Employees refuse to be retrained

Question:

I work in a small pharmacy where it is my job as pharmacy manager to ensure people get the correct medicine and advice. The problem I have is two counter assistants who believe they have all the answers yet do not know the simplest of things. The solution I feel is to retrain them both at the beginning so I ordered a new starter induction pack and have given these to both the employees. One employee left hers at home so I had to give her a spare, her response was sarcastic at first but she has settled down and is getting on with it. However when I asked how the other persons pack was getting on the response was “I have worked here for 3 years and am a fully trained counter assistant’ yet this person couldn’t tell me what a fully trained counter assistant should know. This then resulted in her telling the other employee “No other shop I’ve worked has ever done this’. The other employee agreed and stopped doing her work. I need some advice on how to deal with both employees, especially as I need to give some more training to the unreceptive one D

Signed,

Frustrated pharmacy supervisor


Answer:

Dear Frustrated pharmacy supervisor:

Usually when there is as much disruption of work as you are describing, there is much more going on than the obvious. What you describe is essentially a mutiny.

A pharmacy can’t risk even the slightest problem when it comes to giving people the correct information and advice. It’s not only a huge liability issue, you’re talking about the lives of and well-being of every adult and child who uses the services. Your pharmacy could lose its license over such an issue.

Some or all of the following may help you develop a plan: 1. You should be working with your manager or the owner of the pharmacy continually about this until it is resolved. The suggestions that follow should be part of that work. Until you know you have the agreement and support of the person above you, you won’t have the leverage to do what needs to be done. You may have already been working with that person. If not, start now so you can be sure of your actions.

Does the company have an HR function? If so, work with that person or group. Contact them immediately and ask for a meeting or phone conference to get advice. But, if possible, have your written material ready so you can fax it to them, then talk about it.

2. Prepare a written document about your concerns. You may have already done something like this. But if it did not contain all the elements here, prepare another one. I would suggest the following format: *A overview statement that essentially says there are problems with the knowledge and skills of the employees and you are concerned about the liability for the pharmacy if the employees do not improve. You should say the overall nature of the problems if possible, right in the first paragraph.

*Some details of the problems of each employee, one employee at a time. Use specific examples, preferably with a date or time-frame. Say what you did about the problem at the time and what resulted. Say what the overall response to correction and supervision has been. Quote when possible, so the readers can hear and see in their minds what has occured.

At the end of the list say what you tried to do recently with the re-training, and what resulted.

Have a suggestion for what you want to have happen.

If you do not believe they will be fired or you don’t think it is that serious, suggest what should happen. Perhaps a company rep or the original trainer should come out and retrain. Or, one of those could assist you. If there are branch pharamacies, perhaps they could be transferred. You know best what could be done, but some suggestions should be made.

3. Make sure everything each employee is supposed to know is in writing and that they have received a copy, or you can document when you have given the information verbally and when they have done the work correctly. There’s no point in saying they shouldn’t have to be told if they clearly DO have to be told.

But, re-consider using a very elementary approach such as doing original training again. That would be insulting to anyone. Likely there are many things they know how to do that might be part of the original training pack. Isolate the primary things that are going wrong and focus on those. Have them prepare the list if you think that would work. They may know where they are making errors and may know how to correct them as well.

4. This situation seems so extreme that I wonder what else is going on. It sounds as though there has been a complete break-down in communication and effectiveness between you and the employees. Are there other employees with whom you are working well, so you could compare?

Take a hard look at your style about this as well. That still does not excuse employee refusal to correct problems, but often can contribute to stubbornness and work difficulties. I find it hard to believe TWO people would have been hired; both with previous experience; if they truly did not know how to do the basics of the job.

5. Before you meet with each one to have a clarifying meeting, make sure you have talked with your manager and HR. I would prefer they be present to witness the interview and to provide support for what you are saying. They may have specific things they want you to say. And, the interview will be different if the employees are being put on a probation status or if you are merely going to counsel.

When you talk to them, one at a time, give them an opportunity to say what is making them most concerned and resistant to any kind of correction or training. But do NOT give in on your responsibility to supervise and to correct when correction is needed. Consider mentioning an error they made and ask what alternative to correcting it they think you might have had. You may find there WAS another way to handle it than the one you used. If you think that is the case, acknowledge that you can see their viewpoint. Don’t apologize for the correction, but you may need to apologize for your style, such as correcting her harshly in front of others.

The bottom line is that work has to be done right and it should be done right the first time. Their paycheck pays them for that accuracy and correctness. If they can’t do it or won’t do it, I don’t see why they should continue to work there. But, as I said, it appears there is something more than that obvious situation. A good book on this topic is Analyzing Performance Problems, by Mager and Pipe. It has a flow chart that allows you to ask questions about the problem and uncover where the real probem might be.

I hope these thoughts will help you develop a plan of action. Clearly something must be done and done immediately. But, you need the support of your manager and his or her advice as well.

Best wishes! Tina Lewis Rowe

Tina Lewis Rowe