October 24, 2019
Inside: Standardized policies create a consistent and productive workplace. Here are some tips to get you started.
When you manage multiple pharmacies, creating a consistent work experience for your employees is as important as creating a consistent experience for your patients. If an employee works on Mondays and Wednesdays at one location and Tuesdays and Thursdays at another, they should expect their day to look the same no matter the location.
The key to this is creating formal policies that apply across the board to each one of your pharmacy locations. These policies should regulate both workflow and personnel expectations. When the policies are clear and provided to everyone, pharmacies become easier to manage and result in better, more consistent production. And when employees across the board follow the same procedures, patients will enjoy the same experience no matter which location they visit.
Think about these issues when formalizing your workplace policies.
When you operate a single pharmacy, many of your employees’ day-to-day tasks will be passed down by word of mouth. With multiple pharmacy locations, the workflow must be standardized to ensure everyone is approaching their tasks in the same way.
To do this, put your workflow on paper to create standard operating procedures. Having well-written, well-maintained SOPs ensures that all of your team members can carry out routine procedures with confidence, reducing miscommunications and opportunities for mistakes.
You’ll want to create written SOPs for every task that’s performed repeatedly in the pharmacy. Think maintenance, purchasing, or opening and closing the store. Your SOPs should be the first place team members go when they have questions about a task, so it’s important that they are comprehensive.
How you format your SOPs depends on the complexity of the task—some might require only simple instructions while others will need more detailed explanations. Because of this, there are a few ways you can approach formatting.
A checklist is the ideal SOP format for simple tasks. An SOP checklist explaining how to clean the pharmacy during closing might look something like this:
Each task is simple enough that it doesn’t warrant further explanation.
For tasks that are slightly more complex, a hierarchical list might serve your needs better. Use a hierarchical list when a single task has multiple steps or steps that require some background or explanation. Here’s an example of a hierarchical list item with more than one step:
Hierarchical lists are ideal for making sure that team members have all the information they need to complete a task on their own.
For tasks that have multiple possible outcomes, team members might benefit from a visual SOP document like a flow chart.
A flow chart helps demonstrate how different circumstances require different actions, and can be very helpful in guiding customer service interactions.
Patient appears satisfied at the register → Invite them to sign up for the pharmacy’s loyalty program
Patient appears frustrated at the register → Ask if there’s a problem you can help them with
You can create flow charts online if you don’t have the right software on your pharmacy computer.
The best way to determine what steps should be included in an SOP is to perform the task yourself. Take notes along the way, documenting each action you take. Have a few of your employees familiar with the task do the same, and then crowdsource the notes to create a comprehensive SOP.
Try to anticipate potential problems or points of confusion. You are familiar with the task, so parts of the tasks will be intuitive to you. Take a look at the steps and see if there’s anything that can be expanded upon or explained further.
The more detailed you can be about each step, the smaller the room for error.
The best test subject for your newly written SOPs is a brand new employee—someone who has no frame of reference for how a task is supposed to be handled.
Your new hire should be able to read through the SOP and perform their task well without any verbal instructions. If they aren’t able to complete the task, or they don’t complete the task correctly, identify where they went wrong and make adjustments to the SOP accordingly.
It may take a few tries to get your directions correct, so it’s important to check in with the new hires that rely on SOPs the most to refine the document.
Even after you’re sure you’ve perfected all of your SOP documents, don’t let them gather dust in a binder. As your pharmacy changes, so should your standard operating procedures. Commit to revisiting them and updating them at least once a year.
Putting personnel policies in place is just as important as outlining the technical parts of the job. Well-crafted personnel documents will ensure that everyone can meet the same behavioral expectations, no matter what location they work at or who their manager is.
These policies will outline what management expects of pharmacy employees as well as what employees can expect from management. They will also cover any administrative issues that could arise. Effective personnel policies ensure that everyone is treated fairly and no one feels like arbitrary actions are being taken against them or their colleagues.
All of these personnel policies should be compiled in an employee handbook that is given to each employee when they start their first day of work.
Your employees are representatives of your pharmacy, and your personnel policy should reflect that. Clearly illustrate your expectations of them while they are on the job.
Whether your uniform is jeans or dress pants, every employee across every one of your pharmacies should meet the same dress code standards. Be explicit in what clothing items are required and which ones employees should leave in their closet.
Spell out the standards your team members must meet when they are on the clock. This includes your discrimination policy and your position on cell phones and social media usage at work.
Health and Safety
This policy should illustrate the steps you expect employees to take to reduce health and safety risks in the pharmacy.
Your employees are giving the pharmacy their time and their labor. Your personnel policy should also go into what they will get in return. Topics like pay and time off are things that employees are bound to be curious about, so spelling them out in detail in an employee handbook can help reduce questions.
Compensation and Benefits
Explain when and how employees will get their paychecks. Also explain what other benefits they are entitled to, like health insurance, a retirement plan, or discounts at local businesses.
Breaks, Time Off, and Holidays
List which holidays the pharmacy observes, how employees can request time off, and what breaks they can take during their shift.
For employees that may have different needs, lay out how they can request accommodations and what efforts you’ll go through to meet their requests.
An all-encompassing personnel policy will also include details about other things that make the workplace run smoothly.
Lay Offs and Resignation
Let employees know how much notice you expect them to give when resigning their position. In the unfortunate case that you have to lay employees off, make clear what unemployment benefits or severance they are entitled to receive.
If employees fail to abide by the personnel policies, you need to have a plan in place to correct that behavior. This might be a three-strikes rule, a performance improvement plan, or something else. Having these policies in writing helps you and your managers know what course of action to take when an employee needs to be corrected and ensures that employees won’t feel like they are being singled out or treated unfairly.
You can write all the policies you want, but if your store managers are not enforcing the policies, they aren’t going to have the desired effect.
To make sure everyone is on the same page, put all managers through the same training. A quarterly meeting with all of your managers should help to set expectations and make them feel like they are all a part of the same team. Make it clear that adhering to these policies should be a priority in their position.
Visit each store regularly to get a sense of how things are going. If one pharmacy location seems to have a lot of employees coming in late or there are consistent hiccups in the workflow, work with the store manager to find a solution.
This blog series is all about the unique aspects of managing more than one pharmacy location. Follow along as we discuss how to improve efficiency, productivity, and profit across multiple pharmacies.
PBA Health is dedicated to helping independent pharmacies reach their full potential on the buy side of their business. The company is a member-owned organization that serves independent pharmacies with group purchasing services, expert contract negotiations, proprietary purchasing tools, distribution services, and more.
PBA Health, an HDA member, operates its own VAWD-certified warehouse with more than 6,000 SKUs, including brands, generics, narcotics CII-CV, cold-storage products, and over-the-counter (OTC) products.
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