Today Professional Pharmacists Australia (PPA) published their 2018 Community Pharmacists Employment and Remuneration Report which highlighted numerous issues currently being faced, specifically by the community and retail sector, in the pharmacy industry.
PPA is a champion of the non-owner Pharmacist and Pharmacy Technicians and this report is the publication of the observations, experiences and feelings of these individuals which make up the backbone of community pharmacy. The 2018 report weighs in on some heavy issues; the gender wage gap, penalty rates and employment conditions, some of the data being rather confronting and perhaps not painting the most optimistic picture as to how Pharmacists are viewing their chosen careers.
My interpretation of the statistics presented is that, despite current conditions and tensions, the primary driving force for Pharmacists staying in their career of choice is their passion for pharmacy and the role they play in Australian healthcare communities. A passionate workforce is a hardworking workforce that will thrive, so with that as our foundation and the conversation being opened, now is the time to build on that.
As a recruiter I get the unique perspective of both our candidates (non-owner Pharmacists) and clients (Pharmacy Owners) from my daily interactions and have developed a somewhat comprehensive view as to the employment struggles this industry is facing. Although the topic of wages seems to be the champion talking point and feature in reports such as this, it was not the hourly rates which caught my attention. What drew my attention was some of the larger statistics in topics often glazed over which actually offered a roadmap of small actions that employers can undertake to significantly impact their employee’s happiness and staff retention.
So, leaving the pay rise and hourly rate topic at the door, what can employers be doing better?
Employment Contracts & Job Descriptions
It seems simple enough, you advertised, screen, interview and job offer a candidate for the position. How is that job offer being presented? According to PPA’s surveyed individuals, 38% of employees of independent pharmacies are not receiving a formal written offer and employment agreement. For first time owners or owners of a small pharmacy operation it may seem like needless paperwork – all the terms may have seemed clearly explained verbally.
Employment Agreements are invaluable, not only for all of the legal ramifications and obligations but also for the sense of security it offers your current and potential employees. It is needless to say you want top notch talent in your business and in a competitive employment market they are undoubtedly fielding other offers, providing an offer and employment agreement in writing gives them something concrete, stating clearly in black and white that you want them, what you expect from them and what you promise to provide indisputably.
Job descriptions also have more than one purpose. Outlining all of the key tasks, roles and responsibilities when recruiting for a position ensures you know what award classification you are dealing with and what skills you need the candidate to have already and what can be trained. Furthermore, when that pay rise conversation comes up, you now have a frame of reference to fairly assess your employee’s performance against a set of criteria, enabling you to see where they are excelling or going above and beyond their role. This also works in the opposite situation whereby you need to have performance management discussions when employees are not meeting their duties. Eliminate misunderstandings, miscommunication and the need for telepathy by having a document that clearly outlines to each party what the role and expectations are.
Benefits beyond the hourly rate
As recruiters we are often looking at a job offer as a ‘package’ rather than an hourly rate, making sure we take a step back and look at the big picture. This is something that perhaps rural pharmacies do the best as they understand that they aren’t just selling a role, they are selling a lifestyle. Although I am sure that Pharmacists in Sydney would love the rental assistance that their rural counterparts receive, there are other costs they encounter just by being Pharmacists that pharmacy owners could provide a little relief with and make a huge impact.
PPA’s report highlights the opportunity current and future employers have to make their role stand out – support for professional costs. Over 70% of banner groups and 80% of discount chains are not currently offering any support for professional costs, whether this be paid leave for compulsory training, assistance for professional indemnity insurance or AHPRA registration. Offering support for training or professional membership fees has an impact greater than the associated dollar sign, it has an intrinsic impact on employees as they feel their professional development has made the priority list of their employer.
It is evident that there are more contributing factors to Pharmacists feelings about their career than purely remuneration. Instead of throwing all of our effort solely into influencing wages, let’s look at the big picture and make note of some of the smaller details having just as much impact. The PPA report highlights that Pharmacists are just as eagerly seeking realistic workloads, support and recognition for their contributions. These are the needs of employees wanting to excel and feel valued because they care about their work. The security of a contract, the clarity of a job description and the support of ongoing training and development will go a long way in securing an elite pharmacy team.
By Belinda Jeffries, Locum Recruitment Consultant at Raven’s Recruitment.