January 24, 2019
Inside: You’ve hired skilled, talented individuals to help you run your business. But to reach their full potential, they need to excel as a team.
As an independent community pharmacy owner or manager, you know your employees are one of your most valuable assets.
You likely strive to give them a comfortable work environment and invest in them through professional development and growth opportunities. You’ve carefully selected each employee based on knowledge, skills, and personality traits that help your business function. But how do these individual pieces work together? If you’re not building and fostering a cohesive team, you’re limiting your store’s potential.
“Cohesion,” in the context of a team, is the degree to which members get along and share commitment to the task. Cohesive teams are teams that work together. They see themselves as allies rather than competitors, and they share a common goal.
In a properly functioning team, employees do things for the good of the unit, not just for themselves:
In short, cohesive teams are stronger than the sum of their parts. When they work seamlessly together, your pharmacy runs more efficiently. And your employees are happier.
These simple strategies go a long way toward creating cohesion among your employees.
It’s common for employees and owners alike to wear multiple hats in an independent pharmacy. That’s a necessity of running a small business, and cross-training has many benefits. But things start to fall apart when it’s not clear who’s responsible for what.
Consider setting up a professional version of the classic chore chart, laying out who should be answering phones, closing up shop, counting out registers, etc. Don’t be afraid to change that day to day as your needs change and staffing fluctuates. Just make sure everyone is on the same page.
A monthly, or even quarterly, employee meeting can help keep everyone in the know. Use this time to introduce new staff members, help employees stay in touch, and address any concerns that the group can help with.
These meetings don’t need to be highly structured, but it helps to have a general outline of what you’re going to talk about so you can hit all the important things. A clear agenda, even if it’s not formal, gives the meeting a more natural stopping point and prevents it from devolving into a free-for-all.
Employee recognition is crucial. Studies show it improves the boss-employee bond and raises morale. Recognition correlates strongly to job satisfaction. A study by social scientist Dan Ariely concluded that people are willing to work harder and for less money when their achievements are recognized. People who aren’t recognized by managers and peers at work lose much of their motivation.
Celebrating your employees—both their accomplishments and their big life events—can make your pharmacy a more social and welcoming work environment. When someone on your staff has a birthday, wedding, or child on the way, be sure to take time to celebrate it. Holidays are also good times to celebrate.
If you initiate get-togethers for your employees, plan and execute the events yourself so they can focus on getting to know each other on a more personal level.
Schedule group training sessions to review your pharmacy’s latest procedures while also promoting teamwork. If you’re worried about taking too much time away from day-to-day operations, consider integrating this training into your monthly or quarterly meetings.
Use some of these sessions to review existing skills and policies, like how to answer the phone or what to do in an emergency. Other sessions should teach something new so your employees can expand their skills and knowledge. Research shows that 40 percent of employees who receive poor training leave their jobs within the first year, while 68 percent of workers say that training and development is the most important workplace policy. With statistics like that, you can’t afford to ignore group training.
These common strategies might seem like a good idea on the surface, but experts warn they don’t work–and sometimes they backfire.
You may have heard of trust falls, possibly the most iconic and misguided team-building exercise: you close your eyes and fall back into the arms of your colleague, confident that they have your back. And you probably know better than to include this particular move in your team-building plans.
But many team-building exercises are really just trust falls in disguise—activities that have nothing to do with your business or industry but are billed as solidarity solutions.
They also take time away from your work without actually decreasing the workload—which means you and your staff will be scrambling to catch up. If it’s not obvious to you how a specific exercise can help your team develop a specific, relevant skill, it’s probably not a good way to strengthen your team.
Instead, stick to exercises and events that clearly relate to your shared purpose of patient care. Practicing customer service skills or identifying your team’s various strengths and weaknesses will yield better results than trust falls or three-legged races.
Taking employees away from their work and compelling them to play team-building games or celebrate an event is a common mistake. When your attempts to reward and celebrate employees become mandatory, they stop feeling like a reward or a celebration and begin feeling like an obligation. That doesn’t help anyone.
Just as questionably useful team-building events can waste valuable time you could be using to get your work done, mandatory fun frustrates employees by sending mixed signals about your priorities. If there’s work piling up, they’ll want to get back to what they’ve been hired to do. If the workload is so low that spending significant time away doesn’t cause any problems, they’ll wonder why they can’t just go home.
Keep your celebrations optional and look for ways to recognize employees without interfering with their daily routine. Your staff will thank you.
If you don’t know where you’re going, how can you expect to get there? Sometimes the biggest impediment to getting everyone on the same page is that the person in charge can’t seem to pick a page.
Make sure your employees understand what they’re working toward, whether it’s 90 percent fill accuracy, perfect customer service scores, or a 10 percent increase in vaccinations. Tell each employee what his or her role is in reaching these goals. When possible, explain how specific requests or directions support the goal.
Your monthly or quarterly meetings can be a good forum to review these goals and track your progress. For measurable goals like fill accuracy or patient wait times, post progress updates in your break room or another employees-only space.
Your staff is more effective when it works as a team, so foster that dynamic with strategy, not gimmicks.