Matt Underhill, Asia Pacific Managing Director, answers some questions about NES Global Talent in this month's Global Recruiter magazine.
Q: What countries are you currently operating in?
A: NES Global Talent currently operates in 28 countries, with 45 office locations. To date, we have made placements of 70 nationalities in to 69 countries across the oil and gas, power, construction and infrastructure, life sciences, manufacturing and IT sectors worldwide.
Q: When did the business open in Australia and how has it grown over the years?
A: NES opened our first office in Australia, in Perth 2008 to enable us to support the large oil and gas operators and specifically the Gorgon LNG project. Our business has been involved in oil and gas staffing since its inception and has been instrumental in many of the LNG new build plants. We continue to be a major player in this market, but have also diversified our business over the decades to supply other key sectors including construction and infrastructure, life sciences, power and energy, and manufacturing. Our rapid growth in the region has meant we now have offices in Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane, Perth, New Zealand and Port Moresby, providing both contract and permanent staffing solutions.
Q: What were the first international ventures undertaken?
A: Having followed oil and gas in our formative years the business is now a truly global operation, which has grown from small beginnings to an international manpower specialist. Our first international venture was in the early 1990’s when we opened in Hong Kong to support an infrastructure project, followed shortly after by a further office in Orlando to enable us to expand in to the power sector. Further international expansion soon followed, resulting in NES now operating offices in some pretty remote and exotic places. In Asia Pacific alone we are active in a wide geographic footprint including; The Philippines, Indonesia, Brunei, South Korea, China, Singapore, Kuala Lumpur and Miri in Malaysia, and more recently in Myanmar.
87 per cent of our total revenue is now generated by international activity, with construction and power now competing against oil and gas to be our dominant market. Globally we have continued to open in new locations this year to meet demand in burgeoning new markets; from Warsaw in Poland, to California in the USA.
Q: What has been the strategy for international operations?
A: NES Global Talent pursues a strategy of identifying market opportunities and providing a dedicated talent pool on the ground in those areas to meet client needs. We provide a local service backed by international resources, this means our businesses can operate globally, but are managed at a local level, dealing with customers face to face in their local language and time zone. We are not wedded to be in places just to plant a flag in a map. It’s all about our client’s needs. We only open an office once we have contractors engaged in a location who will need our support; for example if we need to have an operation in Port Moresby, supporting the PNG LNG project then we open one. The success of our business can be gauged by the fact that even in a global recession we have continued to open offices in locations such as Seoul, Mexico, Kazakhstan and Poland, as well as acquiring a specialist oil field services manpower provider in Canada.
Q: How transferable are recruiters between countries where you operate?
A: As stated above the need to be nimble and go with the work requires flexibility and mobility. We consequently have one of the most mobile workforces in the world, both in the contractors we place and the recruitment staff we employ. Opportunities are numerous whether staff are seeking to travel and work around the world, or grow their careers to bigger and better teams. We encourage cross regional collaboration as it helps to broaden the skills set and knowledge of all the team members.
We have also transferred non-sales employees (such as payroll individuals) to help support the sales teams in these new markets. By transferring talent into new countries we are able to show firsthand the skills our people hold to our clients, and our new staff. This ‘knowledge transfer’ is critical in the markets within which we work – being extremely technical and highly demanding.
Q: What are the main challenges of running an international recruitment business? – the laws, the employability, contractors, different in payment.
A: Some of the countries which we work in are extremely challenging. To combat this complex web of employment laws, tax requirements and mobility we employ a large team of global mobility consultants who operate in the same time zone, communicate in the local language and develop a true understanding of local culture and practices. This local expertise is backed up by a senior global commercial department that has a combined experience of more than 50 years working with NES. They work behind the scenes to ensure we have the right solutions in place for when our clients need them. Our support teams are one of our key capabilities and why six of the seven largest oil companies and four of the five largest power and energy companies in the world use NES Global Talent.
It is worth noting that whilst running an international business is challenging it can also be massively interesting and a lot of fun. Energy supply, and the commodities that fuel it, are often one of the first industries developing countries seek to build up in their quest for economic viability, and being at the centre of this development is fascinating.
Q: What do you see as the next step for NES Global Talent in the global market place?
A: Whilst oil and gas has historically been our core business and will remain a key focus, our business strategy is to be the market leader in all five of our chosen sectors. We plan to replicate our brand leadership in oil and gas across life sciences, manufacturing, power and energy, and construction and infrastructure. Our power and energy business goes from strength to strength and we are already placed in the top three agencies specialised in this market.
In life sciences we are seeing significant growth in the fast developing markets of Australasia, combined with an already established business in Europe and Asia.
Construction and infrastructure is a busy market around the world for us and probably represents the largest opportunity globally. Our global presence, outstanding payroll infrastructure, and ability to find niche talent where others fail is all driving this growth. This year to date we have already made more Contractor placements outside of upstream oil and gas than within it, and 90 per cent of the permanent placements made have been into our non-oil and gas sectors.
We will achieve further success through marketing investment in these new sectors, focused sales activity, office expansion in to new regions and by targeting at least two acquisitions per year.
The lifeblood of our operation is as always great people, and we continue to hire top quality talent into the growing markets that we are focused on. We are always interested to hear from people that share our values, namely; drive and personal impact; a focus on the customer; team work; integrity; and a sense of enterprise. It goes without saying that a curious mind and a sense of adventure wouldn’t hurt either!