People with purpose

March 25, 2024

In pursuit of its core mission – Engineering for a better world – GEA is building an employer of choice culture that offers employees the opportunity to reimagine solutions, collaborate across disciplines and contribute to a transformational moment for industries across the globe.

A global industrial leader with German roots dating back to 1881, GEA today is in a unique position to help critical industries meet the pressing challenges of our time. From food & beverage to healthcare and farming, from heating & refrigeration to chemical, environment and consumer products, GEA engineering and technology expertise is in high demand among industrial customers who must produce more efficiently and sustainably than ever before. Meanwhile, GEA is applying the combined power of digitalization, data and artificial intelligence to revolutionize its machines, opening up a whole new realm of solutions and business models. For GEA employees it’s a time full of opportunity.

“At GEA, we shape industries that directly influence our everyday lives. This makes our mission not only significant but deeply meaningful,” says Susane Jakopetrevska, Senior Employer Branding Manager at GEA. GEA stands for innovation and excellence, providing a global stage for talents to shine – from mechanical engineers to sales and service professionals, production workers, data scientists and product managers. “Here, passion meets purpose, leading to great opportunities for professional growth and cultural exchange. Every contribution is a step towards profound change, making GEA the perfect place for those who want to make a tangible difference.”

The people impact

To this end, GEA has launched a number of initiatives to promote employee creativity, collaboration and contribution. One example is the GEA Better World Awards (BWA). With direct sponsorship and participation by GEA’s Executive Board, the purpose of the BWA is to encourage and reward the talent, dedication and outstanding performance of individuals and teams across GEA working towards the company’s unifying purpose of Engineering for a better world. Awards for outstanding employee-led projects and initiatives are given in five categories, all of which are considered central to GEA’s strategic objectives: Sustainability, Innovation & Digitalization, Culture & People, Operational Excellence and Profitable Growth.

A 2022 winner, Sally Jia, Health, Safety & Environment Manager at GEA, talks about the significance of the award from the employee perspective. “Participating in the Better World Awards is a transformative experience. When we come together, you see and feel how profoundly important it is to recognize the contributions of our people and how much the teams appreciate the validation,” she says. “Being celebrated as an employee not only validates my contribution to the company goals; it signifies being part of a workplace that values and acknowledges individual and collective achievements.”

“Participating in the Better World Awards is a transformative experience. When we come together, you see and feel how profoundly important it is to recognize the contributions of our people and how much the teams appreciate the validation.”

– Sally Jia

Health, Safety & Environment Manager, GEA

A 2023 honoree, Heather Crawford, Senior Director Technical Support, Service & Training, talks about how the BWA promotes innovation at GEA. “One of the great things about the award is that it inspires us to be more courageous and take risks to innovate,” says Crawford. “In my group, we started with an idea that did not have a clear path in the beginning – but met a clear need. We tested and developed it and now we’ll work to bring it to market for our customers.”

GEA’s Heather Crawford and project partner, Marius Goebel, enjoying day activities in Milan as part of the Better World Awards event, 2023. The pair accepted the silver award in the category Innovation & Digitalization on behalf of their project team, whose idea to combine equipment data and technical expertise will improve dairy farming performance. (Image: GEA/ Tim Luhmann)

GEA’s Sustainathon competition is another example of GEA’s commitment to promoting employee creativity and contribution. Held for the first time in 2023, the Sustainathon is a series of challenge-fueled collaborative workshops where colleagues from all five divisions gather to work on bringing sustainable GEA solutions to fruition. Last year’s events saw 88 colleagues from across divisions taking part in the initiative at five different GEA locations. Over the course of five months, preparatory workshops and virtual live sessions were followed by in-person hackathons, which generated more than 60 new and innovative ideas for sustainable GEA solutions. Finally, six of these ideas were presented to GEA’s Global Executive Committee, which brought the finalists – similarly to the BWA – together with top-level management. The winning ideas have been assigned to innovation project teams for further development.

“The Sustainathon promotes fresh thinking and encourages employees to develop radical solutions to reduce the emissions of popular GEA products,” explains Wolfgang Deis, GEA Innovation Process Manager, who spearheads the initiative. “By bringing people together and out of their daily business routine, the in-person hackathon allows them to immerse themselves in the creative process. They engage in this process with diverse teams from across locations, age groups and divisions. We want to foster an open mindset, but also make sure to integrate the customer perspective so that the ideas are on point and can be matured quickly.”

Similarly, GEA is making a significant pool of funds available in 2024 to promote disruptive innovation. This investment will encourage employees to innovate radically with a focus on sustainability and AI. GEA also supports and collaborates with start-ups as a way to gain fresh insights, foster creativity, and keep abreast of new tech and trends. This includes innovation contests such as GEA’s “zero freshwater” challenge designed to accelerate water conservation in dairy, the winners of which were honored by GEA at the high-profile Anuga FoodTec tradeshow in March 2024.

The people imperative

For a company looking to accelerate the transformation of its industry, tapping the strengths and ideas of its people is not just a “nice to have” but an imperative. “Innovation is at the heart of profitable and sustainable growth at GEA and, for today’s industrial companies, the foundation for growth and remaining competitive,” says Laura Hietaranta, Vice President of Strategy & Business Operations for GEA. “We want to acknowledge and reward those with the courage to take innovative approaches to both new and existing customers.”

For Hietaranta, GEA’s culture of innovation and operational excellence goes hand in hand with a culture of collaboration. “Effective innovation depends not only on vision and creativity, but on integrating a broad range of perspectives,” she says. “By encouraging interdisciplinary collaboration, we want to mature ideas quicker, while learning from each other.”

gea better world awards winners 2024

Bronze, silver or gold – everyone’s a winner at the GEA Better World Awards. Gathered on stage, GEA Better World Awards winners, 2024, The Hague, Netherlands. (Image: GEA/ Tim Luhmann)

Encouraging and recognizing employee contributions is one of many facets of GEA's commitment to an exceptional workplace. “GEA is a place where employees can contribute to impactful projects, grow professionally and thrive in a supportive culture that promotes internal cohesion and mutual success,” Cindy Benzing, Vice President, HR Center of Expertise, emphasizing that the GEA workplace is an environment where GEA values – Responsibility, Integrity, Diversity, Passion and Excellence – are not just buzzwords, but integral to all working relationships. "Our values are the driving force behind our commitment to be an employer of choice. This is not just a recruitment strategy; it's a reflection of who we are and what we stand for."
male gea employee relaxing at desk in front of computer

GEA is a Top Employer

“Our values are the driving force behind our commitment to be an employer of choice. This is not just a recruitment strategy; it's a reflection of who we are and what we stand for.”

– Cindy Benzing, Vice President, HR Center of Expertise, GEA

GEA is a fantastic place to work, and the Top Employers Institute thinks so, too. In 2024, GEA received Top Employer status for Europe, covering Belgium and Portugal, recognized for the first time, while Germany, Poland and Spain were re-certified. Assessed across six metrics – People Strategy, Work Environment, Talent Acquisition, Learning, Well-being and Diversity & Inclusion – GEA scored notably high in the areas of: Leadership, Ethics & Integrity and Sustainability. Stay tuned as we continue our Top Employer journey!

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