Four top tips to find the right seasonal pharmacy staff when you need them

pharmacy staff

Spring has arrived and summer, with vacations and changes in business patterns, is not far behind. It is time to start thinking about seasonal staffing – whether for front shop positions or pharmacy tech jobs. During the pandemic, hiring has become even more challenging. Consider these four tips to put you on the right track:

#1 Determine your requirements

Is your pharmacy busier during the summer? Do regular staff take time off? Determine the number of positions you need to fill and the hours of those positions. You might need to cover the day shift one week, an evening shift for two weeks later on and the overnight shift the last two weeks of the summer. A primary reason to hire seasonal staff is to give your regular staff time off when they want it. Summer is often a popular vacation time, fortunately coinciding with the availability of students seeking summer employment.

#2 Recruit right

Depending where you are in Canada, this may be a challenge. A variety of tools are available. Ideally, provide as much information as possible about the position – specifically, the timing requirement and how that may change. If you have high turnover, seasonal positions may become permanent. If that is the case, it should be stated. Otherwise, start and end dates should be stated along with regular hours per week and how those hours may change over the season. 

Many recruitment tools are available, ranging from a simple "help wanted" sign in the window, online job sites and ads in the local paper. A good and low-cost way to recruit is using job posting boards at local schools. There may be no need to reinvent the wheel; the best source of seasonal employment may be past seasonal employees (i.e., students regularly have summers off and may be available for other short-term employment such as Christmas or spring break). Friends of current employees could be another effective recruitment option. 

#3. Cover all your shifts

When hiring, one of the keys is ensuring the person you are hiring is available to cover the shifts you require – the entire season. A better candidate who does not have the availability you require does not meet your needs. Seasonal employees tend to leave earlier than committed to take a week or two off before returning to school. A good way to combat this is a bonus, such as an extra amount per hour worked if they stay until the end of the season. 

#4 Manage seasonal needs

Managing seasonal employees is similar in most ways to managing regular employees.  One key is to remember that, in many cases, they are on holiday from school. While working at your pharmacy may be a summer job, they also wish to enjoy their summer (or Christmas break, etc.). When hiring, you should definitely seek commitment for the hours you require including coverage for vacations for regular staff. However, accommodating time off for seasonal employees is essential. For example, the potential employee may desire a weekend off for a family wedding or a few days for a camping trip. I recommend asking during the interview about such plans and committing to accommodate them. Good seasonal employees can be hard to find and a willingness to work with them will make yours an attractive place of employment. Last summer, I saw a store lose a great second-year seasonal employee because of an unwillingness to give her a Saturday night off for her sister’s wedding.

Seasonal employment should be considered a win-win situation. The pharmacy is getting the assistance required for a busy season and/or to cover staff holidays while the employee is getting valuable short-term employment.

Jeff Dover is the president of fsSTRATEGY Inc.