Dept. of Agriculture and Food Success Story

jessicalarsen Success Stories

Goal of Success System

Ensure safety and integrity of food products available to residents in Utah.


To achieve its goal, the Department of Agriculture and Food needed fully trained and competent inspectors, which was a problem since the department was experiencing high turnover. This turnover made it difficult to keep up with growing demand for inspections and increased complexity. Well-trained inspectors are needed for consistent follow up and enforcement to reduce food product risk for consumers.

Over the past two years, the department’s inspection staff turned over on average at about a 50 percent rate. This led to significant training costs and reduced productivity. The list below illustrates the costs to fully train a new inspector:

  • $96,000 to train an Environmental Health Scientist – inspects grocery stores, food manufacturing facilities and dairies
  • $52,000 to train a Compliance Specialist – inspects: seed, feed, fertilizer, organic, Good Agricultural Practices, Food Safety Modernization Act, hay, nursery, bees, fruit and vegetable, among others
  • $81,000 to train a Meat Inspector – physically on site at harvesting facilities as animals are slaughtered

When it comes to Food Safety, inspectors are not allowed by the FDA to perform an inspection until they have successfully completed multiple, very specific training requirements, many of which are conducted out of state.  The department decided to establish a Compensation System tied to the value the employee provides to the department.

As Inspectors complete additional training opportunities, which allow them to complete more inspections, they are provided with promotional opportunities. This incentivizes them to complete trainings more quickly.  Inspectors typically enjoy their jobs but leave for higher paying opportunities elsewhere. By providing opportunities for growth and the ability to better provide for their families, the department anticipated inspectors would stay in state employment.


  • Value Based Compensation Plan
  • Job Classification Review
  • Employee Performance Plan training and improvement

Process Changes

Through the SUCCESS process the dept. identified methods to streamline the training process and provide opportunities for employees to provide value to the department much faster.

It quickly identified that job descriptions for inspection staff were so generic that anyone could have performed the job required.  Because of this, the job was undervalued by DHRM Classification and salaries were kept extremely low.  The dept. walked through the job descriptions with inspection staff, Program Managers and DHRM to identify the specific training and technical requirements and special circumstances that had not been identified previously.  In doing so these positions were reclassified into wage areas that provided opportunity for employment and wage growth.

The dept. also modified expectations for its Program Managers and is requiring a quarterly review of the Utah Performance Management system with their employees as well as a review of where they are in the Value Based Compensation system. The Utah Performance Management system has been in place for a number of years with the purpose of improving employee performance.  However, many managers looked at this tool as merely a requirement they needed to fulfill on an annual basis. The change allows employees to have a constant reminder of what is expected to be successful in their job and what opportunities they have for growth.


The Department of Agriculture and Food still sees some natural turnover, but the chronic turnover has completely stopped since the implementation of this program. The result has been be dramatically reduced training costs and increased food safety. The savings in reduced training costs more than pay for the increased wages. All of this was done with no new money. By restructuring how work was done, the dept. was able to find resources.