According to Mark Horstman, author of The Effective Manager, all managers have two and only two functions: get results and retain talent. As a pharmacy manager with over 20 years’ experience in management positions for various companies, I can concur with his summary of the manager’s job. In fact, I would add to it that the two functions are inseparable from one another. Companies that get results do so by retaining their talent, and companies that retain their talent get results.
Most businesses understand the expense associated with employee turnover. They also know some of the most common causes of turnover in the workplace. But little has been done in terms of research on how to promote loyalty among pharmacy personnel, particularly in the retail pharmacy industry. What I am going to share are some insights from my two decades of pharmacy management experience with the hopes that it will help great employers keep great contributors on their team.
Some might feel that pharmacist turnover is less of a problem today, since career opportunities are few and far between. But the fact is that your most talented pharmacists will still be targeted by competing companies for recruitment. Therefore, strategies to retain your best employees are still critical for the success of your business.
First, the most important factor in keeping talented pharmacists on your team is to hire and train real people-managers for leadership roles in your company. Bad bosses are still the most frequent cause for abandoning a job. In the retail pharmacy industry pharmacists are often promoted up the ranks based solely on their individual performance and the need to fill a higher level job. This is a mistake. Individual performers may make great managers and district managers, but only if they understand their new role. Managing employees is very different than managing patients.
Companies need to identify pharmacists with leadership potential and begin to have discussions with them about how to prepare for a new role. Not all great players make great coaches. Managers have to learn how to motivate others, build effective teams, get results and solve new types of problems. This takes training and experience. Putting the wrong people into leadership positions will quickly empty your organization of some of the best talent that you have hired.
Secondly, provide career development opportunities. While it is true that pharmacists leave bad bosses, it is also true that they leave bad jobs. A great boss cannot compensate for a job with no future, no chance for progression and no flexibility. In a recent article in the Harvard Business Review research from an employment study at Facebook was discussed. What they discovered was “If you want to keep your people — especially your stars — it’s time to pay more attention to how you design their work. Most companies design jobs and then slot people into them. Our best managers sometimes do the opposite: When they find talented people, they’re open to creating jobs around them.”
Great employers will think about the skills and interests of their top pharmacy talent and develop ways to use them to the benefit of the organization. This may involve creating new roles and thinking outside the box. Pharmacists, like most other employees, want to feel valued. Craig Pirner, managing Director for Talent Development at The Advisory Board recommends using “stay interviews” with your talented people, “where managers explore what would lead someone to stay in their job.”
Third, place a high value on honest, open communication. Pharmacy businesses across the country are going through transitions all the time. One of the worst feelings for an employee is to not know what is going on with his/her job or the company. They will leave a ship if they think it is going down. The organization I work for has a simple motto: “tell the truth, tell it fast.” Job security is a concern on the mind of many pharmacists today. Managers need to develop a culture of transparency and honesty about what is happening.
Steve Jobs once said “The only way to do great work is to love what you do. If you haven’t found it yet, keep looking. Don’t settle.” Pharmacists are looking for those jobs where they love what they do to. Great retention strategies can help employers keep these high performing team members engaged and happy.