The Starting Points for Change – Education and Cultural Adjustment

Most people working in community pharmacies recognise that there is a need to change.
But the change needed is so broad that the starting point remains hidden.
What needs to be changed?
How do we achieve change?
And how do we go about it?

The essential starting point is a progressive change in culture and that requires a knowledge upgrade – almost a “dump” of information dropped on the entire staff of a traditional pharmacy, from top to bottom – then call for ideas from all staff grouped together as a team and call for ideas that many may be thinking about but have not had the confidence to ask senior management to engage with what is “bleedingly” obvious to them.

In fact, that may be the first culture change that might be enacted – create a pipeline for ideas that will be discussed by the total team on a regular basis, and if found sensible, will be supported and encouraged by management.

So here we are talking about introducing education delivery from internal as well as external resources introduced to the team so that each person knows exactly what their fit is in the overall scheme.

Management consultants are finding the traditional notion of a 9am-5pm career path that offers a good salary with typical benefits is slowly deteriorating as an employee ambition.
Taking its place is a heightened awareness that many employees spend the majority of their time at work, and consequently, employees are seeking far more meaning and engagement from the work that they choose to do.
To feel meaningful they have a wish to be part of the decision-making process.
Thus career development and education are essential opportunities that should be open to all levels of employees.
Taking this approach requires a real intention to retain talent through investing in their skills through investing in their education.
But management themselves might need a gently kick along because they may be feeling deficient in what to do and how to do it.
A simple solution to this problem lies in appointing an advisory board to the pharmacy that contains suitable skills appointed to it.
Skill-sets appointed may include educators, legal, accounting, marketing, Information Technology and Management Systems.
It is the most economical method of recruiting the ingredients required for culture change and getting some initial direction as to the content to support that change.

Once you know what the cultural deficits actually are it is a simple process to build the education required to deliver knowledge on a broad base that can address the deficits.

In taking the initiative to create continuous employee education, it actually strengthens the pharmacy internally, building to a solid “core”.
As a service business, pharmacy employees have a great amount of direct contact with customers, making it important to create a culture of empowerment and creativity which is the outcome as the “core” strengthens.

At that point you can begin to harness that creativity as empowered employees will begin to suggest new systems and methods to streamline the pharmacy offerings.
Harness the power of project building as innovation takes hold eventually creating disruptive strategies that will disrupt competitors and keep your pharmacy out in front.

Because it is disruption powered by innovation that will provide the tools to battle any competitor, global or local.
It will keep you nimble on your feet and not needing to discount your offering, because it is unique in the market-place.
And while you examine the risks and benefits of evolving new systems to create new revenue streams, consider the idea of fee sharing.
For example, many pharmacies are looking to introduce new clinical services but find they are unable to achieve a continuing result.
This is because the driver of that service will commonly be the proprietor or the senior manager who is capable of achieving a toehold in delivering a service but then collapses, because there are no trained resources delegated to take over and drive the service.
Why not change the central focus of a community pharmacy to that of practice management and encourage pharmacists or other health professionals to deliver these services.
Signing up to a “shared risk” agreement and splitting gross income on a 70:30 basis (practitioner : pharmacy) enables a pharmacy to create a “health precinct” with enough practitioners to create a broad base of patients that can be accessed by the pharmacy more economically.

The really big motivator for employees, especially the rising talents who will be future leaders, is that they want the opportunity to learn and grow rapidly in their place of work.
Many traditional workplaces struggle to keep up with the cadence of which people do want to learn and grow.

You’re seeing retention issues, for example.
How do you retain top talent?
Part of the way is to give them a broad array of opportunity, to expose them to new ideas and new challenges.

That is in direct contrast to the older way of management, which is, “Do as I say and don’t ask questions.”

That’s a negative demotivator for a workplace to indicate to a young, very talented, and very bright person who’s entering the workforce.

How does this proactive learning mindset change how employees are reviewed and progress within the pharmacy?

In practice we are transitioning away from evaluating by what we used to refer to as competencies.
Many competencies are based on past criteria, as in, ”This person meets the bar to achieve at a certain level.”
Instead, we’re transitioning to evaluating capability, which involves people’s ability to deal with ambiguity, take on new challenges and take ownership over things that may not be easily defined.
We want them to bring inspiration and energy to their challenges, in contrast to waiting for managers to dictate how it should always be done.
This requires a major change in their education and training processes.

The past methods that we used to train people, such as watching training videos for several hours, overseas conferences and delivering separate education to pharmacists and the assistants, is becoming more cumbersome and lacks cohesion.
It turns people off if they can’t learn at their own pace and it is less effective and more costly.
A lot of learners these days, learn fast in their roles.
There’s a gap there.
If we believe we are a working team in a pharmacy then there is no room for elitist education – only team education.

And the underwriting process for all successful education is the follow-through using mentoring processes.
Mentoring can eliminate unnecessary boundaries because if a working environment allows staff to freely request mentoring from a person who has the skill, then that may mean a pharmacist asking a cosmetician to teach dermal cosmetic application to them.
Eliminating hierarchical boundaries can accelerate learning and empowerment.

With globalisation fast approaching us we need the skills to deal with different nationalities, different countries and different cultures, otherwise we will be extremely disadvantaged in our own country as global businesses with their practiced experience will trump us in being able to poach top talent and retain them through educational opportunities that we will not have – unless we begin to build the resource immediately.

To be competitive, Australian pharmacies may have to set up in other countries to pin down our global opponents.
Some pharmacies are tentatively looking outwards to take advantage of global opportunities.
Australia is a relatively small market in a global context, so if we are to be invaded by Boots, Walgreens, Walmart etc. we need to be able to give out to compensate for what we have to absorb.
That is not impossible.
Just surrounding our existing enterprise with suitable education systems will underpin all the necessary cultural shifts on a progressive basis.
We are capable of doing it!

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