Amelia Goodwin and Georgina O’Sullivan discuss why contractors should prioritise performance management of employees as a regular feature of their business strategy…
Managing the performance of employees is something which is often neglected. The day-to-day management of a business can be time consuming enough and if you have a workforce with no apparent ‘issues’, it may be that this just isn’t on your radar. Or, perhaps, you do have an underperforming employee and you can’t quite face what you think will be an awkward and uncomfortable conversation.
However, it is important to recognise that your employees are an integral part of your customer facing business. It is also critical that you have an informed understanding of your employees’ ability to work to key pharmacy standards, such as the ability to work methodically, with attention to detail and with an understanding of the law and regulations that apply to the dispensing of medicines and the wider pharmacy industry. As a result, performance management should become a regular feature of your business strategy.
So, what does effective performance management look like? In terms of what is ‘effective’ for you and your employees, this will largely depend on the size of the workforce in your pharmacy. But, typically, performance management involves the continuous process of improving employee performance through formal appraisals (usually annually) and providing and encouraging regular (and comparably informal) feedback. Written records should always be kept.
By promoting an open and transparent dialogue of feedback, you are able to more effectively outline and illustrate what is expected of your employees. This is supported by having a clearly defined job role that helps your employees understand how their role impacts the rest of the business. Your employees should know how to conduct themselves, when and how to take on responsibility and what ‘good performance’ looks like in the context of your pharmacy business. Ultimately, it is important that you are confi dent your employees are empowered and competent to safeguard the health, safety and wellbeing of the public.
Importantly, effective performance management is a collaborative and two-way process. Your employees should be encouraged to offer periodic feedback about their peers and the wider running of the pharmacy services. Employees should feel comfortable to give feedback about leadership and culture with a view that an effective and cohesive workforce will promote the success of your pharmacy.
Reducing risk of liability
By having effective and proportionate procedures in place, you reduce the risk of a successful claim for unfair dismissal being brought against you, if you have to make the difficult decision to dismiss an underperforming employee. Whilst a valid reason for dismissal can be an employee’s capability, employers need to have given their employees a reasonable opportunity to improve their performance and must have measured the employees against fair and objective targets.
Having frank conversations about an employee’s performance can be unpleasant, but employers should resist the temptation to avoid proper procedure in favour of avoiding an awkward conversation or sparing someone’s feelings. It is also difficult to reverse engineer a performance management process when you do decide you need to take steps to dismiss an employee.
Regardless of how ‘well-intentioned’ your motivations may be, if an employer fails to show that appropriate procedural steps were taken that gave an employee opportunity to improve, it is likely that an Employment Tribunal would rule that an employer acted unreasonably and unfairly.
Whilst there is no specific process you must go through by law, employers must conduct themselves fairly. If an employer is conducting regular and informative reviews, then they can identify a performance gap in an employee early and take steps to rectify the issue. When doing so, an employer should be clear about how the employee is underperforming and identify how they can improve. A plan for improvement may involve identifying next steps, agreeing actions and, critically, following up on areas for improvement. Importantly, written records should be kept of all meetings.
If you are also a pharmacy owner, you must make sure that all staff, including non-pharmacists, involved in the management of pharmacy services are familiar with the industry standards and understand the importance of them being met.
In terms of your regulatory requirements, you may be asked to provide evidence that your pharmacy continues to meet standards set by the GPhC. Pharmacy owners have a responsibility to ensure that the safety and quality of pharmacy services are reviewed and monitored. Furthermore, any risks associated with providing pharmacy services must be identified and managed. It is important to identify under-performing employees who fail to uphold standards as this may ultimately be a safety concern to the public. By conducting regular reviews and managing employee performance, this risk should be minimised.
Finally, it is highly possible that you have a locum pharmacist working in your pharmacy. Frequently, locums are classed as self-employed which, amongst other things, means that they often do not have the benefit of some employment rights that apply to employees, such as protection from unfair dismissal. However, this should not be taken as an opportunity to circumvent having to manage the performance of a locum pharmacist.
As discussed above, if you are a pharmacy owner, you will still have a duty to uphold standards set by the GPhC and, as such, you will need to monitor the performance of your locum pharmacist/s. It is also important that you continue to promote an open and transparent culture amongst those that work in your pharmacy. As such, you should ensure that any locum agreement you enter into places an obligation on the locum to familiarise themselves and comply with any standard operating procedures you may have in place.
Addressing performance is therefore key for all pharmacies. It is important to remember to:
- have regular open conversations with your employees;
- address performance concerns as they arise to avoid greater issues in the long run; and
- ensure that a fair process is followed in any formal performance proceedings.
The above is a general overview and we recommend that independent legal advice is sought for your specific concerns. If you require further information in relation to the points raised in this article you should contact Amelia Goodwin who is a solicitor Employment Team at Charles Russell Speechlys LLP or Georgina O’Sullivan a trainee solicitor in the Employment Team. Amelia can be contacted on amelia.[email protected] and Georgina on [email protected]