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How do you retain your best pharmacy staff?

Jane Xia

We have all experienced various aspects of change due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Our lives have altered in ways we had never imagined. Our experience and relationship with our environment have become more tense and cautious. Our faces are half covered to prevent infection and our fear of COVID-19 infection dictates the way we behave. When it comes to business, how has this pandemic changed the pharmacy labour force scene?

There is a term I am sure most of us have already heard about: “The Great Resignation” phenomenon, dubbed by some economists, is a “popular phrase referring to roughly 33 million Americans who have quit their job since the spring of 2021” (2). Employee resignation is not new to any employers, the pandemic just became a catalyst that sped up the process for many employees to really think about life, what they want to do, how they want to live and where they want to work.

Part of the issue is employers always think financial incentive is the only aspect of a job that employees care about. However, many employees have dedicated many years to a company feeling undervalued, unheard, and it is not just about money (1). The other part is that company managers and decisionmakers always assume they have more power than the employee, but this isn’t always true. Some managers I have spoken with before assume their employees are easily replaceable and thus do not treat them very well. The high turnover of some positions impaired the business, and the overall revenue for those departments is always taking a loss because finding a proper replacement is difficult.

Decisionmakers at head office are sometimes more disconnected from their front staff workers than they think. The big boss may consider his/her workplace to be a good spot to work, but the top performers are just a LinkedIn message away from being headhunted to a competitor company. Worst yet, the top employees are willing to quit without another job lined up because they want to make a statement. Will they be heard? Will the decisionmakers consider this as a pandemic phase and deal with the consequences of a high turnover?

So, the big question is, how do you retain your best employees? Pandemic or no pandemic, here are some things to consider when it comes to talent retention.

Listen to your employees’ feedback

It costs a lot of time, effort and money to train a new employee. They may be your star pharmacists/pharmacy managers for the few next years to come. They are loyal, hardworking, and talented. They make suggestions and push for change to improve your customer experience, staff enjoyment and business efficiency. Too often, I see the decisionmakers choosing status quo rather than taking feedback from their star employees. Partly because change may require more work with uncertain results, partly because of the unconscious protection of the ego overpowering their ability to listen. We need to listen to employees’ feedback and suggestions to constantly improve, not only for ourselves as leaders, but in the way we operate a business.

Keep them engaged in their work

Star employees will resign because they are bored with monotonous work. It is important to keep the top employees engaged in their work. Variety, responsibility, creativity and autonomy are important aspects to keep in mind when providing them with new projects to embark on. Always reward them for their great work and provide visibility so they feel seen, heard, and recognized.

Match them with a mentor

Often your star employees will have a mentor in mind in the company. Matching them with the mentor of their choice will allow your employees to feel valued. Having role models will keep the top employees engaged in their jobs and remain hopeful of advancing into higher positions in the future. This keeps your employees loyal and focused on their work.

Create clear pathways for advancement and stay true to your promise

Your star employees need to know what their years of service will translate into. Understanding the needs of your star employees is important in this process. It is not always about money, although raises are a good start, but there have to be goals along the way and a promise of a career filled with personal and professional growth. I have seen managers overpromise and underdeliver. Stay true to your promise and make sure your top performers are making the milestones in career growth. Because if you do not deliver, they will leave.

Manager/Boss/Owner’s self-assessment and improvement

Many talents leave their bosses/managers. If many of your gold star and longtime employees are leaving, it is time to take a hard look in the mirror. Put your ego aside and start looking internally. What ideal leadership style would you like to possess?  Have you considered taking some management/leadership courses to improve your ability to engage your employees? Why are people leaving? What are they saying to/about you and the company? Have you considered a consultant to help you through this process?

I know sometimes it is tough as all of these recommendations take time to integrate into practice and the daily demands of operating a pharmacy take up most of our time. But without change, you will only stand still and be forced to witness your best people walking away. This will cost you and your company a lot of money and resources. Make time. The choice is yours.



  1. Morgan, K. The Great Resignation: How employers drove workers to quit. July 1 2021. Visited Feb 10, 2022. Link []
  2. Rosalsky, G. The Great Resignation? More like The Great Renegotiation. Jan 25, 2022. Visited Feb 10, 2022. Link []
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