Case Yliopiston Apteekki: Leadership training forces to reflect on personal leadership

According to Inka Puumalainen from Yliopiston Apteekki pharmacy group, training is a success when it leaves you feeling inspired instead of tired.

Touko Hujanen

Reetta Räty, 27.09.2017

”Topics and ideas simmer under the surface, and theory is merged with practice.”

Yliopiston Apteekki (YA) has a clear aim: to be Finland’s best customer service company. Inka Puumalainen is the manager in charge of the group’s training, research, and public affairs. A pharmacist with a Ph.D. in Social Pharmacy, she has worked in the industry ever since her first summer job. According to Puumalainen, the most important characteristics of a pharmacist include warmth, presence and solid expertise. Those working in pharmacies encounter people who have just fallen ill or perhaps heard sad news about the health of their nearest and dearest.

Supervisors need to show an example in combining expertise with warmth and empathy.”

“Instead of telling our employees to sell, we say: serve, help, and recommend good products. Encountering a customer is an important, sensitive moment.”

“From a management point of view, it’s a question of leading experts. “Supervisors need to show an example in combining expertise with warmth and empathy.”

Yliopiston Apteekki is a pharmacy group founded in 1755, which today employs 1,300 people and has operations also in Estonia and Russia. The turnover in 2014 totaled approximately EUR 300 million.

Reforms in recent years resemble the scenario in many other fields, with internationalization and a digitalized operating environment currently on the agenda. The same themes were examined during the training, which was tailored for YA management in collaboration with Aalto EE. Yliopiston Apteekki – Leadership Academy 2014-2016 is designed for the Management Board of YA and aimed at enhancing competence in multi-channel customer service, internationalization, and self-management.

What does a multi-channel approach mean at Yliopiston Apteekki?

You come across it when visiting the YA online pharmacy (www.ya.fi): “Our pharmacists serve you personally via our customer service chat between 7-24 each day. Our telephone customer service is available 24 h.”

Puumalainen explains that the key strategic aims of Yliopiston Apteekki were defined at the start of the training, a share of which are connected to the multi-channel approach and digitalization. Training focused on ways to carry the aims forward in daily operations.

Above all, we want to serve customers, do good, and excel at it.”

“We have managed to put the feeling and thought behind our values into practice,” Puumalainen explains. “Above all, we want to serve customers, do good, and excel at it.”

The Leadership Academy ended in April with twenty or so taking part in the program. In addition to the knowledge base offered by the Academy, Puumalainen highlights its significance in boosting a team spirit and nudging personal thought processes into motion. Participants discussed their pre-assignments with colleagues, and analyzed their own leadership in a deeper way, as the program included practical exercises and tasks.

The pre- and post-assignments force even the busiest people to examine topics discussed during the training in their daily lives."

“The pre- and post-assignments force even the busiest people to examine topics discussed during the training in their daily lives. It makes you think about the leadership culture as practical deeds, and reflect on personal working methods.”

The self-management modules offer psychological understanding on ways to motivate and steer others as well as analyze one’s own behavior. Many of the participants are struck by how comprehensive leadership actually is: in addition to solid financial expertise, it requires an understanding of human behavior and even the structure of the brain. 

Inka Puumalainen feels that new knowledge has been energizing and motivating:

“The atmosphere after the training is enthusiastic: chats along corridors, participants thinking about next steps, mulling over subjects and ideas. You know the module has been a success when you feel energized as you head home. It’s a good measuring stick when instead of feeling tired, you’re excited about all that’s new.

 “The training slots in between work, which helps in combining theory with practice, and strategy with everyday routine. Puumalainen mentions that all of the participants have had moments of revelation: “Now I see why the method I use in my own management work doesn’t work!”

The participants turn into a close-knit group during the intense modules. “Discussions on leadership, for instance, can get rather personal, when everyone trusts each other,” Puumalainen explains.

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