HR has played an important role in the expansion of global engineering firm Ausenco, as it has expanded significantly through the acquisition of five companies over the past seven years, according to its chief people & sustainability officer and CIO, Neil Trembath.
Ausenco, which is based in Brisbane but operates with 2500 employees in 31 offices around the globe, has undertaken a deliberate strategy of expansion through acquisition in order to both grow its business and mitigate risk through diversifying its operations.
“With the five acquisitions we’ve made over the past seven years, each company has a different culture and different ownership structure, so it’s been important to focus on our people and the way we deliver our different service offerings,” said Trembath.
“We’ve done that through a variety of strategies to help build a consistent culture in the organisation – but it’s not always something that happens quickly.
In 2008 the business went through a series of three acquisitions in a six month period, and Trembath said the business virtually doubled in size and went from being an Australian based company to a global company with a doubling of headcount and offices in 15 countries.
“Our people & performance (HR) team has played a significant role in the integration of our acquired companies,” said Trembath.
“When you acquire an engineering company you’re really buying people and client relationships. There are often not a lot of other assets. So the people piece is really important.”
Ausenco started out in Brisbane in 1991, with a small team of talented engineers offering innovative solutions to the mining industry.
It listed on the Australian stock exchange in 2006, and today it is a global engineering, procurement, construction management, and operations service provider to the energy and resources sectors.
A global approach to excellence
Another key to the success of the company globally has been to establish global centres of excellence, which help develop key technical solutions in a variety of locations. A lot of our businesses have quite a local focus, but Trembath said that they have a high level of global expertise.
“We try to build our people’s global experiences and expertise and service our clients well by involving and moving our experts to projects outside of their normal areas of operation – for example using people from Canada in South America or Australians into North or South America – but that’s not without its challenges,” he said.
“There are HR challenges in terms of the logistics and the business aspects of mobilisation however you’ve also got to demonstrate to clients that it is a good solution for them as well.
“Building and sharing our specialist knowledge across the company and regions is vital however, as we see a generational shift,” said Trembath.
“There aren’t as many people participating in some of those specialist areas as there were before, so we need to be able to use the existing skills more broadly if we’re to be able to grow into new regions and service existing regions with new skills. That’s another important focus for us.”
For the full story on Ausenco, see the current issue of Inside HR magazine. Image source: Richard Whitefield