When it comes to food production, the ultimate safety of the product you produce will typically only be as good as the quality of your training programs.  While I think most of us would agree that, under these circumstances, it is essential to have a top-notch training program supported by stellar educational content, there is a second element, which is often overlooked, that is equally critical to the success of any training program.   That element is the underlying quality of the actually employees being trained.

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

While this always has been a common theme in the food industry, there are solutions available to reverse these trends.  Rather than continuously spending more money to train and retrain employees that are incapable of being trained, the real solution may be instead to simply let those employees find a job that’s a better fit.

Indeed, in many cases, the most effective solution may be to take a much closer look at your internal hiring practices, and then determine whether you are hiring the right type of employees in the first instance.  It might be that many of the employees you are hiring are simply incapable of being effectively trained, and thus will never realize their full potential.  These employees will neither mature nor develop into effective workers, and will thus remain an anchor for the organization.

For this reason, when developing your hiring and selection criteria, consider in some cases putting less emphasis on the directly transferable 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 or training.

Even if those prospective employees lack experience in the specific job they are applying for, if they have demonstrated their eagerness and ability to learn they will likely be successful in any employment role.  In addition, these employees will also tend to be more nimble and creative, and will likely be able to more effectively and quickly evolve with the needs of the company.   They will also understand that, all cases, being productive requires learning and then mastering a task.  They will also take more pride in their work, work to solve challenges, and will create less problems for the organization.

When we talk about employee training, we typically focus only on the content 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, its essential that we start hiring trainees who are capable of being trained.