The Great Resignation and Independent Pharmacy

great resignation

The Great Resignation: A record number of people quit their jobs in 2021, with one in four Americans leaving their current position for greener pastures. A McKinsey survey found that 40 percent of all employees say they are “likely” to leave their job in the next three to six months. 

Some workers are leaving the industry entirely — they’re retiring early or taking care of family members — while others are going into business for themselves, changing industries, or taking cash incentives to move to new companies. 

While this new trend is empowering workers, it’s leaving business owners in the lurch. Employee turnover on its own is expensive — the cost to replace an employee like a pharmacy tech is around $6,224 — but you may not be able to find a replacement at all. 

Retail businesses have been particularly hard hit by the Great Resignation, and some stores are having to shorten their hours or close their doors altogether because they don’t have enough staff to keep things up and running. 

Independent pharmacies are not immune to the pressures of the Great Resignation. Here’s what owners need to know to keep their practice fully staffed. 

State of the pharmacy work shortage

Pharmacies, in particular, have felt the pinch of worker shortages during the Great Resignation. This winter, NBC News reported that pharmacy technicians have left the industry in droves. The main reason people are leaving pharmacy is that the Covid-19 pandemic has exacerbated problems that already existed in the industry. 

Technicians report leaving their jobs because of: 

  • Low pay 
  • High workload 
  • Increased hours 
  • Elevated workplace stress 

With pharmacies playing a critical role in the Covid-19 testing and vaccination effort, the stakes are higher than ever. Current worker shortages also mean that technicians are stretched thin and worried about the consequences of burnout

Medication errors can be deadly, and they are more likely to happen when the pharmacy is understaffed. Rather than be responsible for a potentially catastrophic error, staff members are leaving their posts altogether. 

Another reason pharmacy workers are quitting is because they are worried about potentially deadly exposure to the virus while they are on the job, or that they will bring the virus home with them and expose vulnerable family members. 

Are people really leaving for good?

There is some good news coming out of the labor market: people who are leaving their jobs aren’t typically leaving the workforce completely.

In many ways, the Great Resignation is more like the Great Reshuffle, with people reconsidering what they want out of their careers and making changes based on new priorities. They aren’t resigning just to twiddle their thumbs, but are instead jumping to all-new careers. 

Things will remain in flux for a while as people figure out what is most important to them and as companies adjust to post-pandemic workplace norms, but most experts agree that this reshuffling will eventually stabilize. 

CEO of Microsoft Satya Nadella told the Harvard Business Review that the people taking part in the Great Reshuffle don’t just want perks, but they also want to find meaning in their work. You can take advantage of the upheaval in the marketplace by positioning your pharmacy as a place that has a positive impact on the community. 

Keeping your pharmacy fully staffed

During this tumultuous time in the workforce, you may have to go above and beyond to attract new pharmacy employees and keep your current employees satisfied. Here’s how.

Attract the best candidates 

In the era of the Great Resignation, pharmacies are going to have to step up their recruiting game if they want to keep the business fully staffed. 

Start with an accurate job description. If you pull the bait and switch on what the job candidate’s duties will be, they won’t stick around, and you’ll find yourself hiring for the position again sooner rather than later. 

Be realistic about what education and qualifications are absolutely necessary. If you’re requiring your pharmacy technicians to have a master’s degree, you won’t have many people clamoring to apply. 

Wages and benefits are also critical. With high inflation increasing the cost of living, you may have to offer a higher starting wage than you did in the past. And if the pharmacy across town offers a more generous health insurance plan than you do, the best candidates will choose them over you. 

The pool of local candidates might not have the type of worker you’re looking for, so be prepared to expand your search radius. Post on local job boards, and also post on boards that target affinity groups like women in STEM or Latino pharmacy workers. By casting a wider net, you could find a better match for your pharmacy. 

Retain current employees 

The other way to combat the effects of the Great Resignation is to keep your employees from leaving in the first place. 

According to an analysis published in the MIT Sloan Management Review, the main cause of employee turnover in 2021 was toxic work culture.

In a toxic work environment, unclear assignments make the workload feel neverending and unachievable, which leads to worker burnout. Employees don’t feel like they can voice their opinions without fear of repercussions or speak candidly with their co-workers. They’ll start to call out sick, often because they dread coming into work, but also because the stress of the environment can lead to actual, physical illness. 

Combat a toxic work environment by:

  • Communicating expectations clearly
  • Encouraging employees to take breaks
  • Readjusting workloads to alleviate stress

The other main reason employees leave is because of a better offer elsewhere. You’ll need to have competitive pay to keep your best employees from leaving. 

If you’ve raised your starting wages to attract new candidates, make sure your current employees are getting paid to match. If a brand new employee comes in making a better hourly rate than your longtime staff members, they will naturally feel resentful, and it may prompt them to start looking for a new position. 


A Member-Owned Company Serving Independent Pharmacies

PBA Health is dedicated to helping independent pharmacies reach their full potential on the buy-side of their business. Founded and owned by pharmacists, PBA Health serves independent pharmacies with group purchasing services, wholesaler contract negotiations, proprietary purchasing tools, and more.

An HDA member, PBA Health operates its own NABP-accredited secondary wholesaler with more than 6,000 SKUs, including brands, generics, narcotics CII-CV, cold-storage products, and over-the-counter (OTC) products — offering the lowest prices in the secondary market.

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