Day Lewis’s Kirit Patel is “chuffed”. He has a right to be – the CEO has just discovered that Day Lewis came top in the C+D Best Places to Work in 2015, named the best employer for leadership, corporate culture, job satisfaction, work environment and engagement. It’s not a complete surprise. After all, the multiple won a Gold Investors in People award in 2013, and previously held the Bronze accreditation.
But the C+D accolade is particularly important to Mr Patel – crucially, because it was based on a “very comprehensive” survey of employees as well as employer questions. For him, it is testament to the company putting in “a lot of effort over the past 40 years” into ensuring employee satisfaction. “It makes me feel very proud to be the employer of choice and I’m really glad the hard work we’ve done... has been recognised,” he tells C+D.
There’s no doubt Day Lewis has done something right to achieve such positive feedback from its employees. So what makes it such a popular place to work?
One of Day Lewis’s stand-out attributes is its focus on training. The company scooped a C+D award in 2014 for its Day Lewis Academy – an initiative set up to give employees more recognition for completing training. Using the company’s intranet, the academy gives employees a selection of learning activities to choose from and awards them points upon their completion. Points, as the saying goes, equal prizes.
For Mr Patel, encouraging personal development in this way is vital to the success of Day Lewis. He sees the academy as an important way of spurring on people to achieve their maximum potential – a goal he believes most employees share. “I believe everybody in some way or another wants to develop themselves personally – this is a tool to do that,” he says.
Crucially, the academy can build motivation by capturing “how they’ve come on” in terms of skills and rewarding high performers. Charles Thomas, manager of Day Lewis’ Exmouth branch and winner of the C+D Award for Pre-registration Graduate of the Year 2015 can testify to its benefits. He has now earned ‘gold’ status in the academy – an accolade that equates to a £50 voucher and an evening out on Day Lewis. “It’s really motivating,” he tells C+D. “With other companies, you’re expected to do it and don’t see any reward.”
Of course, Day Lewis also feels the benefits of staff honing their skills. Mr Patel attributes the company’s growing number of medicines use reviews, flu vaccinations and prescription volume to its focus on training. “If you recognise people, they want to get trained up and then they’re confident and happy and giving good customer service,” he stresses.
Work hard, play hard
As evidenced by its focus on training, professionalism is clearly important to Day Lewis and is one of its six core values (see above right). But that doesn’t mean life at the company is all work, work, work. In fact, Mr Patel is keen to actively encourage fun – another of its core values.
“Too much formality isn’t good if you want a happy environment,” he stresses. “It’s genuinely about creating an environment of fun and good conditions.”
The company’s annual charity days are a prime example of this ethos. Each branch is encouraged to undertake an activity of their choice – whether it be baking, wearing fancy dress or running a raffle – to raise money for a charity of their choice. Initiatives such as these make for a “good atmosphere” in Day Lewis branches, says Mr Thomas.
The multiple is keen to cement this fun environment through grander gestures, too. The company spends £500,000 on its annual Day Lewis conference – usually held in an exclusive London venue. Awards are given to employees who have made outstanding contributions to the business, to ensure they don’t “feel they’re being taken for granted”, Mr Patel explains.
He describes this event as “like a family Christmas party”. “That’s what it is – a family that meets and greets,” he says. “You meet people you’ve been chatting to on the phone, [and] then you feel more able to ask for their help.”
“Too much formality isn’t good if you want a happy environment. It’s genuinely about creating an environment of fun and good conditions”
This family mantra is, of course, at the heart of the Day Lewis business. Mr Patel has brought a number of family members into the team since he founded it with his brother JC Patel in 1975. And he is keen to treat his 1,871 employees in the same way.
This is perhaps best illustrated by Day Lewis still giving out Christmas bonuses despite being badly hit by category M clawbacks in 2007. “If your salary gets cut, it doesn’t mean you don’t bring your family a Christmas dinner!” he stresses. “We stood behind them [our employees].”
For Mr Patel, these values underpin the entire business. “It really feels like a family culture. It’s just part of what we’ve become,” he says.
At a branch level, Mr Thomas can confirm that this ethos is noticeable. “They talk a lot about the family culture... and you feel it coming right through,” he tells C+D. “You feel very much involved in what’s happening higher up in the company and always know what’s going on with the family.”
The combination of this family culture, focus on fun and innovative training initiatives has made Day Lewis a deserving winner of the C+D Best Places to Work 2015.
And this formula has driven the business forward – Mr Patel revealed earlier this month that Day Lewis wants to expand overseas and hopes to reach 400 branches before 2020. As Mr Patel highlights, these goals are dependent on its employees: “If you have a happy family in the dispensary, it comes across.”