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The Prerequisite Qualities of a Food Safety Leader

Posted by Tony-C, in Quality Management 08 March 2015 · 3,432 views

The Prerequisite Qualities of a Food Safety Leader I want to start this month's blog by telling you a short story about a Technical role I was approached about a few years back. The offer was quite tempting and it was a similar role to the one I was in so shouldn’t have been too challenging (I thought to myself). I asked for more details regarding the role and I received a detailed job description. As I read through the job description it contained an endless list of responsibilities and I could see all the problems the company was having, it was clear that whoever wrote the description was expecting to recruit one person to solve all of the problems in this company. I declined the offer and told them that they weren't looking for a Technical Manager, they were looking for divine intervention.

On the IFSQN forums we do see discussion about what qualifications and experience you need to be a Quality Manager/Quality Assurance Manager/Food Safety Manager/Technical Manager etc.

So looking at the key requirements for such a position in no particular order I see them as:
  • Experience
  • Qualifications
  • Technical Expertise/Product Knowledge
  • Skills
  • Attitude/Strong Will/Ability to keep calm when the doo doo hits the fan
The larger the team the role is responsible for the more experience, management skills and communication skills become larger factors. The structure of the organisation and whether this person is the sole technical source of information is also a factor.

Experience

Like life experience is invaluable, typically a person in this role will have experience in:
  • Developing HACCP plans and food quality and safety systems
  • Hosting and managing audits
  • In dealing with authorities and customers
  • Leading, managing and influencing teams
  • Major multiple retailer experience
  • Managing budgets
Qualifications/Education
  • The typical ideal qualifications for this type of role include:
  • HACCP – Advanced
  • Food Hygiene (CIEH) - Advance
  • Lead Auditor
  • Degree in Food Technology or a related discipline
Experience and knowledge gained can be a substitute for qualifications although progression to more senior technical roles is more likely if you have a degree.

Technical Expertise

The required technical expertise will vary with the risk of the product and the complexity of the operation/process. Typically expertise in the following is required:
  • Knowledge of quality systems
  • Knowledge of food safety procedures/systems
  • Knowledge of food safety standards
  • Knowledge of relevant legislation
  • Knowledge of auditing techniques
  • Product & process knowledge
Skills/Ability
  • Management - ability to lead, mentor, motivate, manage and organise people/teams
  • Strong interpersonal skills
  • Communication - strong communicator, ability to communicate at all levels throughout the organisation, with customers and with authorities
  • Analytical - able to analyse, summarise and present information in a logical manner
  • Able to organise and prioritise workloads
  • Excellent attention to detail
  • Problem solving - able to problem solve/troubleshoot and deal with issues in a timely effective manner (the CSI of food safety and quality)
  • Ability to delegate when necessary
  • Ability to build and maintain relationships with customers
  • Commercial awareness - able to understand the difference between a food safety issue and something that is a ‘commercial decision’
Attitude/Strong Will/Ability to keep calm when the doo doo hits the fan
  • Able to work under pressure and to tight deadlines
  • Able to withstand pressure to ‘make the wrong decision’
  • Able to be assertive when necessary
  • Able to communicate effectively, make logical decisions and work through things in a methodical manner when in a crisis situation
  • Can make change happen
  • Confident
  • Enthusiastic
There are few other qualities that I would like to mention that are important and they could equally apply to life:
  • Being fair and consistent
  • Honest
  • Trustworthy
  • Respectful
There are many aspects to this role, in many ways management and communication skills are important to ensure that the skills and product knowledge are not drowned out and wasted.

One of the most important aspects of any management role is knowing how to manage your boss, if you can influence your boss then you will be more effective in your role. So a weekly review with my boss would go along these lines:
  • Everything is hunky dory, no out of speck products last week, no complaints etc. and we got grade A such and such audit.
  • Here are all the things you asked me to do last week which I have completed.
  • I have also done x, y & z that you didn’t ask me to do but I knew that we needed to get on with (Proactivity and brownie points)
  • Oh and by there are one or two issues that I want to discuss with you that I think you may be able to help me with……….
Maybe I’ll expand on this subject next time and talk on my experiences of starting with a new company, I’m going to leave you with a few quotes this time though of things that poor managers say*:
  • “This place falls apart without me"
  • “This is the way we have always done it"
  • “You’re lucky to have a job…"
  • "If I had my way, things would change"
  • "You need to think about where your priorities lie"
I heard them all many times and I’m sure that you know the types don’t you!

