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Announcing the 2021 Gallup Exceptional Workplace Award Winners

Announcing the 2021 Gallup Exceptional Workplace Award Winners

by Jim Harter, Kristi Rubenstein and Denise McLain

Story Highlights

  • Gallup names 39 Gallup Exceptional Workplace Award winners
  • Winners navigated challenges of 2020 with exceptionally engaged cultures
  • Gallup will celebrate GEWA winners at the 2021 Gallup at Work Summit

Leaders had to make hard decisions in 2020. There were furloughs, layoffs and pay cuts due to COVID-19. There were complex and urgent conversations after George Floyd's death. Americans' wellbeing struggled, and employee engagement in the U.S. fluctuated more than it has since Gallup began tracking engagement in 2000. But through it all, the most engaged workplaces in the world continued to put people first. It required communication and vulnerability -- especially from leadership. The applications and interviews with award nominees revealed a common theme: leaders trying to embody their organization's values while empathizing with what their employees were going through and doing what's right for team members and customers.

The most engaged workplaces in the world continued to put people first.

None of it was simple. But having an inspiring workplace culture helped. In fact, a Gallup global meta-analysis found that favorable job attitudes have a stronger relationship to organizational outcomes in bad economic times than they do in normal or good times. The opportunity -- and vulnerability -- is magnified during a recession.

The Gallup Exceptional Workplace Award winners found themselves a step ahead as they weathered challenge after challenge. The engagement level among Gallup Exceptional Workplace Award winners is 73%, based on Q12 employee engagement surveys administered between Jan. 1 and Dec. 31, 2020. On average, these 39 world-class organizations have 18.3 engaged employees for every one actively disengaged employee ­-- seven times the U.S. average and 14 times the global average. Exceptionally high employee engagement allowed these organizations to adjust their focus -- and quickly -- with the trust of their employees. And, as Gallup's engagement meta-analysis shows, employee engagement drives business improvement, from lower turnover to higher customer engagement to higher profitability, even during disruption:

  • 81% lower absenteeism
  • 18% lower turnover (high-turnover organizations)
  • 43% lower turnover (low-turnover organizations)
  • 28% less shrinkage
  • 64% fewer employee safety incidents
  • 58% fewer patient safety incidents
  • 41% fewer quality incidents (defects)
  • 10% higher customer loyalty/engagement
  • 18% higher productivity
  • 23% higher profitability
  • 66% higher employee wellbeing
  • 13% higher organizational citizenship

The future of the workplace remains uncertain and full of possibility. No one has a complete picture of what comes next, but we do know what employees need to be involved, enthusiastic and highly productive in good times and tough times, and whether they are working on-site or remotely. Employees need engaged and talented managers who coach them to their full potential, connect their team with other teams in the organization to maximize resiliency, and sustain their engagement by never losing sight of the basics. Clarifying their role, ensuring employees have what they need to do their work, putting them in a position to do what they do best, and helping them see how their work connects to a bigger purpose will see a team through any crisis -- and it's why the 2021 winners stand out as world-class workplaces.

Congratulations to the 2021 Gallup Exceptional Workplace Award winners for their extraordinary achievement:

What makes Gallup's award criteria so rigorous?

The Gallup Exceptional Workplace Award criteria are more rigorous than other workplace awards. While many workplace awards only require a small sample of survey participants, we ask for every employee's opinions, and winners must achieve a qualifying score that places them in the top tier of organizations. Each company measures its employee engagement using Gallup's Q12 -- a survey that asks employees questions that tie to their performance, commitment to their organization and specific business metrics. Those organizations that meet the required criteria are among clients in Gallup's historical database including more than 43 million respondents and more than 5 million workgroups from 212 countries.

Applicants submit information about their strategy, leadership, performance, accountability, communication, knowledge management, development and ongoing learning. A panel of Gallup workplace scientists and experts evaluates applicants and assesses them against criteria established by the most comprehensive workplace study ever conducted. Applicants have to measure up to some of the most productive and profitable organizations in the world.

Learn more about the Gallup Exceptional Workplace Award criteria.

Gallup has studied successful businesses for decades. Learn what we know about becoming an exceptional place to work.


Jim Harter, Ph.D., is Chief Scientist, Workplace for Gallup and bestselling author of Culture Shock, Wellbeing at Work, It's the Manager, 12: The Elements of Great Managing and Wellbeing: The Five Essential Elements. His research is also featured in the groundbreaking New York Times bestseller, First, Break All the Rules. Dr. Harter has led more than 1,000 studies of workplace effectiveness, including the largest ongoing meta-analysis of human potential and business-unit performance. His work has also appeared in many publications, including Harvard Business Review, The New York Times and The Wall Street Journal, and in many prominent academic journals.

Kristi Rubenstein is the Senior Director of Gallup's Enterprise Consulting Group.

Denise McLain is a Subject Matter Expert and Senior Consultant at Gallup.

Sarah Kosch contributed to this article.

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