State of Utah employee inspecting meat

Department of Agriculture and Food Success Story

jessicalarsen Success Stories

Goal of the Food Safety Inspection System

Ensure the safety and integrity of food products available to Utah consumers.

Strategies

Over the last several years, the Department of Agriculture and Food’s (UDAF) high turnover of inspection employees presented a significant challenge to achieving its goal. The turnover made it difficult to keep up with the growing demand for inspections and the increase in inspection complexity. Well-trained inspectors are a necessity to ensure consistent follow up and enforcement and to reduce food product risk for consumers.

The turnover rate for the department’s inspection staff averaged about 50 percent over the past two years. This led to significant training costs and reduced productivity.

Inspectors are not allowed by the FDA to perform a food safety inspection until they have successfully completed multiple, very specific training requirements. 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, fertilizers, organics, good agricultural practices, hay, nurseries, bees, fruits and vegetables and Food Safety Modernization Act compliance
  • $81,000 to train a meat inspector – physically on site at harvesting facilities as animals are slaughtered

To meet these challenges, UDAF established a compensation system where inspectors that successfully complete additional training and develop the expertise to complete more inspections are eligible for promotion. By providing opportunities for growth and increased compensation, the department anticipated that turnover rates would decrease significantly.

Tactics and Process Changes

  • Value based compensation plan
  • Job classification review
  • Employee performance plan training and improvement

By applying the tools and concepts of the SUCCESS Framework, UDAF 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 the DHRM classification system and salaries were kept extremely low. UDAF reviewed existing job descriptions with inspection staff, program managers and DHRM to better match the descriptions with the specific training, technical requirements and special certifications required for the job. This led to reclassification of positions into wage areas that provided opportunities for advancement and compensation increases.

UDAF also modified program manager expectations and now requires a quarterly performance management review with employees. This review includes a discussion about where employees are in the value-based compensation system. These changes allow employees to have a constant reminder of what is expected to be successful and what advancement opportunities are available.

Results

The Department of Agriculture and Food still experiences natural turnover; however, the chronic turnover rates have decreased significantly. As a result, UDAF found the hidden capacity to reduce inspector training costs and increase food safety for Utah consumers all with existing resources.