*From 5 Things Only Bad Bosses Say, written by Pree Sarkar on linkedin.com

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As you trip over the seekers of "divine intervention" you might notice they often have a total void of supporting roles as well; no managers for sanitation, HR, trainers, engineering/maintenance, warehousing, receiving, shipping, lab technicians or customer service. All these empty positions become additional hats for you to wear over and above the mile-long job description. It's a sure sign you've found the deadly desert, witch's castle or other undesirable place.

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Great blog, Tony.

 

I would add two traits to your list. One is common sense, which is more an innate skill rather than something that you learn.  The other is the ability to prioritize, which is definitely a learned skill.  Anyone who wants to enter the circus of regulatory management, be it food safety or any other, has to learn to put first things first and begin with the end in mind.  Yes, I'm a follower of the 7 Habits.

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Fell into that trap...I'm currently the QA Food Safety Manager, HACCP Coordinator, SQF Practitioner, Sanitation Manager, Warehouse Manager (controlling FEFO), and Environmental Health and Safety Manager. And I hear my boss say all 5 of those Tony.

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Fell into that trap...I'm currently the QA Food Safety Manager, HACCP Coordinator, SQF Practitioner, Sanitation Manager, Warehouse Manager (controlling FEFO), and Environmental Health and Safety Manager. And I hear my boss say all 5 of those Tony.

 

Your boss must be great to work for!

 

You have my sympathies and my advice to you is have an 'exit plan'.

 

Regards,

 

Tony

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In  a small plant the duties are many. That in itself is not as much of a problem if you have the proper support to achieve these roles. My ongoing problem stems from my boss not knowing what I do. For example, I recently did our GMP training and in order to follow up with a requirement to evaluate if the training was effective, I began to hand out exit tests with about 10 questions. Well, I thought I was being proactive and doing my job. I told my boss what I was doing and he warned me to "not make it a policy" going forward. It has become very disconcerting to me as I try to maintain compliance and a job at the same time. As the person before me said, "choose your battles carefully". Great blog.

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I told my boss what I was doing and he warned me to "not make it a policy" going forward. It has become very disconcerting to me as I try to maintain compliance and a job at the same time. As the person before me said, "choose your battles carefully". Great blog.

 

My sympathies, what a dinosaur, hopefully he is up for retirement soon...! You were doing the right thing, wherever you look assessment of training is referred to........

 

BRC Food Issue 7
7.1.3 The site shall put in place documented programmes covering the training needs of relevant personnel. These shall include as a minimum:
reviewing the effectiveness of training

SQF Code
2.9.7.1 A training skills register describing who has been trained in relevant skills shall be maintained. The register shall indicate the:
vi. Supervisor’s verification the training was completed and that the trainee is competent to complete the required tasks.
SQF Guidance:
the training register must identify:
Competency assessment

ISO 22000
6.2.2 Competence, awareness and training
The organization shall
a) identify the necessary competencies for personnel whose activities have an impact on food safety,
b) provide training or take other action to ensure personnel have the necessary competencies,
c) ensure that personnel responsible for monitoring, corrections and corrective actions of the food safety management system are trained,
d) evaluate the implementation and the effectiveness of a), b) and c),

IFS Food
3.3 Training and instruction
3.3.1 The company shall implement documented training and/or instruction programs with respect to the product requirements and the training needs of the employees based ontheir job and shall include:
– evaluation methodology.

CODEX Recommended International Code of Practice General Principles of Food Hygiene
10.3 INSTRUCTION AND SUPERVISION
Periodic assessments of the effectiveness of training and instruction programmes should be made, as well as routine supervision and checks to ensure that procedures are being carried out effectively.

 

Regards,

 

Tony

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I would also add a very high tolerance to working with people who are not that bright. Someone once asked me how to spell "was." Don't even get me started...

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It's slightly alarming who we have handling our food sometimes

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Fell into that trap...I'm currently the QA Food Safety Manager, HACCP Coordinator, SQF Practitioner, Sanitation Manager, Warehouse Manager (controlling FEFO), and Environmental Health and Safety Manager. And I hear my boss say all 5 of those Tony.

QA Manager, HACCP coordinator, BRC HMFIC (if you don't know what that means, I can't tell you based on the forum rules), production manager...

 

(don't let them know you can do other things.  I should have learned this by now.)

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QA Manager, HACCP coordinator, BRC HMFIC (if you don't know what that means, I can't tell you based on the forum rules), production manager...

 

(don't let them know you can do other things.  I should have learned this by now.)

(don't let them know you can do other things.  I should have learned this by now.)

 

Me too. :)

 

Great blog, btw. I enjoyed reading it and finding similarities in each and every sentence.

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