cannot do it without them.