Gallup enters Dutch advisory market with CliftonStrengths partnership

04 June 2018 7 min. read

US research and consultancy firm Gallup has entered the Dutch market following a partnership with local organizational consultancy Leeuwendaal. As part of the collaboration, the Dutch firm will be able to implement and train organizations in the country on using CliftonStrengths – a proprietary tool by Gallup that has to date been leveraged by more than 18 million professionals worldwide.

Gallup's CliftonStrengths, formerly known as StrengthsFinder, is built on the notion that people excel when they nurture their strengths. This contrasts with another dominant management approach in Anglo-Saxon world which focuses on uncovering weak points, and then working on those to become better. According to Don Clifton, the American psychologist who developed the approach in the 90's, "there is no more effective way to empower people than to see each person in terms of his or her strengths." Strengths cover a broad spectrum – in the Gallup framework it refers to the unique combination of talents, knowledge and skills that a person possesses.

Decades of research on the matter have followed, across the board consistently finding that a strengths-based approach to leadership and people on the work floor improves results. People who know and use their strengths to the most of their ability are: six times more likely to be engaged at work; 7.8% more productive in their role; three times more likely to have an excellent quality of life; and six times more likely to do what they do best every day.

It is on the back of this performance that CliftonStrengths has grown to one of the globe's most applied tools for organizational and personal development. To date, over 18 million professionals have used it globally, including leaders, managers and teams that want to further their own individual development, and in teams to fuel better performances in the broader workplace.  

Gallup enters Dutch advisory market with CliftonStrengths partnership
Beyond North America and Europe's economic powerhouses the UK and Germany – where Gallup has offices – there is also growing demand in the Netherlands for the strengths-based approach, says Ghassan Khoury, Managing Partner of Gallup for the EMEA region.

Faced with the choice between opening an office in the country, or entering into a partnership with a local player, the US giant – known by the wider public for its polling of US presidential campaigns – opted for the latter. "Leeuwendaal has been working with the strengths-centered approach for several years already, so we share the same beliefs and speak the same language," explained Khoury.

That "Leeuwendaal is able to not just train the coaches, but can also support them with the actual implementation," is cited as a further reason for Gallup's choice of partner in entering the Dutch consulting market – an industry estimated to be worth €1.3 billion, with HR consultancy valued at around 20% of the total.

Building on strengths

The CliftonStrengths approach identifies a person's unique combination of 34 types of strength and shows people how to succeed by developing them. The crucial stage is the actual process of developing these strengths, whether as individuals, or even as separate teams working towards an aligned goal. Companies who seek help with this typically turn to expert coaches who have completed Gallup's CliftonStrengths learning and development curriculum, helping teams and entire organizations embrace and adopt CliftonStrengths to maximize human potential. Gallup itself serves a large majority of the 2,000 biggest businesses worldwide – the so-called Q2000 – with coaching and implementation for the individual worker, the team, and the manager.

"Leeuwendaal has all the expertise required in-house to not only offer advice, but also to help accomplish transformations," explained Khoury.

"Organizations that have opted for a strengths-based approach perform considerably better," remarked Edward Hermans, a managing director at Leeuwendaal, adding: "Dutch organizations are increasingly aware of the benefits." His view is backed by a recent study conducted by the HR department at Tilburg University, a reputable university in the country, which found that the strengths-based approach correlates with a stronger sense of well-being among personnel. "A stronger sense of well-being means that co-workers experience more positive and less negative emotions, and that they are more satisfied with their life in general," concluded the academic researchers.

“Leeuwendaal has been working with the strengths-centered approach for several years already, so we share the same beliefs and speak the same language.”
– Ghassan Khoury, Managing Partner of Gallup EMEA

Commenting on the partnership, Hermans said: "CliftonStrengths offers insight into an individual's strengths, but to put these insights to practical use requires coaching the individual employee, the team and the managers. This coaching can be provided by an external coach, but just as well by the organization's own (line) managers or HR professionals. Our job is to train and certify those coaches, on behalf of Gallup."

A unique partnership abroad

He added that he is proud with the partnership ("I've been following Gallup and its work since the very early days of my career"), highlighting that Leeuwendaal has been granted a fairly unique position in Gallup's global footprint – "Gallup has only entered into comparable partnerships in South Africa and South Korea."

Leeuwendaal has over the past decade or so become an advocate of the approach, applying it on ad-hoc basis, with this partnership now sealing a formalized cooperation between the two.

"The Gallup tools are in our view the best fit for our approach to organizational development, because it ties together people's strengths, the organization's goals, and the resulting commitment and performance. Our goal now is to fully utilize the Gallup tools and the entire underlying research library to help organizations become stronger," said Arjen Kuijten, a managing director at Leeuwendaal.

The partnership focuses on clients in the Dutch public sector landscape – Leeuwendaal generates over 90% of its revenues in the government, education and healthcare sectors, a track record extending back to 1991 when it was founded. "We have concluded an exclusive partnership for the government, education and health care sectors," said Kuijten.

The Dutch organizational consultancy – which recently received the CMF Firm certificate, a stamp for quality provided by global industry association ICMCI – has meanwhile started training its people on the CliftonStrengths methodology. Nearly 200 employees have been introduced to the technique, while a group of around 30 employees are currently in the process of becoming a certified Gallup coach for the government, education and health care sectors.