March 24, 2020
Inside: How to get an easy-to-understand message out to multiple store locations.
Communication runs deeper having face-to-face conversations. It includes every email you send out, the phone calls, the faxes, and even the resources you create to help your staff members do your job.
With multiple pharmacy locations, this skill is more important than ever. You have to make sure all your managers are getting the same information, and that they are in turn communicating that information to the staff members at their store. You should strive for patients to have the same experience no matter what store they’re in, but if communication fails, it could result in different stores having different procedures and ultimately treating patients differently.
To master the art of communication with multiple pharmacy locations, keep these ideas in mind.
You’ve been able to talk, read, and write for most of your life, but that doesn’t mean that communicating as a leader will come easily. When communication isn’t thoughtful and practiced, your meaning can go awry. You might run into these problems when trying to get messages out to your team.
One reason it can be so difficult to get your message across is that not everyone communicates the same way. You may think it’s easy to pick up the phone and call a staff member when you have a quick message, but if the staff member is uncomfortable on the phone, the meaning could get lost.
With employees at multiple locations, you’re bound to run into a mismatch in communication styles. As the boss, it may be tempting to expect everyone to adapt to you. Instead, you should take the time to learn how your staff members like to receive communication to reduce frustrations.
Picture this: you make a decision and tell that decision to your store managers, who pass it onto their location’s staff members. The more locations you have, the more people there are in that chain.
It makes getting the word out a little like a game of telephone, with messages losing their meaning by the time it gets to all recipients. Without a solid communication plan in place, you risk your words getting garbled.
Sometimes, it’s just hard to find the right words. When sending out emails or other written communication, certain tendencies can obfuscate the message, including:
Even when you’re speaking directly to someone, the delivery can make or break the message. Some common mistakes in face-to-face conversations include:
No matter how you’re conveying information, getting the delivery right takes practice.
A pharmacy is a busy place, and one major challenge to communication is breaking through all the noise. If you inundate employees with information on top of their regular work, they’ll have a hard time sorting out what’s important and what’s not so big of a deal.
In many cases, employees will prioritize getting their daily tasks done and resort to passive listening. That means they hear what you’re saying in the moment, but they don’t necessarily comprehend it fully.
To make sure employees really understand the important stuff, information has to be prioritized.
Bad communication in your pharmacy can become a barrier to success. It causes confusion among staff members and can be a source of job dissatisfaction, low productivity, and high turnover. Watch out for these symptoms of poor communication.
A study by the Connecticut Business & Industry Association found that the number one cause of low employee morale was poor communication.
When employees are kept out of the loop, an information vacuum forms. Staff members will fill that vacuum with gossip and misinformation.
Additionally, when leadership doesn’t communicate well, their staff members feel as if they aren’t trusted. This lack of trust makes it more challenging for employees to rely on each other and can lower productivity in the pharmacy.
If there are no pre-established standard operating procedures, employees won’t have a clear reference for action, which leads to confusion, mistakes, and lost time.
Poor communication might also lead to staff members not knowing who is responsible for what task. Employees might assume that a certain duty belongs to someone else, resulting in important work not getting done.
If your employees don’t have complete information, their customer service skills will fall short.
It may not seem necessary to educate your front-of-store floor staff on how purchasing works, for example, but if a patient comes in and asks about an item that’s currently out of stock, they will have to scramble to find information.
Chick-Fil-A, which is renowned for its customer service, gives even low-level associates decision-making authority when it comes to serving customers. In order to make those decisions, they have to know what’s possible. The more your staff members know about the workings of the entire pharmacy, the better equipped they will be to assist patients.
Poor communication means that not all of your employees are on the same page. When it comes to important or urgent information, these communication breakdowns can lead to frustration, unnecessary accusations, and hurt feelings.
Because they don’t know what kind of communication storm they’re going to be walking into every day, employees will start to feel stressed about coming into their shifts. Positive relationships will start to sour if employees feel like information is being withheld from them.
If employees don’t know what’s going on or who to talk to in order to get reliable information, working at the pharmacy won’t be pleasant, and you’ll start to see high turnover.
You don’t have to be a professional public speaker or former English major to get your message across to employees. Use these tips to establish yourself as a reliable source of information.
As a leader, it’s important that all of your communication with staff members has a consistent, well-thought-out message. Because you’re at the head of multiple stores, what you say has more weight, and one silly slip up can color how others see you.
Whether you’re writing an all-staff email or communicating verbally, you need to craft your message carefully. Credible communications are:
Leaders tend to hedge and soften the message when delivering bad news or criticism, but employees will respect you for delivering frank and honest information.
How you say something is just as important as what you say. When it comes to drafting emails, a descriptive subject line and concise message go a long way.
Avoid getting too casual — this can lead to important information being abridged or left out, causing confusion. You also want to ensure people aren’t distracted from the message by typos and other errors. Free desktop plugins like Grammarly can ensure your writing stays polished.
Verbal communication requires a similar set of skills. Messages should be delivered calmly, even when you’re stressed. Be authoritative, but still respectful and friendly. And remember, listening and acknowledging the other party is just as important as speaking.
If one pharmacy location is primarily communicating via phone call, another is communicating via email, and yet another is doing everything by fax, there are bound to be some mixed messages and frustrations.
Ensure that everyone has access to the same communication tools and that they’re well-educated on when to use different channels. For example, administrative requests need to be made over the phone, while all-staff messages should be sent via email.
Making sure everyone has access to the tools they need and that they are aware of standard operating procedures is the best way to keep staff fully informed.
These programs help you track all the tasks that keep your pharmacy running. You can assign people to specific tasks so there’s no confusion about who’s responsible, set deadlines, work collaboratively, and establish priorities.
One inbox filled with thousands of emails makes it difficult for your staff members to prioritize. A task management program can help relieve the stress of day-to-day responsibilities.
When a staff member misinterprets a piece of communication, gently explain where they went wrong.
But if the same type of misinterpretations happen over and over again, don’t assume automatically assume it’s the employee that’s wrong. Investigate to learn if you could be communicating in a clearer or more precise manner, and make changes.
It might be that the vocabulary is unclear, or it could be that the person giving out instructions doesn’t fully understand workflow and procedures, causing staff members to improvise.
As you keep exploring and refining communication in your pharmacy, staff members will become more efficient and more satisfied with their work.
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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