Farah Ali, general manager at Warman-Freed Pharmacy in Golders Green, North-west London, explains how to find – and keep – motivated staff.
Why is it important to have highly engaged staff?
I’ve worked in pharmacies for 23 years and in that time, one of the key things I’ve learned is the importance of having staff who are motivated and passionate about what they do. Happy staff means a happy pharmacy environment, which will have a knock-on effect on your customers and patients.
Engaged staff deliver more valued work; they give advice and recommend in a positive way, which in turn increases the value of interactions and sales. Highly engaged staff get on with each other, support each other and can lessen the burden of the work or tasks. There are positive effects on the overall health of the team, which means less stress and fewer sick days. Friendships develop and this also has a positive impact on.
How do you keep staff motivated in your pharmacy?
A key part of keeping the team motivated is to be visible and involved. As a pharmacist or manager, it’s important to be there with the team so they know you care about them and the business. Keep them informed about how the business is performing, and seek and give feedback. This means offering praise where it’s due, but also constructive feedback; employees will then know you are aware of the work they are doing and are thinking about how they can progress and improve.
One-to-one catch ups are essential; not just when there is a problem, but also to share praise. Employees will feel listened to and more valued, and can openly share any concerns. Communication is key to motivation, so make sure your language and actions are inspiring and balanced.
What advice would you give to pharmacies with low staff engagement?
It is definitely worth talking to your team to try to understand what is going on. Use your own personal feelings and experiences to show that you are human, on their level and wanting to help. Try and seek advice on what is causing low morale from other people who may be working in your pharmacy temporarily, as they are not so close to the problem, so may have a different insight.
Create a culture of giving and seeking feedback by praising, acknowledging and asking questions. It will then be easier to identify a specific situation, the environment or the people are the cause of the issue – and importantly, whether you can change any of this. You may not be able to; sometimes difficult decisions need to be made for the greater good.
As a manager, have you had to make any changes to the way you work to keep staff motivated?
During my time at Warman-Freed, I’ve utilised previous and new learnings to create a motivated team, keeping true to the things that matter to me professionally and to Warman-Freed as a business. My team have regular briefings and meetings to share business performance and objectives. This motivates my staff, as they are aware of the numbers and what is needed to meet targets, which drives them to deliver more. We also reward performance, key sales, and customer and peer feedback with small gifts. These don’t have to be costly, but the gesture goes a long way.
There are small personal touches that can add up to make a big difference to staff motivation, and I find that small tokens of appreciation, like birthday cards and cakes for example, can go a long way. From time to time I will buy treats for the team, and occasionally staff will cook or bake items to bring in and share with everyone. We also have a good working environment, which includes a staff break area.
Every year, we have a Christmas meal where those who work early shifts or have days off will cover those who work later so they can go to a restaurant and have a meal. As the pharmacy is open until midnight, this is very much appreciated by those on the later shifts.
We also have a team WhatsApp group, so even those who work part-time feel involved and can communicate easily with others. And saying good morning or good afternoon and smiling at the start of a shift doesn’t cost anything, but adds immense personal value.
Are there any common mistake or fallacies regarding motivating staff that should be avoided?
When it comes to keeping staff motivated, I would suggest avoiding using hackneyed phrases such as “let’s be motivated” and “how can I motivate you?”. I believe there needs to be a genuine desire to connect with your team – it can’t be forced or turned on or off. You should do what feels right for you and your team, but keep it honest.
You should also be honest if things aren’t good. For instance, it is not always about money, but when it is, make sure you are open with your employees about this. Explore options and seek information so that you can have informed discussions. Have regular meetings and briefings but don’t be unnatural or misleading, as this will easily be seen through.