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Data >> Recognition >> Handwash Compliance

Jim Mann's picture

What matters gets rewarded and repeated

Recognition is a powerful motivator in foodservice. It is emerging as one of the strongest arguments to invest in Electronic Hand Wash Monitoring technology.

EHWM serves up real-time data which engages workers and sets up a playing field where their avid policy compliance wins and can be rewarded in a variety of ways. Competition fuels program sustainability and saves valuable supervisory time. This has been the experience of the few pioneers that have stepped forward to break what unfortunately has become the cultural norm of foodservice handwashing, compliance less than the restaurants themselves consider a safe level.

Data has proven to be an untapped resource in solving the age-old handwashing issue. The hardened history of poor compliance is perpetuated by the lack of reporting. No data. No reports. No rewards. No discipline. The core benefit of having data is the ability to reward employee success up and down the corporate ladder.

Few foodservice operations have taken full advantage of the employee recognition factor because so few have taken the step to automate handwash monitoring. Those who have are enjoying its strengthening of their food safety culture.

The value of frequent handwashing is on the rise, tracking along with the rising risks of brand damaging foodborne outbreaks. EHWM is increasingly being recognized as much better brand protection than raising liability coverage.

Author Mike Ganino writes: Recognition has such a big impact on culture that I wrote an entire chapter about it in my new book, "Company Culture for Dummies". It communicates to your team (and customers) what matters most, what gets rewarded, and what’s worth repeating. The behaviors that get attention will get repeated. In that way, those behaviors start to become a “cultural norm” for your team.

Crushed Red’s restaurants support Mr. Ganino’s view. Chris LaRocca, founder of Crushed Red and runner-up for the 2018 NSF Leadership Award, understands staff motivation and specified a handwash monitoring system to deliver employee recognition. Crushed Red is living proof of this connection between data and compliance. Their customers are also engaged in the culture-building as they witness banners attesting to Crushed Red's handwashing commitment and even more impressively when they see an employee wash their hands in the restroom after speaking their name into a voice recognition soap dispenser. This handwash verification far exceeds the laughable sign on the mirror asking employees to wash hands before returning to work.

Crushed Red has also made clean hands part of their customer loyalty program.

Chef Peter Fulgenzi, winner of the 2015 NSF Leadership Award, also demonstrates the relationship between employee recognition and compliance at the Atrio Restaurant, a hospital cafeteria in Carmel Indiana. His conversion of handwashing to a controlled process includes real-time staff feedback via monitors located in the kitchen workspace. Chef Peter sees electronic monitoring as an important part of staff professionalization.

Data-less handwashing starves the recognition potential. Without objective support, programs fade amidst claims of inconsistency and unfairness. Manual logging is nearly impossible but it doesn’t stop health departments from asking for them during outbreak investigations. Health inspectors are starting to notice electronic handwashing logs as far superior to the observational methods currently in use, including one of their favorite indicators of good handwashing, a wet handsink.

A passionate leader is the most obvious characteristic shared by Crushed Red and the Atrio Restaurant. Both businesses are caring, client-centric operations.  They invested in innovative solutions while the status quo-defenders dominate the industry. For some, the resistance results from the multiplication factor. The obvious value for one restaurant doesn’t carry over to a thousand units. When three more zeros are added to a single-store investment of $7,000, a $7,000,000 hurdle can’t find an internal champion with the clout to put forward this brand-protecting customer priority. The few savvy adopters will become the many when chain restaurant leaders realize what makes sense for one restaurant makes even more sense for all.

Chain brand values are the foundation of their continued profitable growth. A single outbreak-causing breakdown in food safety can cost millions if not billions in market value. Factors like social media raise the stakes for status quo-operators and call for advances in the obvious threats to consumer and staff wellness. The growing consumer interest in operational transparency adds to the pressure to close today’s gap in handwashing compliance.

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