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How to motivate your pharmacy team

With pharmacy under increasing pressure, team motivation has never been more important. Here's how you can boost morale and ensure individuals feel valued

Pharmacists and their teams are facing an increasing workload, the cost-of-living crisis, and funding restrictions. And these pressures come with consequences for their health and wellbeing.

The annual workforce wellbeing survey, run in partnership with the Royal Pharmaceutical Society (RPS) and the charity Pharmacist Support, found that 88% of survey respondents are at high risk of burnout.

Read more: Is community pharmacy’s luck finally about to turn?

Top factors causing poor mental health and wellbeing revealed by the survey include inadequate staffing (70%), lack of work/life balance (53%), lack of protected learning time (48%) and lack of colleague/senior support (47%). 

And a higher number of respondents working in community pharmacy (20%) reported not being offered breaks compared to all other sectors (8%), and were more likely to experience verbal or physical abuse from patients and the public (69% versus an average of 44%).

For pharmacists, team motivation has never been more vital. As team leaders, pharmacists shouldn’t view their teams as “a means to an end”, says two-time winner of C+D’s Pharmacy Team of the Year Award Ade Williams, lead pharmacist at Bedminster Pharmacy in Bristol. “We need to see ourselves as being stewards of people’s own hopes and aspirations,” he says.

Read more: Is Pharmacy First addressing the sector's root challenges?

Mr Williams says community pharmacy teams “by the very nature of their roles are already exceeding their contractual responsibilities and obligations”. So, to motivate them is to “reinforce that what they do matters, to appreciate and acknowledge their work, and to protect them from the challenges of a job that puts them at risk of burnout. Protection, acknowledgement and encouragement are key to motivating teams,” he says.

Motivating teams also means ensuring they are happy in the workplace, says Eoghan O’Brien, owner of Bannside Pharmacy in County Antrim, Northern Ireland. “We’ve got to understand that our team is one of our most important assets, to make sure we are prioritising their needs, and making them feel valued and appreciated,” he says.

“Motivated pharmacy teams lead to enhanced productivity, improved patient interactions, and a higher job satisfaction,” says Professor Claire Anderson, RPS president. “This in turn translates to a positive impact on patient outcomes and the overall healthcare landscape,” she says.

Professor Anderson says that “pharmacists can motivate their teams by celebrating achievements, communicating openly, and by offering training and growth opportunities in their teams”. She adds: “Avoiding micromanagement, addressing team members concerns, and recognising individual efforts are crucial in nurturing a motivated work environment.”

So what are the best ways to motivate a team? Because each individual likes to be encouraged and rewarded in different ways, many pharmacists have different approaches depending on what works for their teams.


A culture of belonging


Adopting a culture of belonging helps pharmacists feel recognised and valued, says Professor Anderson. “Employers, managers, and pharmacy teams must actively promote the wellbeing of staff. Engaging with staff and working together to tackle the causes of work-related wellbeing problems, and supporting staff who are experiencing mental health problems can create a more motivated work environment,” she says.

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Celebrating achievements by regularly acknowledging and rewarding both team and individual accomplishments, can motivate pharmacy staff. Lila Thakerar, superintendent pharmacist at Shaftesbury Pharmacy in Harrow, says it’s important to give credit for when teams and individuals have gone “above and beyond” the call of duty.


Sharing compliments


“I take pride in sharing compliments with individuals and the whole team,” says Ms Thakerar.

“I ensure that I speak to individuals or the entire team when we receive positive feedback or compliments.”

Those compliments could come from other primary care teams, surgeries, the local pharmaceutical committee (LPC), integrated care systems (ICSs), and patients.

Read more: Leadsom: ‘Laying the foundations for better-supported pharmacies’

“We take all the positives from the compliments we receive, and we learn from them,” she says. For example, she recalls recently sharing with her team, a patient’s feedback that the pharmacy had “such helpful staff who didn’t rush me…have been back for more medicine and staff remembered me and gave such good advice”.


Social events


Having social events for pharmacy teams is an ideal opportunity to celebrate their achievements.

“We’re like a family,” says Ms Thakerar of her team. “We socialise, have a ‘chat group’, go out for meals, and celebrate birthdays. The social element to a pharmacy team is very important,” she says.


Open communication


Open communication and the ability to have transparent conversations is a vital part of motivating staff.

“Communication is fundamental to ensuring that everything is OK with your team,” says Mr O’Brien. It’s about the basics of effective communication – “greeting people by name, smiling and making eye contact – these fundamentals are so important”, he says.

