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NES: the secrets behind our success

North Electrical Services won the Best Electrical Safety Project at the SELECT Awards 2016, a year after scooping the Best Use of Training prize. As the 2017 awards get under way, Safety, Health, Environment & Quality Manager Aly Miller reveals how staying true to their principles led to double success

Aly (second right) with NES colleagues after completing the Caledonian Challenge in 2016.

Hello Aly. Why do you think NES won two SELECT Awards?

We’re only five years old, so we’re a relatively new company. But at the outset, we recognised that the particular skill set and culture we required wasn’t out there. So we took a commitment to grow and develop our own people to a level we aspired to. We didn’t want to be as good as the competition – we wanted to be better, which set the ethos right from the start. We said: “We’ll invest time and effort making sure we’ve got the right technical skills, the right people skills, and just generally the right behaviour, particularly for safety.” Both awards were essentially driven around making sure that the young people coming into the business had the right foundations. Almost 25 per cent of our workforce are apprentices, so you can teach them the correct behaviours and culture from the very beginning and that really sets us apart.

And how successful has that been?

It’s always a challenge, but we’re really happy with how our young people responded – they’re really keen to learn. One of the training programmes we ran was called Beyond Compliance. It effectively said that if we’re only doing things because someone else wants us to, we’ll never have the correct behaviour and safety culture. Instead, we want people to act properly for the right reasons – it’s a very simple philosophy.

Have the awards made a difference to your business?

They certainly have! We never thought that we were doing anything exceptional – it was just what we believed in. But getting external recognition for those things has made a huge difference, particularly in things like tendering and Pre Qualification Questionnaires (PQQs). Instead of just ticking a box to say we meet certain criteria, we can prove that we walk the talk. Being recognised as best in class by your peers in your own industry is invaluable.

What was the impact on staff?

Fantastic. When we received the first award in 2015, I don’t think we realised what we’d achieved. Again, it goes back to that feeling of: “Goodness, we’re just doing what we believe in – to ensure we support our people properly.” So, there was a really positive interaction and a feeling that we must be doing something right. When we won again last year, there was the realisation that we are doing something totally different – it really was the icing on the cake. All of a sudden the team seem to be walking taller – they’re rightly very proud.

You’ve talked about going above and beyond. Does that tie in with the company ethos?

It’s very simple – do the right things and behave correctly for the right reasons. We tell people that if they don’t understand why they’re doing something and are only doing it because someone tells them, they need to stop and think. We then get someone to explain the reasoning – which is when people generally get it. The Beyond Compliance message was effectively to listen and understand what is expected and most importantly why. We work on so many different sites where standards can vary, so if we let someone else set a standard to keep our people safe, it’s not a good place to be. That’s why we tell people that we’ll bring our own safety standards and behaviours and our own work ethic and ethos, irrespective of what site we’re on. That’s something that differentiates us on-site – you can walk on and tell just by looking who the NES team are. It makes us very proud.

So will you be entering the SELECT Awards this year?

I’m sure we will. We don’t actually sit down and think: “What can we do?” But we’ll take a call on it because the whole process is continuous – it’s a journey. We’re a values-driven company and people are at the core of what we do. The young apprentices are picking up on the fact that there’s no glass ceiling – there’s nothing to hold them back. We’re planning for growth and have people that are hungry to develop.

Would you recommend entering?

Absolutely. The real benefit is that it’s so easy to fit into a little silo and think you’re doing all the right things, but if you submit yourself to third party scrutiny you can really demonstrate what you do and what you’re about. The SELECT awards let us compare ourselves with our peers and reinforced our mission to be better.

Sounds like you’re a confident bunch at NES?

I just think we’re not precious about what we do. We take part in engineering open days and collaborate closely with many people to widen our field of expertise, including colleges and clients. So we actively engage with clients to help us develop and improve our safety systems and procedures. This involves liaising with them and using their expertise to identify what we need to operate safely in a wide range of industrial and commercial environments, such as food hygiene, timber processing and distilleries. We then share our findings with them. As a result, we’ve actually had colleagues and clients adopting our systems, which is very satisfying.


It’s all about teamwork

Aly says that as well as working together, the close-knit NES team plays together, taking part in team-building events in aid of good causes.

He said: “We’re very keen to participate externally in team challenges and charity events and have pulled our boots on and taken part in quite a few over the last three or four years.

“We entered the Caledonian Challenge in 2016, and this year the Glen Affric -Kintail challenge which is a 24-hour 44-mile hike through the Highlands. We’ve also done things like a slow marathon and are doing the Nevis Night Walk. We’re constantly looking for a good cause and an excuse to get together and do a 26-mile walk!”

Based in Elgin and Inverness, NES provide a full range of commercial and industrial electrical services, with their major manufacturing and production clients including Norbord and Diageo. They also offer a range of specialist services, including an electric motor supply and repair centre. See for details.


Company profile

NES (North Electrical Services) logo

Based in Elgin and Inverness, NES provide a full range of commercial and industrial electrical services, with their major manufacturing and production clients including Norbord and Diageo. They also offer a range of specialist services, including an electric motor supply and repair centre. See for details.

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