Meet the Pro50: How management training is boosting productivity at ISG

24 November 2015 -


Competition in the £103bn construction industry is fierce, so firms need to stand out from the crowd and offer something different

Matt Scott

ISG Fit Out, the fit-out and engineering arm of ISG plc, is taking a fresh and innovative approach by managing projects from start to finish.

“A lot of the construction industry is geared up to be very traditional. The employer employs designers, project managers and various consultants,” says managing director Paul Cossell. “They then spend a lot of time with the client before engaging the contractors. So, when the contractor is employed, there is little opportunity, time-wise, to add value – it’s all about hitting the end date.

“Over the past four or five years, we have bolted on expertise, meaning we can move in earlier in the life cycle of a project, enabling us to get started earlier. That gives us the ability to get the project finished quicker, with more cost certainty, and more economically.”

This approach helped ISG win the redevelopment of Bush House in London, the old home of the BBC World Service, turning it into 300,000sq ft of premium office space. ISG was initially invited to tender for the demolition but, by presenting a plan for the full project, which reduced build time by up to 12 months, it won the whole tender, saving the client £9m and allowing earlier rent collection.

This style of project management has allowed ISG to enter new sectors, such as pharmaceuticals.

People, and people development, are central to ISG’s performance. “Our success boils down to the type of people in our business,” says Cossell. “They have the attitude of being innovative, forward-thinking and offering things that we can back up and deliver.”

ISG Fit Out has a flat management structure that enables staff to take ownership of their work.

“We employ people who want responsibility and empowerment,” says Cossell. “We expect them to be decision-makers for the business. I encourage people to make mistakes – it sounds odd, but it shows they’re taking responsibility and making decisions.”

New recruits are enrolled in the company’s Academy. “The training is about the importance of clarity of roles and responsibility, holding people to account and dealing with difficult people,” says Cossell. “We use external trainers who act as ‘cultural generals’. There is an emphasis on soft skills and we have different levels of training for future leaders, right up to senior leaders.” ISG also trains supply chain partners and customers.

Read our full analysis of what makes the list of Pro50 companies so productive, including expert analysis from Professor John Van Reenen, director of the Centre for Economic Performance at the London School of Economics and Political Science.

Meet the Pro50: A to B

Meet the Pro50: C to F

Meet the Pro50: G to M

Meet the Pro50: N to Z

Illustration by Charles Williams

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