Mr O’Brien has regular team meetings and asks for everyone’s opinions.  “If someone feels they have input, it helps to motivate them too,” he says.


Appraisals and motivation


Good communication is vital during appraisals, which are an opportunity to find out about how individual team members feel about their role, and how they would like to develop their careers.

An appraisal should not be about “you telling your team member what they are doing right or wrong”, advises Mr O’Brien. “It’s about listening, asking open ended questions, look at what has gone well and not so well, and what could be improved, taking their opinions on board,” he says.

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It is important for pharmacists to invest in and provide continuous training and development opportunities to enhance skills, says Professor Anderson. Career development and flexible working options should be discussed and enabled to help support pharmacists to manage and optimise their workload, she says.


Lead by example


Professor Anderson says pharmacists also need to lead by example – demonstrating motivation, positivity, and professionalism as a leader to inspire the rest of the team.

To create the “right environment” pharmacists should show “empathetic leadership”, advises Mr Williams. “We must also make sure we create a value-based inclusive culture. It’s not just about valuing what a person has to contribute – it’s also about valuing them because they are a person within the team who really matters. We need to value people for who they are, not just because of what they do,” he says.

Read more: These are tough times for community pharmacy – so tell us your experiences

Pharmacists also need to “create a culture of good pastoral care”, he says. “We need to ensure policies are shaped around individual needs, that opportunities are accessible and clearly defined, and that there are fair processes in place.”


Morale boosting measures


To boost team motivation, pharmacists can look at making improvements to the working culture. And they can even look at the patient culture.

“If your team is constantly dealing with verbal aggression from, and being put under pressure by patients, then look at what you are doing about this,” says Mr Williams. “Pharmacists can also develop their leadership skills, and look at how they can do better,” he adds.

And there is always room for morale boosting measures – from meals out, to awards nominations and events. “Everyone needs to be rewarded – from compliments, to face-to-face chats and feedback from colleagues,” says Ms Thakerar.


What to avoid


With the profession facing mounting pressures, pharmacists should avoid demotivating their teams by frequently discussing work frustrations, says Mr Williams.

Read more: Overcoming challenges to achieve the Pharmacy First vision

Frequent criticism of staff should also be avoided, advises Ms Thakerar. While it’s “easy to criticise” when people make mistakes, she says they need to learn from them. Pharmacists need to avoid blaming staff. Alternatively, share information about where things have gone wrong, what could be done better, and how to avoid a repeat of the situation, she advises.


A cultural change


There could be more done on a government level to prove to pharmacy teams they are appreciated and worth investing in. Professor Anderson says governments and NHS bodies must enable funded protected learning time and the infrastructure to support it. This must be available for all pharmacists to enable the continuum of professional development from foundation to consultant level, she says.

Good practice and pilots “have been welcomed across England, Scotland, and Wales, but there must be a wider and more accessible offer made available nationally for all pharmacists”, she says.

All pharmacists must be given access to, and be enabled to, take appropriate rest breaks. “Legislation already exists to enable pharmacists to take breaks, but a cultural change is needed so that pharmacists, NHS bodies, employers and the public recognise the necessity of taking breaks. These can be introduced in a way that minimises the impact on patients and is beneficial for both the welfare of pharmacists and patient safety,” says Professor Andersons.

Read more: Finding your Ikigai: The rewarding experience of being a pharmacist

With pharmacy teams at the forefront of providing health services to patients, “if they are not motivated and morale isn’t good, then patient care will be compromised”, says Ms Thakerar.

Patients should be aware that the work of the pharmacy is “a team effort – because ultimately it takes a team to provide their care”, says Mr Williams. Motivating teams also makes good business sense. “Motivation is directly linked to better productivity, so it’s not just a good thing to do - it’s the right thing to do,” he says.

And when looking at ways to motivate pharmacy teams, it can help to “put yourself in the position of your team members”, says Mr O’Brien. “Think about how you would like to be spoken to and treated. Acknowledge your team, smile, and be grateful. These simple things can go a long way to helping people feel valued and appreciated. And at the end of the day say: ‘Thank you.’”



Tips on how to motivate teams:

  • Celebrate achievements: regularly acknowledge and reward team and individual accomplishments
  • Open communication: have transparent conversations to build trust and mutual understanding
  • Invest in training: provide continuous training and development opportunities to enhance skills
  • Empower team members: trust employees' capabilities and involve them in decision-making processes
  • Feedback culture: encourage a culture where feedback is valued and acted upon.
  • Lead by example: demonstrate motivation, positivity, and professionalism as a leader to inspire the rest of the team


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