Pharmacy managers are the single most important factor in the level of engagement among their staff.
It can sometimes be easy to conflate concepts like happiness, satisfaction, productivity, and engagement, although they are all quite unique. Engagement is driven by long term fulfillment whereas happiness is short lasting and is not a strong predictor of individual or organizational work outcomes. Lack of engagement at work not only negatively affects the employee but is also a detriment to the employer, as it leads to lack of productivity and high turnover rates. Most employees do not feel engaged at work, and in fact only 15% of employees worldwide and 35% in the United States are categorized as engaged.1
A recent study employed a “learn from the best approach” strategy to characterize and gain insight into engagement by community pharmacists practicing at the top of their profession.2 Thirteen community pharmacists participated, all of whom were deemed exemplary by having won prestigious “Pharmacist of the Year” or other similar awards.2 These pharmacists participated in an in-depth interview and additional follow-up communications. The study authors identified 6 major themes found to drive engagement among these pharmacists: autonomy, altruism, admiration, agreement, alignment, and aspiration.2
In the study, pharmacists expressed the importance of professional autonomy to achieve peak performance. Micromanagement impeded focus when they had to worry about pleasing their supervisor.2 Furthermore, a sense of altruism and enthusiasm to serve patients increased pharmacists’ engagement in addition to increasing fulfillment in their professional and even personal lives.
Alignment with a broader goal was also an important facet to pharmacists’ engagement.2 Aligning oneself with a greater objective, such as optimal patient care or the expanding role of pharmacist care in the community, gave participants a sense of purpose, knowing that they were active participants in something greater than themselves.2 That being said, these award-winning pharmacists did indeed thrive on some level of admiration; that is, the recognition of their accomplishments was important to them.2 Similarly, the pharmacists described ‘agreement’ as feeling validated through extrinsic motivators and ‘alignment’ of their practice with pharmacy care mission and goals for the future. The final theme identified in this study was the importance of aspiration and the need for a positive attitude in the workplace.2
Although many of the traits identified by study participants seem to be within personal control, management style plays an integral role in employee engagement. A manager alone accounts for 70% of the variance within employee engagement1 and managers can greatly impact morale and engagement of staff. Engagement among pharmacists and technicians can be improved if managers create an atmosphere conducive to staff feeling the 6 aspects described above.
A certain level of autonomy can be given to all members of the pharmacy team. Technicians can be given the opportunity to have control over their own scheduling, which tasks they complete during the workday, and input regarding workflow. Pharmacists can operate at peak performance when given the ability to self direct and prioritize their own work. Agreement through external validation was found to be a driver of engagement and managers can leverage this through meaningful and personal feedback to employees. Instead of nonspecific feedback or generic compliments, managers should provide targeted feedback and personally relay that to staff. Identifying and personally validating top performers is important to retain and engage crucial staff members.
In addition to providing pharmacy staff with more autonomy and validation, engaging in meaningful conversations with employees is integral to establishing a positive relationship.Through thoughtful and meaningful conversations, managers can support and advocate for their staff when needed. Meaningful conversation is a skill for managers to carefully develop, as it could be misinterpreted as micromanaging.
When having meaningful conversations with staff, managers can have ongoing coaching conversations to provide guidance and direction to help employees reach their unique professional goals. Strengthening professional relationships among employees through meaningful conversation can help improve engagement levels and retain employees for the long term.
More information about Human Resources Management Functions and Organizational Structure and Behavior can be found in Pharmacy Management: Essentials for All Practice Settings, 5e.
Ashley Woodyard is a PharmD Candidate at Touro University California
Shane P. Desselle, PhD, is a professor of social and behavioral pharmacy at Touro University California.
1. Gallup. How to improve employee engagement in the workplace. Gallup.com. https://www.gallup.com/workplace/285674/improve-employee-engagement-workplace.aspx. Published November 9, 2021. Accessed November 11, 2021.
2. Austin Z, Gregory P. Understanding psychological engagement and flow in community pharmacy practice. Res Social Adm Pharm. 2020;16(4):488-496.