What is Culture and Why is it Important?
Culture is a word that is thrown around a lot in today’s world and can mean very different things to different people. For the purpose of this article, we will define company culture as it relates to a cannabis organization’s safety and quality system.
So, what is culture? Culture can be defined as a pattern of thought and behavior that characterizes your organization, which can be learned through socialization processes and persist throughout time. For the purposes of cannabis safety and quality culture, we describe company culture by how employees in an organization think about cannabis safety and quality. It is the thoughts and behaviors that employees routinely practice and demonstrate. Therefore, if your organization has great cannabis safety and quality culture then new employees will learn these thoughts and behaviors by simply joining your organization and these thoughts and behaviors will be sustained over time.
Why is company culture important and why should it be centered around a quality and safety plan? Think about recent recalls within the cannabis industry. Do you recall what the root cause of the recall was? It was likely reported as being due to improper training, faulty equipment, or an operator error. All of which are common root causes we see in the industry. However, if you look closer, we tend to see foundational issues that go deeper than the immediate cause. This is why culture is so important.
Developing a Cannabis Safety & Quality Culture Plan
The first step to developing a cannabis safety and quality culture plan is to assess and define company culture as it relates to your organization’s current practices. This can be done internally or by an external third-party company. Below are some examples of questions an organization should be asking themselves about their current culture to determine where there are gaps.
- Management Commitment
- Has senior management identified the importance of cannabis safety and quality culture?
- Is senior and middle management trained in cannabis safety and quality?
- How often does senior and middle management discuss the importance of cannabis safety and quality?
- Are management decisions preventive or reactive regarding safety and quality?
- Are safety and quality issues discussed in management meetings?
- Is management staying informed and up-to-date on emerging cannabis safety issues and communicating that with all employees?
- Policies and Procedures
- Does the organization have a written safety and quality program?
- Are both management and employees following the written safety and quality program?
- Does the organization have a written culture improvement program or plan in place?
- Does the organization have a written safety and quality commitment policy statement signed by senior management?
- Does the organization have a continuous improvement plan?
- Work Environments
- Is the facility in compliance with all safety/regulatory requirements?
- Do employees have the appropriate equipment, tools, and other resources needed to be able to complete their job duties?
- Is safety and culture information visible within the facility (i.e., signs, posters, communication boards, etc.)?
- Do employees have adequate cannabis safety and quality training?
- Do employees understand safety risks within the organization’s processes?
- Do employees have a mechanism to provide feedback on safety and quality practices?
- Are employees recognized or rewarded for practicing cannabis safety and quality best practices?
- Are employees held accountable for poor behavior or bad practices?
- Is turn-over low compared to similar organizations?
How to Improve Company Culture
Now that you have assessed your organization’s current culture, it is time to start developing a plan to improve your organization’s culture. There are five key steps when developing and implementing your organization’s culture plan.
- Get Management Commitment
- Create a Solid Foundation
- Set Goals
- Monitor and Improve
Get Management Commitment
Before you can improve your organization’s culture you need to have a complete commitment to developing a cannabis safety and quality culture from the top down. This starts with senior management and key decision-makers. These are the personnel that will likely need to approve any budget needs or resources needed to implement an effective culture plan. Without a commitment from them, there is no point in developing a plan.
Create a Solid Foundation
Now that your organization has a commitment from senior management, you need to create a cannabis safety and quality system that gives employees the tools they need to succeed. This includes up-to-date policies and procedures, including your organization’s defined company culture plan, which should outline the measures your organization is taking to continuously improve safety and quality.
Once you have developed your organization’s culture plan and all of the policies and procedures needed to support your organization’s culture plan, you need to determine what your goals are and how employees, including management, will be held accountable. When creating your goals or Key Performance Indicators (KPIs), you need to ensure expectations are clear and not too vague.
Now that we have the foundation of our plan including culture and our goals set, we need to implement any new policies and procedures and train all employees. When training employees you need to be sure to explain the “why” behind the new policies and procedures. Your organization’s “why” will be unique to your organization but should include some basic principles such as ensuring consumers’ safety and meeting regulatory requirements. Employees who understand why they are doing something tend to complete tasks more effectively than those that don’t. For example, if you tell an employee to conduct swabbing after cleaning and sanitation practices, that employee is less likely to forget to do it, if they understand the bigger picture – i.e., verification that the equipment does not have bacteria, which can contaminate the product and potentially get consumers very sick or even worse, which can lead to a recall and the possibility of the organization being fined, losing its license, or worse.
Monitor and Improve
Once you have defined the company culture and implemented your plan, you’re not finished yet. In fact, a strong culture plan is continuously improved over time. You should be monitoring your organization’s KPIs to ensure goals are being met and adjust accordingly.
Need more help getting your organization’s cannabis safety and quality culture in shape for success? Consider working towards CSQ certification.