GEMS Education - Culture + Recruit Case Study

Lowering attrition rates and understanding the affects of culture globally.

Case studies
June 21, 2023


GEMS Education is one of the world's oldest and largest private education providers, helping students from 3 to 18 to develop into well-rounded achievers through the best British, American, IB and Indian schools. Founded in the UAE in 1959, It's GEMS mission to put a quality education within reach of every learner no matter where they are. They have schools in the Middle East, North Africa, Asia, Europe and North America, serving in excess of 130,000 students.

GEMS manage all their own recruitment internally and employs over 14,000 professionals globally including teachers, school leaders, school administrators, education specialists, consultants, and support staff. Hiring teachers for schools in Dubai brings its own challenges, even with hundreds of applications, the number of candidates who are qualified or match the criteria is very low. The world was already going through a shortage of teachers before the pandemic, which only exacerbated the situation.

To ensure they attract passionate, expert, and forward-thinking professionals to join their continuously expanding company, GEMS offer expatriate compensation packages to encourage successful candidates to consider opportunities abroad, which can become costly - especially if such tenures aren’t long-term.

Managing this volume of employees across the world makes recruitment challenging, and GEMS had approximately 20% attrition a year which was costing them millions of pounds. In addition to understanding the true causes of attrition, GEMS wanted the ability to understand their culture across their 54 schools to see how the culture, engagement and well-being of employed teachers related to the performance of schools, measured specifically using parent NPS scores.


  • Reduce attrition and costly expat packages
  • Understand the effect their culture is having on new starters
  • Identify if there is a link between culture and engagement profiles, with the performance league table of their schools
  • Assess the well-being, health, and engagement of their employees to understand how they can improve


Academically validated

 HireGains has been scientifically validated with academic institutes over a 20-year period ensuring validity and reliability. Its cultural model, developed and applied in sport and business, is one of the only employee-driven psychometric approaches - ensuring that employee voice is captured whilst maintaining focus on areas that employees and groups are communicating.

Speedy deployment with experienced consultants 

The ability to deploy the self-service software quickly and to know that employees can complete the psychometrics in under 7 minutes, rather than the traditional 25-minute process, plus internal surveys meant quick, accurate results.

The experienced team of organisational psychologists and data scientists at HireGains, were on hand whenever there was a specific query or hypothesis that needed testing in the data. This was especially useful with presentations to the commercial board of GEMS and for internal presentations to key stakeholders.

Simple to understand 

Action-orientated insights that are clear and easy to understand in the self-service portal helped guide our interventions for all employees and groups. GEMS CIO Hywel Benbowe commented, “HireGains presented the best balance between self-service software and consultant support. Their approach was fast, effective, and academically validated, and it was a pleasure to work with them”.


GEMS used the HireGains Culture + Recruit platform to measure…

  • The cultural strengths of the 54 schools across the middle east
  • The level of cultural alignment across the schools
  • How culture is driving/hindering performance across schools
  • Active engagement, health, and wellbeing with a particular focus on fatigue, burnout, and attrition risk
  • New starter's culture, engagement and well-being patterns in relation to the rest of the organisation
  • The link between teacher engagement and well-being with school performance (defined as parent NPS scores for each of the GEMS schools)

To complement this process, we proposed assessing the different school’s cultures by sending Culture Health Checks at 6 monthly intervals. The first of which went live in June 2022, the study targeted 10,890 employees, of which 7,764 completed the survey, resulting in a completion rate of 71%.

A recommendation was made to integrate HireGains’s Recruit psychometric questionnaires as part of GEMS recruitment shortlist process, to first identify compatibility with the role in relation to the specific job functions and the demands of the position. Then secondly, to understand how the values, behaviours, and attitudes of a school align with the candidate.


The results at a company level showed the core cultural strengths of the organisation and a reasonable level of alignment across schools. Teachers have a core focus on their pupil’s well-being and the majority of teachers across all schools have a shared set of values. There were risks of burnout and fatigue occurring in a number of schools and in a number of groups across the organisation.

Key findings 

Whilst the overall results painted a positive company culture focused on well-being, there were some key findings that could drive some positive change:

Hiring profile – attrition

It was clear that the profile of the new starters was not suited to long-tenure roles at the organisation. They were in a specific age range, typically did not have families, were predominantly from the UK and were commonly joining schools with lower engagement and well-being scores.

This led to a pattern of attrition within 18 months. A recommended change in the profile of the hires, coupled with the use of the HireGains recruit tool to match against that profile, has contributed to a significant reduction in attrition.

Teacher Engagement and school performance 

A clear statistical pattern emerged when cross-referencing parent NPS scores for each school with the engagement and wellbeing scores of each school. The highperforming schools correlated well as did the lower performing school.

This provided confidence to the board that the initiatives to improve well-being and engagement that were put in place as a result of this cultural analysis, would have a positive effect on the parents’ satisfaction scores.

Comparisons of cultural profiles between schools and groups also showed where there were gaps in cultural factors between high-performing schools and lower-performing schools so that it was clear what initiatives should be prioritised.


A cultural action group was established to review results and implement changes in 2023. The cross-functional team spanning data teams and HR teams working with the HireGains Group, set up the cultural initiatives they wanted to execute in 2023.

From the results, GEMS were able to identify that they were hiring the wrong profile of people, the impact of which compromised the morale of others and affected the engagement of those employees. In addition, these increased levels of absenteeism and attrition, which had a negative impact on parent feedback.

There was a change in the hiring profile and with the use of the HireGains Recruitment tools, the engagement and well-being scores are improving and those being hired fit a better profile for GEMS.

Attrition is already on the way down and it is expected to continue into 2023. GEMS CIO Hywel Benbowe commented, “The results have been fantastic. A clear profile was driven by the data captured around the type of person we should be hiring. A strong link between the engagement of teachers and parent NPS scores could be seen, so that we can show the board that initiatives on culture and wellbeing are not just beneficial for the health of our employees, they also benefit students and teachers, which in turn improve our performance. We are delighted with the products and services of HireGains delivered”.

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