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How to Build a Strong Culture in Your retail Pharmacy

Having a strong culture leads to a strong business. When we come together with our staff in unity for our customers, it’s a recipe for success. It would be easy to walk in one day and tell your staff, “This is our culture, and you will live by it.” However, it is not simply stated by one person; rather, culture must be cultivated and learned by the group. Here are five steps that will help you cultivate a strong culture in your pharmacy.

Define your mission and values, and then get your team on board.

Where do you begin? An important first step in building a strong culture is getting clear on your mission and core values. Often, an organization’s mission is something that can seem almost ephemeral and hard to articulate. Defining the mission is a critical component of culture. Everything flows from your mission, both internal (including the hiring and onboarding process, recognition, benefits, all other policies and processes associated with your staff) and external (how you serve your customer and community).

Your pharmacy’s owners and management should set the mission. Think about why you started the business, what unique need you hope to meet and what purpose you intend to fulfill. The mission is the pharmacy functioning at its highest level and at its best. Once you put that mission into words, frame it, put it on the walls of your practice and include it in all your internal communications. Be intentional about it, and use it as a mantra.

Keeping that mission in mind, ask what values are most important to you. What are the principles that — no matter whether the business is in a lean season or is flourishing, fully staffed or short-staffed — define you and inspire you? These are your core values. Creating them is a perfect time to bring in your team. Have a brainstorming session or a team-building event centered around the following questions:

  • What are the values that we operate by?
  • What is important to us?
  • What sets us apart from any other pharmacy?
  • How do we live and work more toward the fulfillment of our mission each day?

Inviting your team to help you formulate these core values is a good exercise and a way they can become part of the initial stages of developing the foundation for your future. And just as with the mission, make the values a part of your everyday operation.

Reinforce the mission and values every chance you get.

Sometimes, seeing really is believing, and it helps to keep your mission and core values on your employees’ minds through signage and other creative methods. Consider investing in a plaque or sign that outlines your mission. Make it visible in a common area, like the break room, so that your staff sees it every day.

Also, make the mission and core values personal for your people. Remind them in meetings how staying true to the core values helps reinforce your mission, and begin to tie performance, awards and recognition to core values. For example, if you have a teammate who consistently goes above and beyond in exemplifying your core values, highlight them when you are all gathered in a meeting. Always invite your people to share their experiences as they relate to the execution of the mission and the core values. Doing so will help them become ingrained in people’s minds and will ultimately translate into their success.

Recognize team members who embody your culture.

As mentioned above, it is important to recognize good behavior with your staff as they begin to embody your culture. Not only will it make your staff feel good, but it will also reinforce the behavior that you want to see from the entire team. There are many ways to recognize your staff: on the spot, at a staff meeting in front of their coworkers, or through an employee reward program where the team is recognizing each other, and many more ways.

Engage your team through fun events and meals.

One easy and fun way to engage your team members is through events and breaking bread together. A happy employee is a productive employee. Researchers at Oxford University, MIT and Erasmus University Rotterdam conducted a study and found that happy employees are 13% more productive, in fact, making it highly important to prioritize time to have fun. 1 Taking either a short break in the middle of the day or before and after the workday to have fun with your employees is important. Some ideas include:

  • Ordering breakfast or coffee for the team one day
  • Having a boardgame in the breakroom to play during lunch
  • Going out as a team to play mini golf or arcade games
  • Organizing a local ice cream truck to stop by the pharmacy one day and letting your staff pick something on the company

There are many ways to have fun with your staff, and as the study mentioned above shows, you need to make it a priority to help the pharmacy succeed.

Make your culture known to your customers and your community

Once you have engaged your team and integrated the mission and core values through rewards and fellowship, start thinking about ways to involve your customers. Take a moment and think about the businesses you interact with. Who provides the highest level of service? Who consistently impresses you? Then ask yourself why. Often, it is because those businesses have made their core values translate to their customer experience. Some even include their mission and values in their advertising. That is one option; another is to make the mission visible through signage, on receipts and in mailers. This way, not only will your staff be bought into your culture, but your patients and customers will, too. It is a great way to create and foster trust and accountability.

Having a strong culture is not just about what happens at the workplace but is also about how a company relates to and serves its community. Once you have defined your mission and your values, get out and share them with the world. Encourage your people to be active in the community (form a company team and run a 5K, participate in tournaments, engage a local charity) and empower them to be ambassadors. This is another way to bring your culture to life. Good ambassadors of your culture will bring positive attention and productive business relationships to your pharmacy and will help strengthen your ties to the community.

There is an indelible link between a strong culture and a strong organization. SHRM, the Society for Human Resource Management, says, “The key to a successful organization is to have a culture based on a strongly held and widely shared set of beliefs that are supported by strategy and structure. When an organization has a strong culture, three results occur: Employees know how top management wants them to respond to any situation, employees believe that the expected response is the proper one, and employees know that they will be rewarded for demonstrating the organization’s values.”2 This is a tall order. The pressing day-to-day needs of the business often taken precedence over everything else. However, it is essential that you make the effort needed to define your mission and core values and then make them actionable. The rewards will be manifested both inside and outside of your pharmacy and will reach not only your staff members, but potentially your entire community.


1. University of Oxford. (2019). Happy workers are 13% more productive.


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