The Independent DIfference: Attracting New Talent to Your Independent Pharmacy

August 18, 2015 | Jessica Ehret

One year ago, I lost my paternal grandfather after a long battle with dementia and Alzheimer's. Throughout his health struggle, his best and worst qualities shone through. His memory care nurse put it best when she said, "He is the nicest rude man I have ever met."

My grandfather was a pharmacist, an independent pharmacy owner, and an extremely stubborn, loyal man: loyal to his employees, loyal to his community, and especially loyal to all of the small businesses in our small, Minnesota town. His funeral services revealed the result of his legacy: many past and present employees, other small business owners, members of the Lions Club, his memory care caregivers, his family, friends, and members of our church were in attendance to celebrate his long, successful life.

Over the past year, since I was licensed as a pharmacist and since my grandpa passed, I have spent a significant amount of time contemplating how he (with the help of my dad and uncle) grew his single store into a successful, independently owned, small chain of pharmacies. Over the next few weeks, I’ll continue to share some of those themes I’ve been considering.

The Independent Difference: Attracting NEW Talent

Pharmacy is a strange business. At once cutting edge and also a little nostalgic—it’s a business that tends to get stuck in a simpler time. (Does your pharmacy still use a fax machine? Ours does.) As a group of independent pharmacists, we need to work to keep the positive aspects of our tradition without missing the opportunities that the fast pace of modern pharmacy (and technology) make attainable. Part of that journey is continuing to attract new pharmacists and technicians to our stores. After all, they might just be just what we need to take our stores to the next level or, if we play our cards right, might make viable successors.

So, how do we get them in the door?

We’ve probably all heard that the newest generation of professionals (I'm 27, so I think I am included in this bunch) are seeking different work environments, more flexible schedules, more vacation time, and more opportunities for growth and development than previous generations. (We’ll talk about this last bit next post.) How can we in the pharmacy industry use this trend to our advantage? I think a fresh look at the scheduling is one way to appeal to the newest generation of pharmacists. Here are some ideas we’ve used in our stores:

Implement Modern Scheduling

  • Give employees one long (three- or four-day) weekend each month.
  • Consider a seven-days-on, seven-days-off schedule.
  • Allow staff to work four- to ten-hour days, instead of five- to eight-hour days.
  • When possible, provide predictable scheduling (each employee has the same hours every week).
  • Give employees short breaks during the workday (e.g. fifteen minutes to take a walk, meditate, or simply sit down); it can work wonders for productivity and mental sharpness.

Offer Varied Work Environments

Does your community have a need for a member of your staff to be out in the community providing flu shots, giving educational presentations, consulting at assisted living facilities, or otherwise engaging with the people whom you serve? If so, allow your staff to get out of the store from time to time to fulfill this community need AND give your staff a change of scenery.

Be Generous with Vacation Time

  • Still starting staff with two weeks of paid time off? Consider offering a third week (paid or unpaid); doing so is becoming more and more commonplace.
  • Offer to work a holiday or two for your staff.

No business can afford to hold onto archaic workplace cultures if they intend to continue to attract the talent that will take them into the next decades—and pharmacy is no exception. Make sure your candidate outreach reflects some of these cultural attributes and you will have a much easier time attracting new graduates. Once that candidate is hired, make sure you live out your modernized culture and consider asking that candidate to develop new ideas. Focusing on the potential of every new hire will help you to grow your clinical programs AND increase the chance that you will have more options when it comes time to retire and hand over the reins to someone else.

Independent Difference

Jessica Ehret

Jessica is a third-generation pharmacist and a 2014 graduate of the University of Minnesota College of Pharmacy. As a pharmacist with a communications background, she has found a unique niche in which she is able to educate, inform, and serve her patient community. When Jessica isn't in the pharmacy or hosting her weekly radio show, you can find her planning her next getaway, near or far, with her husband, friends, and family.