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Culture Excellence
One of the solutions that BRC suggests we may use to monitor food safety culture is the TSI Culture Excellence System. So, I organised a meeting with Dr Joanne Taylor, who is the founder of the system, to find out more. Here’s what I learnt…

Joanne is a psychologist who then went into food safety management, so she’s used her combined knowledge and experience of these two subjects in order to develop a tool that can be used to monitor culture. This tool is called Culture Excellence. Essentially the tool is an online survey, which employees are given access to and they complete the questions anonymously. The survey is completed by all employees from shop floor to management. The system then displays the results of the survey.

The two types of system on offer:

  1. The full TSI Culture Excellence System
  2. The BRC Food Safety Culture Module

Joanne explained the differences in the two systems to me.

The full TSI Culture Excellence System:

If you decide to choose this option, you get the full system with all of the functionality. The questions cover food safety, product quality, health & safety, production speed and product price.  The survey questions can be customised for your business and support is provided. The results of the survey are displayed to you on an online platform, which gives you an overall culture score, breakdowns of the score by category and then lots of additional functions which allows you to drill down into the information, to analyse and compare the results.

The cost of this system is approx. £3,000 per year.

The BRC Food Safety Culture Module:

This option is a mini version of the full system.  With this option you don’t get access to the online platform, the results are provided to you in a report instead. So, you can’t manipulate the data to analyse it, but rather the report does this for you in a predetermined format. The survey questions do not cover all of the topics such as quality and health & safety, but instead focus totally on food safety.

The questions are set, so you can’t customise them and rather than TSI providing support, your certification body will give you details of how to complete the survey. The questions are reduced in type and number, in order to make this system more affordable than the full TSI Culture Excellence system above.

The cost of this system is approx. £500 per year, so you can see this is much more affordable. If you have more than one site though, it would be £500 per site, so it’s worthwhile (if this is something your business may want to do) to consider the full version, as it becomes more economical the more sites you have.

What’s the difference between this system and using your own survey questionnaire?

The questions in both; the full TSI Culture Excellence system and the mini BRC version, have been developed based on psychological research.  They are also written from a psychological perspective, in order to get the most honest response and also the least bias. The questions in the full system cover the 20 dimensions of culture which are;

People: empowerment, reward, teamwork, training, communication
Process: control, coordination, consistency, systems, premises
Purpose: vision, values, strategy, targets, metrics
Productivity: awareness, foresight, innovation, learning, investment

So, the full system survey will get you the best quality of data. But remember, although BRC recommend this tool, they don’t say you have to use it!  If you wanted to; you could develop your own, or I know a lot of businesses who already do employee surveys – so you could add food safety-related questions to the survey you are already doing if this applies to you.

Strategic plan

So, with both the full TSI Culture Excellence system and the mini BRC system (or the results of your own survey), the survey only provides the monitoring data of the culture. Once this data is received it needs to be analysed and conclusions made about what actions need to be taken to drive improvement. This data analysis, review and action plan would make up the strategic plan needed to comply with the draft clause for version 8.

Perspective

One thing that I realised during my meeting with Joanne, was that I was looking at food safety culture from the wrong perspective. I had presumed that BRC had put the optional module of food safety culture, and then, put the food safety clause into the draft version 8 – as a way of tackling ‘poor’ culture. However, what I realised is that, I don’t think they have put it into the standard to ‘deal with an issue’, but rather because they see culture an emerging best practice topic which helps to drive improvement.

I can definitely see the value in focusing on culture, but I do worry that putting it into the standard (in version 8) will force it solely onto the laps of the technical team at site. Whereas, to do it properly, and to get real value from it, it needs to be a business decision, driven from the top down. So, to me, this would mean it needs to stay as a voluntary module.

The true value of this type of system is where culture is driven by management, and this tool will then allow the management team to establish if the improvements are working, through their managers, supervisors and shop floor operators.

Contact details

So, if you think you’d like to use one of these systems, I’ve included the contact details for each tool below.


BRC Food Safety Culture Module

In the next article I’m going to look into culture in more detail and the benefits of focusing our attention on it. What do you think about this new topic of culture? Should it be incorporated into version 8 or do you think it should stay as a voluntary module? It would be great if could share your thoughts by leaving a reply below.  Don’t forget – you don’t need to put your real name (and your email address won’t be visible to anyone), so you can be totally anonymous if you’d like!
culture survey

If you’d like a download of our 10 Culture Survey Questions, just complete the form below and we’ll email it to you. You will then be added to our BRC Culture list so we can update you about our solutions for this area of compliance within BRC Issue 8.

10 Comments

  • Ann Horne says:

    I think to incorporate this into Version 8, as a voluntary module it will add to the cost and duration of the audit. It tends to fall into the lap of the Technical department even if it is voluntary. However; I would imagine most Technical departments also contain a member of Senior Management who can also drive involvement from all other departments.

    • Kassy Marsh says:

      I agree that there are (in some larger businesses) senior management in the technical team, but I think if it comes to that it purpose will get lost – and it will become ‘a technical thing’ again. Do you think if it was included in the standard, rather than being voluntary that the whole management team would get involved?

      • Ann Horne says:

        I think that the whole Management team will be “forced” to be involved by the wording of the standard. It will not be showing Senior Management commitment if they just leave it to Technical.

  • Grant Hackman says:

    Thanks Kassy, I agree with you, It should be a voluntary module that aligns with continuous improvement in an organization. The cost and the length of the audit will only increase as the previous comment stated. Thanks again for explaining the two options clearly.

  • Rachel says:

    Hi Kassy,

    I was at a BSI BRC 8 seminar yesterday and they mentioned the Food safety culture diagnostic toolkit for inspectors from the FSA as a useful point of reference, a good starting point and something that could be used to develop your own assessment. You’ve probably already looked at this but if not I thought I’d mention it. I find your articles very helpful.

    • Kassy Marsh says:

      Hi, I’ve not heard of this, I’ll defintely take a look! Thank you for sharing it with everyone, I really appreciate it! Kassy

  • J says:

    Hi Kassy

    Thank you for explaining both options, if this is to begin as a best practice then perhaps it should start as a voluntary module. As with all things that are of such difficulty they will inevitably become the Technical teams responsibility and be very didfficult to get Senior Management involved. A soft approach to begin with mat be best and make it part of the standard in future editions.

  • James Flynn says:

    Totally agree that this should be a voluntary module. Food safety culture is important but should be enforced through management commitment rather than more forms, audits and questions to be asked, answered and stored. Technical teams have enough to do already and this adds yet more burden on them. This pushes in the wrong place here. We need to push where the cash decision makers are, not the under resourced technical team that many food companies have to suffer. Senior management NEED more scrutiny, they are responsible for the resources, the culture and the leadership.

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