Leading Scottish pharmacy group embraces digital HR solution to improve staff management

Lindsay & Gilmour is an independent community pharmacy group operating across 32 locations in Scotland. The family business opened its first pharmacy in 1826 which still operates from the same location in Edinburgh today.

While the ethos of the company is still very much that of a family business it has grown significantly and now employs around 300 members of staff.

The challenge

Phil Galt joined Lindsay & Gilmour as Managing Director in August 2014 and one of his priorities was to ensure the organisation was looking after its employees.

One of the biggest challenges faced by the organisation was that many processes were still paper based, for example, people were filling in paper forms and faxing them to head office to request their annual leave. This led to inaccuracies and delays because things weren’t always recorded correctly. Phil quickly realised they needed to implement a system to better manage staff administration and HR.

With employees working in different locations it was difficult to keep track of all the holiday requests and entitlements. Phil wanted visibility of this both at an organisational level and branch level so pharmacy managers could manage staffing better.

Phil also wanted to improve the management of sickness absence in the organisation. He was concerned that if it wasn’t being recorded properly then things could be missed.

Phil contacted Codel Software who produce the Activ People HR software suite which includes Activ Absence and Activ Appraisals. Following a demo of the solution, he realised it addressed many of their challenges and so decided to install the full HR suite giving the organisation all the HR systems they need on a single platform.

Absence management

Activ Absence is one of the main tools from the suite used by Lindsay & Gilmour. Phil explains,

“Activ Absence is really simple for staff members to request holiday and to see how much holiday they have left. For the pharmacy managers the approval process is very straight forward, and they can also record when people are absent through sickness and plan for their return to work.

“Using the solution, we can make sure people are getting all the leave they’re entitled to and don’t miss out on any holiday and from a business point of view, we know that holidays are recorded accurately.”

Activ Absence helps the business with staff planning by producing reports that highlight any outstanding holiday entitlement. This can then be used as a prompt for people to book their holiday rather than being inundated with a flurry of leave requests at the end of the year, potentially leaving branches short staffed.

Implementing the solution was a big culture change for the company and some staff were a bit wary of using the technology at first, however, it is now fully integrated into the business and has had a very positive impact.

Phil says,

“The real benefit of Activ Absence is that it delivers one version of the truth and it gives managers complete visibility of what is happening across the business. The reports provided by Activ Absence raise awareness of the impact of absence on the business. We can tell employees how much sickness absence costs the company every year which has already led to a reduction in absence. The data has also led us to propose changes to our sickness policy; rather than trying to save money we want to reinvest it to pay for additional benefits for our employees.

“Another benefit is that we receive notifications if staff are sick so can see immediately where we have staff shortages. We can then transfer staff from another location to cover if necessary.

“I also like that the cloud solution prompts people to make sure processes are followed. Capturing ‘return to work’ information is particularly useful because it means if we have to talk to a member of staff further at a later stage we are well informed and there are no surprises.”

Activ Appraisals

Before Phil joined the company there wasn’t an appraisal process in place and he was keen to implement a performance development framework called the ‘Five Conversations’. Unlike traditional annual performance reviews, this is a continual cycle for appraising staff.  Line managers meet with a direct report once a month for a short conversation looking at five separate areas of staff development including their job satisfaction, what their particular strengths and talents are, any opportunities for growth and area of learning and development and finally their suggestions for business improvement.

Phil explains,

“The real benefit of working with Codel Software is that I told them I wanted to implement the Five Conversations framework and explained what it involved, and they developed bespoke software for us.

“The appraisal solution makes it much easier for the managers to keep track of everything as it can be logistically challenging having lots of different conversations ongoing. It also means there are no pieces of paper flying around and everything discussed remains confidential as it is secure in the system. As a business we can also use the data at a high level to identify trends in employee development requirements.”


Lindsay & Gilmour has so much confidence in Activ People HR it has just renewed its contract for the next three years.

Phil concludes,

“Activ People HR is now an integrated part of our business. I looked at other cloud solutions but this software really stood out. As a company, Codel Software is responsive to our changing needs. We want to be an employer of choice and look after our staff and the Activ suite gives us the tools to be able to do that and at the same time, improve our business processes and save money and administration.”