Pencil whipping: It’s not just a silly phrase, it’s a critically serious and fairly common practice at grocery and convenience stores around the world – and that may include yours.
Pencil whipping occurs when employees falsify paper records and checklists or “cheat” on their operational processes. It can result in food safety risks, code violations, public safety compliance violations, and other issues that are legally dangerous and potentially very damaging. If it’s happening on even one shift at any of your locations, it could put your entire business operation at risk.
The problem is exacerbated by the fact that today’s grocery and convenience stores have more opportunities to run afoul of food safety requirements:
- These stores are offering an ever-wider array of fresh food options and prepared meals. Your employees may be taking on new tasks like food preparation, storage and handling, all of which invite a greater risk for safety infractions.
- It’s also been reported by industry surveys that more than half of respondents reported turnover of 90 percent or more in their convenience stores.
Combined, these two points mean your locations are likely in a continuous loop of employee onboarding and retraining.
Why Does It Happen?
Many grocery and convenience stores use the old standby of paper checklists and clipboards to record compliance with rules and requirements set forth by a variety of governmental and regulatory bodies. These checklists are supposed to protect public health and safety by proving that employees consistently check every safeguard that protects their customers. These lists can include temperature logs, proper cleaning procedures, processes for handling prepackaged foods, and other safety checks.
However, it’s hard to impress upon employees the real-world implications of those various sheets of paper (particularly when turnover is so high). If they forget or run out of time at the end of their shift, it’s easy to just quickly fill in the form with made-up information. Who’s going to know, right?
The problem is that you and your managers can’t personally oversee every list on every shift in every location. Even if you could, it’s vastly preferable for your employees to understand their responsibilities around completing the processes and accurately filling out the lists, which, after all, are important legal documents for your business.
Why Is It a Big Deal?
And there’s the heart of the issue: Not only are these checklists an important part of consistently ensuring your stores are offering the highest levels of food safety as well as convenience, but these lists are also an important part of meeting your legal obligations. These regulations and lists exist because they’ve been shown to protect customers from getting sick or even potentially dying. So, while employees may see falsifying forms as a “white lie”-level infraction, in reality, any one pencil-whipped form makes your business legally liable for any settlement, which could be massive.
When trying to uphold agreements both legal and social, the simple fact is that food safety is too important to ever be pencil-whipped. Instead, it must play an integral role in your store’s employee training procedures and customer experience initiatives. Here’s how today’s latest digital, mobile technology can do just that.
Making Honesty Easy
It’s been said that, if you want to stop pencil whipping, eliminate the pencil. Digital, mobile field apps shut down falsification by documenting the status of all operational data in real time. Here’s how it works:
- Your operations team uses the app to build standardized templates for all your checklists and procedures.
- When it’s time to complete a check, any employee can pull up the checklist on their mobile device.
- They complete the form with a few taps and clicks, easily adding the extra documentation of photos or videos as necessary.
- As soon as they hit send, the checklist entry is automatically stamped with the time, the employee who filled it out, and the geolocation. This is now your business’ official record.
- Full organizational data is available through the app’s dashboard; anyone can see it whenever they need to.
This is how digital field apps eliminate human error and build in accountability throughout your organization. No employee can do someone else’s work or claim that a task was completed at some time other than is recorded on the digital checklist. The apps also allow the creation of standardized quality assessment templates so that audits can be quickly and easily completed, with the results available in real time.
When issues arise, the checklist app makes it easy to handle those, too. When there’s a failure, such as an incomplete procedure or a bad temperature check, managers are prompted to create an action plan from a standardized template to correct the issue; this plan includes the task, a due date, and the employee responsible for completing the task. As the due date approaches, that employee is reminded to close out the plan; then all stakeholders are automatically alerted that the plan has been completed on schedule.
Digital field apps also greatly increase the ease and efficiency of your employee training processes. Modules are built inside the app and assigned to certain job descriptions, so each employee can go online and complete only the most relevant training. For areas such as compliance and food safety concerns, your training can drive home from day one the importance of correctly doing these checks and finalizing the forms.
Say Goodbye to Pencils and Clipboards
These digital field apps are cutting edge, yes, but they are no longer a luxury. Any technology that can help your stores do more in less time and with potentially fewer employees, while still minimizing risks and waste, should be considered an important investment in keeping products, customers and employees healthy and safe.
MeazureUp is a proven digital checklist solution that can ensure all the right actions are being taken on time, every time, in every store. It means each of your employees is held accountable in a way that is transparent for everyone; no one can become complacent about your store’s checklists. And your operations and management teams are in the loop at all times.
To learn more about how MeazureUp can bring honesty and accountability to your compliance records and support consistency across all shifts and all locations, contact us today.