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C+D Best Places to Work 2015: Third place

Cohens Group is known for valuing its employees and came in third in C+D’s Best Places to Work

“I would not want to work anywhere else.” This ringing endorsement of the Cohens Group does come via its head of operations Zoe Serrant, but her longevity as an employee suggests that this is not said under undue influence – she really does mean it. 

Having worked at the 175-branch chain for 20 years, Ms Serrant is “delighted” that Cohens has been named one of the C+D Best Places to Work 2015. The chain’s superintendent pharmacist and head of operations says the accolade “just reinforces” why she has spent so long at the company. Since joining the company as a pre-registration trainee in 1995, Ms Serrant has worked “in a range of roles” and says she loves the responsibilities of her current position.

A great motivator

So what has kept her happy at Cohens for more than two decades? “I have had career progression and now have an opportunity to drive the business forward – so why wouldn’t I stay?” she replies. Being able to share her views – and, crucially, have her employer listen to them – makes Ms Serrant feel valued. It is “a great buzz and motivator”, she says.

More widely, she believes the secret to Cohens’ status as a top employer is the culture – they all “work closely together and support each other”. This is down to Cohens being a “family-run” rather than an overly “corporate” business, Ms Serrant says, which she believes gives it a competitive edge. “We are able to react quickly and respond to the needs of our patients and staff.”

The Best Places to Work survey asked employees to rate Cohens on numerous factors, including role satisfaction, work environment and training. They are all important, but Ms Serrant places the greatest emphasis on relationships with managers. “Our branches are made up of small teams and so relationships in branch and with managers are critical to great performance.”

Cohens owner Anwer Patel, who founded the company in 1980, says the executive team is equally vital. “Our leadership is critical, as that is overarching in any success – greater leadership and performance will naturally lead to engaged staff.” This engagement is exemplified by recent charity work in which Cohens staff raised £75,000, says Mr Patel.

He has a few ideas of how to continue to build Cohens’ reputation as a top community pharmacy employer, with training “constantly on our agenda as we know how much our staff value this”. One example is “a suite of training” to support managers in branch, which Mr Patel hopes to launch “shortly”.

Better communication

One area that Mr Patel believes Cohens could improve on is its communication and keeping staff better informed about the business. Ms Serrant says this means not only communicating news, but acknowledging staff successes more. “As a business we could take stock a little more of the great things we do and acknowledge this,” she says. “We run so fast and are always looking for the next efficiency and new ways of doing things that we can forget to pat ourselves on the back!”

That said, the business already gives out team recognition cards and runs an Employee of the Year scheme (see left) in praise of a job well done, so recognition of success could not be called a weak point.

And, if Ms Serrant has anything to do with it, the Cohens Group will have plenty more reasons to pat itself on the back in the future. “My history here allows me to drive and support the business to become an even stronger player in our market,” she says. By cultivating a culture of valuing its employees, Cohens looks set to become an even more valued community pharmacy employer.

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