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How to Create an Employee Onboarding Plan for Your Independent Pharmacy (And Why It’s Good for Business)

December 6, 2018

Inside: Formal onboarding plans maximize new employee potential and save your business headaches. Here’s how to get new employees started off on the right foot.

You’ve done the heavy lifting of hiring. You posted an ad, interviewed candidates, and carefully selected the newest member of your independent community pharmacy’s staff. But the process isn’t over yet.

It’s time for onboarding.

For businesses with relatively few employees, it can be tempting to just “wing it” with new hires. But leaving your onboarding process totally informal makes it easy to leave out important information, training, and expectations essential to your employees’ responsibilities, even if they’re minor. That can lead to bad habits, poor practices, and major mistakes that lose your business valuable time and money—and frustrate your employees.

Taking the time to create a formal onboarding program will benefit your business in the short and long term. According to the Harvard Business Review, investing in onboarding can help you retain employees now, saving you the cost of recruiting and hiring a replacement down the road.

Organizations with formal onboarding processes are 62 percent more productive and have 50 percent better retention.

And turnover is expensive: studies show replacing an employee who quits can cost 21 percent of their salary, on average.

So, it pays to invest in formal onboarding at your independent pharmacy.

Three Goals of Formal Onboarding

Formalizing your onboarding process doesn’t mean you have to make it a stuffy or autocratic process. Instead, make it a process that empowers your employees to realize their full potential in their role (which leads to high employee satisfaction).

1. Establish rules, policies, and procedures

No pharmacy runs exactly like your pharmacy. Every independent community pharmacy will have a slightly (or significantly) different combination of clientele, equipment, and processes. Even an experienced hire will need to learn the ropes, from basics like policies and procedures to more big-picture things like philosophy of care or company culture.

You probably have a list in your head of what to show each new employee based on their function, but that’s not good enough. Keep a list of what you intend to show new employees—divided by position—as well as a record of what you actually did show the new employee, so you can reference it later.

2. Set the tone for the rest of the employee’s time at your pharmacy

The first few days at work will inform that employee’s opinion about this job and your business. If you appear unprepared, uninterested, or unprofessional, you’ve already soured your new employee on the job.

Control the narrative by showing up ready to go with a thoughtful to-do list and all the documents you might need. Also, consider paying for lunch on the employee’s first day.

3. Provide consistency and continuity

When you’re playing things by ear, it’s easy to mistakenly tell Charlie one thing about a procedure and relay conflicting information to Carla a few months later. A formal onboarding process keeps everyone on the same page.

So, where do you start?

Independent community pharmacies don’t have human resources departments to handle new hires, so you’ll have to hatch a plan of your own that fits the size and scale of your operation. Here are the basic steps.

1. Paperwork


You can find many of these forms online through the IRS. Remind your employee ahead of time to bring the right identification to complete the I-9.

2. Policies and procedures

Who should your employee call if she’s sick? Is it okay to notify someone by text or email? These are things you’ll want to explain before the need arises. Don’t forget to include contact information for you and any other relevant managers.

If you’re not sure how to craft a policy, look into SHRM’s policy resources. They address some of the most important types of company policies:


3. Safety and security precautions

You don’t need to lay out every expectation you might have for an employee, but you should clearly state the things that are non-negotiable. Your policies for tasks like verifying dosage and maintaining records appropriately keep patients safe. That makes them a top priority.

In addition to keeping patients safe, it’s your responsibility to make sure your pharmacy is a safe place to work. What should your staff do in case of a chemical spill? Who should they call in case of emergency? If you haven’t given much thought to employee safety before, take a look at OSHA’s guidelines for pharmacies, then outline any specific directions you’ve previously communicated informally.

Sound like a lot? Consider assembling all this information into an employee handbook. That streamlines the process and creates consistency from one hire to the next. The Society for Human Resource Management has a free template to create your own employee handbook.

4. Hands-on training

Forty percent of employees who receive insufficient or incompetent training wind up leaving their job within a year. To avoid becoming a statistic, consider what your new employee needs to learn on Day 1, then decide what can wait until later in the first week. Your POS system is probably a Day 1 item. Closing procedures may fall into the “it can wait” pile.

Check with your software vendors to see if they provide training materials that could help you teach new employees. Many already come with instructive documents. For multi-step processes, create checklists for employees to reference and make sure they haven’t forgotten.

The American Pharmacists Association offers a variety of resources that could assist you with training new employees, including self-paced learning courses, webinars, quick knowledge quizzes, and more.

5. Setting goals

You can’t succeed until you’ve defined success. Experts suggest setting goals for your new hire’s first week, first month, first 90 days, and first year. The first week’s goals may be as simple as learning the POS system. Here are some examples of new-hire goals:


Set these goals collaboratively with your new employee, choosing metrics that make sense for the position and the needs of your pharmacy.

6. Follow-up

Onboarding doesn’t stop at the end of the first day or even the first week. Check in with your new employee at key milestones: after a month, after 90 days, and after a year. Use these check-ins to evaluate the employee’s progress toward goals and adjust the goals if necessary. A quick sit-down can also give you a better feel for how the employee is adjusting to the new role and what you can do to help their transition.

An effective onboarding plan can help you set employees up for success.

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