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What the Most Engaged Organisations in EMEA Do Differently

What the Most Engaged Organisations in EMEA Do Differently

by James Rapinac and Claire de Carteret

Story Highlights

  • All six organisations treat engagement as integral to doing business
  • Relentless customer focus is a must for engagement success
  • Each organisation touts the importance of a strong organisational purpose

How do some organisations build and sustain cultures of engagement and performance when the vast majority do not?

Global employee engagement was 23% in 2022. And in Europe, only 13% of employees were engaged, according to Gallup’s State of the Global Workplace 2023 Report. In contrast, the average engagement level among the 57 organisations achieving the 2023 Gallup Exceptional Workplace Award (GEWA) is 72% -- more than three times the global average.

What do these best-practice organisations do differently?

On 22nd June 2023, six GEWA-winning organisations came together at Gallup’s EMEA headquarters in London to answer this question and share their engagement journey stories at the Gallup Workplace Best Practice Forum. These six GEWA-winning organisations are:

  • Alimentation Couche-Tard (ACT), a global leader of convenience stores
  • Ferring Pharmaceuticals, a leading provider of reproductive and maternal health treatments
  • GBG plc, leading global experts in digital identity
  • Kempinski Hotels, an exclusive and legendary luxury hotelier
  • NFU Mutual, an award-winning U.K. insurer and financial services provider
  • Żabka Group, a Polish convenience retailer, among the fastest-growing companies in Central and Eastern Europe

Although these companies have each taken a different path to creating a unique, engaged culture, they all ensure that engagement is an integral part of how they conduct business -- not merely an item on a checklist. Engagement must be integrated seamlessly with company strategy and embedded into workplace culture, which measurably yielded business results for each of these elite workplaces.

“Engagement is doing the right thing for your people and the business.”
-- Adrian Langton, ACT

When organisations have an engaged and thriving workforce, their business results follow. Engagement is a critical component of success.

Between 2014 and 2017, Żabka Group opened an average of 520 new stores annually. In 2018, the company implemented a new, ambitious business strategy focused on rapid expansion and an engaged workforce to drive this growth. As a result, since 2018, the annual growth of Żabka’s store network has increased to over 900 stores.

In 2018, Żabka began working with Gallup and conducted its first employee engagement survey, the results of which placed the company in the 14th percentile of Gallup’s benchmark database. By 2022, Żabka’s uncompromising focus on engagement had propelled it into the 77th percentile. During this period, Żabka’s EBITDA (earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortisation) increased at a compound annual growth rate of 27.3% -- a remarkable achievement enabled by exceptional people.

Kempinski Hotels CHRO Melissa Salibi discussed the positive correlation between engagement and the hotelier’s key business performance indicators. Kempinski closely tracks the impact of changes in employee engagement scores on guests’ likelihood to recommend their hotels as measured by the Net Promoter Score (NPS) and the industry standard Revenue Generating Index (RGI) measure of financial performance.

GBG has observed the impact of its top-quartile employee engagement levels. In 2022, GBG reached the top quartile of Gallup’s engagement database, and 70% of the company’s teams are engaged -- supporting its achievement of operational and strategic objectives, new business growth, and improved client retention.

“Our objective is to support the best and most engaged people in the industry.”
-- Gemma Icke, GBG plc

Some key themes for this elite group of organisations include a relentless customer focus, a clear organisational purpose, employee ownership and empowerment, and keeping things simple.

Relentless Customer Focus

Another best-practice theme among GEWA winners is a laser focus on the customer and integrating this strong customer orientation into their employee engagement strategies.

Another best-practice theme among GEWA winners is a laser focus on the customer and integrating this strong customer orientation into their employee engagement strategies.

Kempinski Hotels goes as far as to call their employees “guests” and strongly supports employee empowerment and local autonomy to enable them to create memorable customer experiences. Kempinski’s Melissa Salibi emphasises the importance of treating employees with the same level of respect and kindness as they do their guests.

Ferring Pharmaceuticals offers employees its Building Families at Ferring programme, supporting its employees on their family-building journey in the same way as the company does for its patient customers.

Żabka aligns its extreme purpose-driven focus on making its customers’ lives easier with efforts to improve employee engagement. The value of increased engagement to its business is clear with resulting customer-driven growth in the group’s profitability.

NFU Mutual makes no secret of the fact that it loves paying genuine insurance claims. With 97% of claims paid and world-class customer persistency levels of 95% in 2022, this authentic customer orientation motivates employees -- and the positive feeling they get from doing right by their customers boosts their own engagement and sense of purpose.

Clear Organisational Purpose

Each GEWA-winning company had a clearly defined organisational purpose and deliberately built their engagement strategy around it.

