Recruiter Awards 2019: A night to remember

The 2019 Recruiter Awards took place on 9 May at London’s Grosvenor House. First up, we highlight three-time winner NES Global Talent.

The evening of the 2019 Recruiter Awards was a memorable occasion, not only for the winners and all those who were shortlisted, but also for the great job done by the host, comedian Tom Allen, and the entire Grosvenor House Great Ballroom’s impromptu a cappella rendition of Bon Jovi’s classic Livin’ on a Prayer! Recruiter caught up with a few of the winners on the night. Firstly, Colin Cottell spoke to three-time winner NES Global Talent

The biggest single winner at the 2019 Recruiter Awards, taking home three glittering trophies, was NES Global Talent. The Manchester-headquartered recruiter with offices in 58 countries around the globe won the Recruitment Agency of the Year Award – Large (more than 250 employees). NES also picked up awards for Most Effective Compliance Operation and Outstanding Outsourced Recruitment Organisation.  

Up against the likes of Hays Recruitment, Morson International and Robert Walters, the judges described the company’s entry for Recruitment Agency of the Year as having “an excellent mix of strong growth, customer service, learning & development and diversity & inclusion”. Notably for a large company, the judges said they “liked the focus on helping and developing individuals so they can grow and develop within the firm”.

Set against the backdrop of a downturn in the oil & gas market, which has been the mainstay of the company business throughout its 40-year history, the judges praised the company for its “exceptional levels of agility, tenacity and resilience”.

Even against a backdrop of uncertainty, the company has made seven acquisitions in the past five years, grown its annual revenue to $1.2bn (£927m), and increased its contractor count to a record 10,500, taking market share from its competitors in the process. The company has also made significant progress in reducing its reliance on oil & gas by successfully expanding into other areas, particularly power, chemicals and life sciences. 

Strong culture

Stephen Buckley, NES Global Talent’s CFO told Recruiter “there is no one silver bullet” behind the company’s success. “We just do a lot of things right. We focus on everything. It’s about excellence of execution in every area of our business.” Buckley says NES’s culture plays a huge part in the company’s success. “The key is the concept of one firm and one company, and the culture here is very strong. It is a meritocracy where people get on. It is a huge sharing culture and one based on collaboration.”

Company COO Simon Coton says NES’s 850+ employees are at the heart of maintaining that culture. “I joined as a recruiter in 1995 and worked my way through every role in the business, and there are lots of other people like me, who have got NES in their core.”

With many company offices located in Muslim countries and throughout the Middle East, Buckley said the company puts a lot of effort into striking the right balance between local traditions, customs and ways of life and the NES way. “Obviously, we are respectful of different religions, cultures, holidays and work times,” Buckley said, “but the way we use systems, the way we manage people, our approach to clients and contractors is absolutely the same. It is one business.” 

Coton says the firm’s office in Kuala Lumpur, one of its major hubs, is a good example. Although staffed mainly by local Malaysians, with the help of a few expats, Coton says it is NES’s culture that pervades the office. “And the staff absolutely embrace it,” he adds.

One factor driving this ‘one firm’ ethos is the movement of people around the business. “Lots of people who started here in the UK then moved out to other offices or regions, and have taken that culture with them. They understand the business and are able to ensure that there is the same culture of excellence and performance in new offices, new regions and new locations,” says Coton. 

Customer service

An example of excellent customer service picked out by the judges involved the merger of a company client with another oil & gas company. Although given only six weeks’ notice, NES successfully doubled the size of its own team to meet the hiring needs of the client, who had doubled in size to almost 80,000 staff. The client praised NES for keeping agency hires – and costs – below 1% and maintaining 95% hiring manager satisfaction “in a very challenging environment”. 

The emphasis on serving clients and contractors pervades the whole company, says Buckley. With overall responsibility for payroll, Buckley says that if there are two or more contractor complaints a month, he personally follows up with the complainants. The company also carries out monthly surveys of contractors and clients. 

Compliance is an important area for the company. “We have to be ‘whiter than white’, so we make sure we do things properly,” says Coton. The company employs 20 dedicated compliance personnel delivering expertise in areas such as commercial & legal and data protection from six locations around the world to ensure it is up to speed on the intricacies of regional legislation, enabling it to support its clients wherever in the world their project may be. 

Rather than compliance being just one person’s responsibility, the accountability is shared across the commercial & legal team, assignment support, finance, operations and the executive management team.

Particularly impressing the judges was its efforts to improve diversity & inclusion both internally and among its clients, particularly in the energy sector, where women have historically been under-represented. “We are very focused on working with our clients proactively to overcome some of the industry challenges,” says Coton. Among the company’s D&I initiatives was a survey of 1,000 female engineers, becoming a founding member of Pink Petro, an organisation dedicated to advancing women in the energy sector, and holding an event for HR managers in Aberdeen. The company was also involved in the recruitment drive to train the first female driving instructor in Saudi Arabia. Although 51% of all staff are female, the company realises that women remain under-represented at senior level. To help drive this change, reports on the gender split at different levels for each region are now a scheduled item on the company’s board meeting agenda.  

People matter

Investing in its own staff is also a priority. The company introduced a career development framework for every employee, launched an online learning management system, and partnered with the University of Houston to create a graduate scheme aimed at building a pipeline of recruitment talent. “The quality of people and their development is absolutely critical to the success of the business, so we really do invest in our staff because at the end of the day we don’t have a product,” says Coton.

Indeed, its willingness to invest in its people and to provide them with opportunities is what Buckley is the most proud of about the company. “You go into our offices around the world and you see people, some of them who will have come from the Manchester head office. Generally speaking they won’t have gone to university, but they are very good at what they do. They jumped on the plane, and they have taken the opportunity to really develop themselves and to change the lives of themselves and their families. From a personal point of view that gives you a massive sense of satisfaction and achievement.”

Despite its success in coming through the last few difficult years, Buckley said the company is determined not to rest on its laurels: “We need to make sure we are top of the game, and remain top of the game, and that we don’t look back, but look forward.”

The ambition is double-digit organic growth every year, along with further acquisitions, says Buckley. Selective office openings will also continue, with two penned in for Europe this summer.  On track to achieve its ambitious profits target of $100m by 2020, don’t be surprised to see the biggest winner at this year’s Recruiter Awards back on the Grosvenor House stage in the none too distant future.   

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