Leading (proactive) indicators give you an understanding of possible outcomes, where lagging (corrective) indicators provide information about the past.
Most organisations already have a comprehensive set of lagging food safety performance indicators, such as food safety consumer complaints (e.g., foreign objects and illnesses) and product incidents (e.g., product recalls). These corrective indicators show established facts and give information as to what might need to be fixed in the future. These indicators are important, but they won’t necessarily deliver progress. To excel and take food safety performance to the next level, an equally comprehensive set of leading indicators is required, too.
According to the Global Food Safety Initiative (GFSI), the development of a food safety culture is a foundational element of any robust process. In other words, a strong food safety culture – a proactive approach – will help manufacturers maintain high levels of food safety performance.
Two critical aspects of a strong food safety culture are leadership commitment and employee capability. Putting leading food safety indicators in place can boost improvement in both of these areas, by creating measurable goals and objectives.
Leadership commitment to food safety can significantly influence the development of a food safety culture by ensuring the proper prioritisation and allocation of resources to food safety. The framework is particularly true of infrastructure projects with a long-term impact.
An example of a leading food safety indicator for leadership commitment might be the percentage of an organisation’s capital expenditure budget that is allocated for spending on food safety-related infrastructure improvements. Leaks, damaged floors, and ineffective drainage are all examples of potential food safety risks. The ongoing improvement of this infrastructure will reduce risk and promote a positive food safety culture.
Building employee food safety capability, ensures that everybody within the organisation understands how their role contributes to food safety in observable, measurable ways, and equips employees with the knowledge and skills necessary to carry out that role.
An example of a leading food safety indicator for employee capability might be the percentage of an organisation’s food safety plan completed on time. This could include new-hire training, annual refreshers, and training related to new processes. Ensuring that planned training is completed gives employees the knowledge they need and demonstrates a commitment to food safety to the organisation and all stakeholders.
Getting the balance right is key to food safety performance. Both leading and lagging indicators have an important role to play: learning from past achievements - and failures – while also turning potential threats into opportunities for improvement.
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