DSM Integrated Annual Report 2021

Employee engagement

We strive to provide an employee experience where everyone can feel safe, valued and included, and where every employee can offer their unique contribution. An engaged workforce is essential for our organization to have impact and deliver on our purpose, and engaging with our employees in 2021, with the pandemic ongoing, was crucial. We did so in a variety of ways, with online webcasts, virtual family days and employee events, regular newsletters and regional events with our Co-CEOs, executive calls and annual conferences.















Engagement Index1


>75% by 2021





Participation Rate








All data presented in People are subject to the Non-financial reporting policy.

We monitor our employee engagement and well-being through a variety of surveys and ‘check-ins’. In 2021, these included our COVID-19 Pulse Checks (until March), and our Employee Engagement Survey (EES). Continuous listening to our employees is core to shaping the DSM employee experience, providing insights that can quickly translate to actions and impact. This strategy will provide insights that can be continuously translated into relevant insights and actions regarding the employee experience and to inform better-quality decisions.

We also employed additional communication efforts to keep employees informed and engaged, including through our internal news platform and by mobilizing our regional network of Engagement Champions to deploy engagement best practices locally.

The Employee Engagement Survey

Our annual Employee Engagement Survey helps us understand how our employees feel at work and where we need to improve our employee experience. The Survey reflects the views of our payroll employees (in October 2021) and excludes recent acquisitions and divestments. The responses we receive enable us to initiate fruitful conversations and lead to concrete positive changes in our workplace. The feedback we received in the 2020 Employee Engagement Survey, for example, was reflected in our approach to hybrid working and a health & well-being campaign in 2021.

In 2021, managers whose team included five or more survey respondents were eligible to receive specific team reports online; this amounted to more than 1950 managers (an increase of more than 150 compared to 2020). To help managers share results with their teams, lead conversations and agree actions, training and support were available from survey champions as well as P&O and communications colleagues. Furthermore, a global digital platform was set up with concrete tips, tricks, and materials on how to continue the dialogue on engagement throughout the year as well as a link to local champions to support that process.

How we measure Employee Engagement

We measure four engagement attributes: commitment, pride, advocacy, and satisfaction. The 2021 EES retained the structure and content of the previous survey, comprising questions on safety, engagement, management, inclusion and other key themes, but we also introduced three new questions that were specific to each Business Group. This meant our Business Groups received more targeted insights into employee engagement as well as allowing us to identify topics that we can investigate further in future surveys.

The EES also offered space for employees to provide comments: more than 50,000 comments were received in 2021. In approximately 70% of the comments, employees expressed positive feedback on the announced strategic direction of the company, as well as their overall pride in working for DSM. Another key topic that emerged from the comments was related to work-life balance, including the challenge of keeping this balanced in COVID-19 times while working from home.

Engagement levels remain high

In 2021, the survey was sent to all employees and was available in 23 languages. We saw a response rate of 92%, equal to the highest recorded rate (in 2019 and 2020) since the first edition of the survey in 2007.

Overall employee engagement remained at the same level as 2020 at 76%, while many of our comparable questions and indexes saw an increase. We made progress in our 2020 focus areas: Talent rose from 67% in 2020 to 70% in 2021 (including a 3% improvement on the question relating to learning and development opportunities, from 74% to 77%); and Inclusion improved from 75% to 77%. We also maintained our Safety score at 93%. The Strategy question on employees’ views on the company’s ‘promising future’ was 82%, indicating a positive reaction to, and support for, the acceleration of our strategic journey.

Above all, the results underline the positive effects of our active efforts to maintain high levels of engagement during the pandemic through strong and clear communication, new work flexibility and more visible leadership. Our targeted engagement improvement programs have also had a positive effect according to the responses received, with improved engagement scores in the 25 sites with the lowest scores in the 2020 EES. These improved results were attributable to three programs: Personal Development (focused on improving an individual’s development and making support more accessible), Team Building (ranging from more frequent meetings, to socializing and improving communications), and Reorganization (where structural changes to a team were implemented).

Identifying and addressing areas for improvement

While our Engagement Index remains at 76%, and the majority (77%) of the comments were positive, with broad support for our strategic announcement, the survey highlighted a few key areas of concern. These included below-average scores in ‘career opportunities’ and some losses in Inclusion.

The combination of positive and sub-par scores, as well as the emerging themes of well-being and work-life balance which emerged via employee comments, provided us with direction for the following focus areas:

  • Managers: we will continue to build on positive behaviors, manage development initiatives, and support improved processes for effective managing
  • Talent: we will accelerate the focus on career development
  • Inclusion: we will continue to build inclusion practices, paying attention to target groups covered by our five Inclusion & Diversity (I&D) pillars, and identified by internal surveys such as EES or regional I&D Surveys
  • Well-being: we will maintain focus on this area by integrating employee health & well-being programs

These areas are all addressed through our People & Organization strategy and our dedicated Inclusion & Diversity strategy. In addition, we will continue to share regular, open, and transparent communications that inspire employees to participate in the company’s transformation journey.