Employee retention is a business challenge that not just big corporates grapple with, it is also a considerable challenge for Small & Medium Enterprises as well.
In a 2017 study, Extent of employee turnover in Nigerian SMEs: Employees’-owner/managers’ standpoint, employees’ and management’s responses indicated that Employee turnover still pervades the Nigerian SMEs surveyed with most employees leaving their jobs in less than a year of employment.
I remember that as greenhorn pharmacy graduates, the ideal career starting point for the majority was usually the shiny Sales Representative jobs with Multinational Pharmaceutical Companies – the likes of GSK, Pfizer, Roche, Novartis, etc. The new cars they give were really an attraction. And I think the status quo remains today even though it has become a lot more competitive to get those jobs.
Community pharmacies, and even chain stores like HealthPlus and MedPlus, typically also struggle with employee retention as pharmacists tend to use them as transit camps on their paths towards bagging the “shiny” multinational companies’ jobs.
The following benefits-oriented employee retention strategies can be considered in a retail pharmacy setting. Some of them are statutory and others are not.
Hire the Right-Fit Employees
Even though I asserted earlier that pharmacists in the retail setting are typically restless, just like anything in life, it is not absolute. There are some pharmacists who want to build a career in community pharmacy practice, so you might want to prioritize employing this category of pharmacists.
They are likely to commit their time to learning the management of the business over a considerable time in order to garner the required experience to manage one.
Catch them Young
Internship and the statutory National Youth Service Scheme (NYSC) are usually career-defining moments for quite a few pharmacists. During these schemes, they get more clarity on what career path they want to pursue or otherwise.
A community pharmacy entrepreneur should endeavor to participate in these schemes as they give an opportunity to identify the right fit employee as discussed above, improving the chances of employee retention in the long run.
The Pharmacists Council of Nigeria allows community pharmacies to get involved in internship training, but also requires some exposure of the interns to hospital pharmacy practice in-between.
You can also apply to the NYSC directorate in your state to post pharmacists to your practice, in which case you take care of their accommodation and additional wages during their service year.
Some of these interns or corp members can potentially stay beyond their respective programs and become valuable employees.
Invest Resources in People’s Growth & Development
One of the fundamental reasons why employees, in general, leave organizations is because they are not having a growth or self-development opportunity.
In a community pharmacy setting, employee retention can be encouraged by committing resources to develop the employees – in this case, the pharmacists. Developmental practices include but are not limited to the following
- Exposure to continuous education through attendance in scientific symposia
- Training in soft-skills development e.g. Customer Relationship Management, People Leadership, Performance Management, Selling Skills, Presentation Skills, etc.
- Training to enable specialization e.g. Vaccines, Therapeutic Drug Monitoring, etc.
- Job enrichment through increasing responsibilities and leadership accountabilities
The Nigerian Labour Act stipulates the conditions of service between an employer and an employee. It makes provisions for the relationship between these two parties. Because the pharmacists in the community practice are usually on the move, they hardly stay for long enough to become entitled to annual leave.
The Nigerian Labour act provides that every worker shall be entitled after twelve months of continuous service to a holiday with full pay of
(a) at least six working days; or
(b) in the case of persons under the age of sixteen years (including apprentices), at least twelve working days.
Leveraging this in advance and making it clear in the employee’s contract, ab-initio, can motivate them to stay for longer than usual in order to become eligible for a paid leave.
Contributory Pension Fund
Another statutory employee benefit that can also promote employee retention is the Contributory Pension Scheme which was established and governed by the Pensions Reform Act of 2014.
It is contributory because both employee and employer have to contribute a minimum amount to it on a monthly basis until the employee retires. The employer contributes a minimum of 10% of the employee’s gross salary while the employee contributes a minimum of 8% of the same.
Having said that, the Pensions Reform Act applies to employees of a Private Company with 15 or more employees. In other words, the Act is silent on small and medium enterprises with less than 15 employees.
However, small business owners – including community pharmacies – should endeavor to implement this pension scheme as the benefits to the employee can encourage them to find some level of stability.
Profit-Sharing for Employee Retention
Profit-sharing with employees at the end of the fiscal year can be a potentially potent employee retention strategy. It is not statutory but if well deployed, can not only motivate employees to stay but to contribute immensely towards making the business succeed.
The sense of ownership and accountability is heightened when employees have a stake in the business’ success and by inference, becoming as profitable as possible.
It is up to the employer to decide how much of the company’s share is available to be shared. The most common method of calculating an employee’s share of the profit is by considering their compensation as a percentage of the total compensation of all employees, This percentage is then multiplied by the allotted profit to be shared to determine the employee’s share. Check out Investopedia for further reading.
Health Insurance Scheme
Another statutory benefit that should accrue to employees by law is a subscription to a health insurance scheme. Today, health insurance is mandatory for all citizens of Nigeria which was made possible by the new National Health Insurance Scheme Act signed into law in May 2022 by the Nigerian President.
Employers in the public or private sector with 5 or more employees are obliged to provide health insurance cover for their employees.
Health insurance is becoming more and more affordable, even though it comes in bouquets with varying degrees of benefits depending on the amount of premium paid. However, employees can get basic coverage at an affordable cost even for small businesses. For example, Reliance HMO has packages as low as N3,500 premium on a monthly basis for basic health insurance coverage to the tune of N1.2 million annually.
This benefit is potentially an employee retention benefit.
Incentives & Recognition of Performance
Performance-based incentives and employee recognition and appreciation can go a long way to foster employee retention. Employees have the opportunity to earn beyond their salaries when they meet specific set goals and/or Key Performance Indicators (KPIs).
Again, when you appreciate and recognize people’s performance and contributions, they are more motivated to do more and they feel valued. This gives them a sense of accomplishment and fulfillment and they are likely to stay for longer than usual.
In conclusion, community pharmacy entrepreneurs need to start working with employees – pharmacists – to proactively retain them (especially the talented ones) for longer than usual by exploring and implementing job-enriching strategies and benefits.