At convenience retailer Alimentation Couche-Tard (ACT), the company’s mission is to make its customers’ lives a little easier every day. In his talk, Senior Global Project Manager Adrian Langton explained how the company strongly emphasises store-level actions to encourage teams to connect with customers in their local areas, thereby bringing to life ACT’s mission and purpose daily for thousands of team members.

In a similar vein, Ferring Pharmaceuticals’ Corporate Communications Director Nigel Edwards emphasised the importance of bringing to life the firm’s mission of “building families and helping people live better lives for employees” by highlighting the positive impact the company’s work has on their customers’ lives.

GBG’s Gemma Icke, Director of People, Plan and Services, describes the company’s purpose as building trust in a digital world. Trust is a key theme in GBG’s employee engagement strategy -- building and sustaining an elevated level of trust is essential to achieving high levels of engagement and enabling employees to live the company’s purpose.

Kempinski Hotels’ purpose and brand promise is all about exclusivity and placing guests at the centre of everything they do. According to CHRO Melissa Salibi, Kempinski’s engagement strategy recognises the vital importance of treating employees the same as guests in order to fulfil this brand promise at each of its exclusive properties.

NFU Mutual HR Director Trisha Jones talked about the importance of the company’s strategic objectives of being a great company to do business with and a great place to work -- emphasising the strength of the interconnections between the two objectives and the degree to which these objectives are so firmly held by employees that they guide and shape everything NFU Mutual does as a business.

Jola Bańczerowska, Chief People Officer at Żabka Group, discussed the importance of connecting the company’s engagement strategy and activities with Żabka’s clearly defined and communicated values -- Ambition, Openness, Responsibility and Credibility -- which are intended to reinforce trust and transparency to enable the company to grow its business in a sustainable way.

Employee Empowerment and Extreme Ownership

Another recurring factor in building a highly engaged organisation was employees’ ownership of their engagement. At one of its hotel properties in Kenya, Kempinski allocated a budget and empowered the hotel’s engagement committee to use the money however it saw fit, motivating the hotel and its employees to decide and own actions to improve engagement.

“It’s everyone’s job to create that environment of engagement.”
-- Trisha Jones, NFU Mutual

Similarly, GBG’s Gemma Icke related how the company’s managers are held accountable for implementing action plans to improve their team’s engagement, which strengthens manager and team accountability and ownership of the team’s engagement and actions to enhance it.

ACT’s Adrian Langton described the robust link between the company’s values -- including “take ownership” -- and local, store-level actions to improve engagement. Langton illustrated how employees were empowered to support their local communities by delivering essential products to vulnerable people during the COVID-19 pandemic. Ownership of engagement was also a primary focus of ACT’s network of engagement champions in its support of store managers and employees.

Insisting on Simplicity

All GEWA winners stressed the significance of keeping engagement actions simple, focused and straightforward, establishing a solid link to employees’ day-to-day work. Each presenter shared examples that helped make engagement real and actionable for employees throughout their organisations.

GBG ensures that the language of Gallup’s Q12 employee engagement survey items is embedded in descriptions of company desired behaviours. Also, engagement action plans are reviewed at monthly team meetings to maintain progress and integration with employees’ daily work.

ACT’s Langton shared a superb example of keeping things simple and sustaining momentum: ACT’s wonderfully simple “10 minutes by Friday” programme encourages regional managers to recognise store managers and employees for doing good work on a weekly basis.


Żabka achieves focus and simplicity across its thousands of store managers throughout Poland through clear, concise communication of key engagement messages. CHRO Bańczerowska further explained how focus and simplicity are sustained by building Żabka’s engagement strategy on two core themes -- Purpose and Values -- ensuring that all employees understand that engagement is interwoven with these themes.

NFU Mutual’s Trisha Jones highlighted the simplicity of Gallup’s Q12 engagement survey, which enables managers and employees to focus their energy on simple, practical actions that make the biggest difference to engagement and the quality of the workplace environment. “Get those 12 questions right,” Jones commented, “and you will grow and become a successful business.” NFU Mutual has doubled its sales premium over the last 10 years while maintaining its 99th percentile ranking in Gallup’s global engagement database six years in a row.

What the Best Do Differently: The Bottom Line

When you boil down the wealth of advice and best practices that these six Gallup Exceptional Workplace Award winners shared, the essence of each organisation’s success comes from making engagement a fundamental component of business strategy. Through a strong emphasis on customers, company purpose, extreme ownership and simplicity, each GEWA-winning organisation has built a unique culture of engagement that enables it to achieve its business growth objectives and establish a real competitive advantage.

Want to get award-winning results for your workplace?


James Rapinac is Marketing Manager, EMEA at Gallup

Claire de Carteret is Managing Director, Enterprise at Gallup

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