One of the major challenges for dairy plant management is finding, training and retaining production staff, or line workers. A U.S. Food & Drug Administration study of food recalls and food-connected illness found inadequate line worker training as one of the top 10 causes of food-safety failures.
A dairy plant has a very diverse workforce with a significant difference in education and experience. An unfortunate common element is these workers tend to have a limited knowledge of dairy processing.
Line worker training has many approaches, philosophies, techniques and tools. However, training fundamentally is the process of acquiring knowledge and repeatedly applying that knowledge until it becomes a habit. This is a double-edged sword; poor training or repeatedly performing an act in the wrong way will result in acquiring a bad habit. Management and supervisory awareness is the key to breaking the cycle of poor performance and bad line worker habits and converting this into good habits and productive performance.
Today, plant management and line workers have access to many different types of training tools. The first step is to evaluate each line worker’s existing skills in the areas of writing, math, speaking, dairy processing knowledge, etc.
All of the training tools for line workers must be linked with some type of training effectiveness tool. These can include written or verbal testing, supervisory observation of line worker behavior and categorization of performance. It is critical that the line worker be evaluated to determine the effectiveness of the training tool and the worker’s ability to incorporate the new training information into their daily work routine. Once the initial training effectiveness has been determined, daily reinforcement by supervisors is an absolute necessity in the first two weeks after the training to ensure the line worker’s behavior reflects the key items of the training. This is sometimes expressed as, “What is important to my supervisor is important to me.”
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