Liam Linehan | STS Group

Having a diligent and qualified workforce is a top priority for STS Group, says the company’s Business Development Director, Liam Linehan.

For Liam Linehan, Business Development Director at STS Group, all aspects of business success, from productivity to profitability to sustainability are dependent on having the right people in place. “If you have diligent and hardworking staff, you will succeed,” he says.

And Linehan is pretty sure that his company’s 1,600 staff members – 500 of them based in Ireland with the rest spread across Europe – are the right people.

Set up in 2006, STS is a specialist electrical and instrumentation engineering company working across Ireland, Europe and the Middle East, primarily for multinationals, including companies such as Pfizer, Johnson & Johnson, CSL and Biogen, to name a few.

The business, which is part of the Dussmann Group, is headquartered in Waterford and has offices in Germany, Belgium, Netherlands, Switzerland, UK, Bahrain and the UAE. STS Group had a turnover of €182m in 2020. The largest project currently on the company’s books is a contract with US biopharmaceutical company CSL Behring for a major expansion of its facility in Switzerland.

Expansion outside Ireland has tended to happen organically as the company has followed its existing clients primarily in the pharmaceuticals and data centres industries and utilities. STS also works in sectors such as transport, architectural fit out/commercial, oil and gas and chemicals in the European and Middle Eastern markets.

STS  is now within DTS (Dussmann Technical Solutions). Becoming a part of the Dussmann Group has been really positive for STS, says Linehan . “There is a real sense of teamwork with the group.”

Headquartered in Berlin, Dussmann Group employs over 64,500 people in 22 countries and has an annual turnover of €2.5bn. “Being part of a large international group is also very advantageous for STS’s employees who now have even more opportunities for new roles and working in different geographies,” Linehan says.

Ensuring all employees always feel part of the business is a priority for the directors of STS. “Our people are our greatest asset and it is a credit to all our teams who have and continue to deliver high quality projects for us year on year.

“The ongoing pandemic has created issues for all businesses across the globe. The Government stances on the pandemic were different in every region and constantly changing. There was a lot of co-ordination from the movement of staff and regulatory changes that affected work practices. We had many different challenges to overcome.”

Linehan says he and the STS Group management are proud of the diligence, ingenuity and continued hard work of its staff across all of its departments in servicing all of its clients requirements. “There was clearly no prior experience of a crisis like this for the industry. The Construction Industry Federation and the Mechanical and Electrical Contractors Association have provided invaluable guidance throughout this difficult time and continue to do so.

“Even with restrictions and difficulties, all the staff members were flexible. There was a mix of staff working from home and staff that continued to work on essential services defined projects. It is amazing to see the impressive examples of collaboration and the continuous efforts made by all to strive for excellence.”

Linehan says health, safety and wellbeing are central to the company culture. “STS has a diverse staff, across the age ranges, from young people entering trades to the people at senior management level with four decades of experience. At STS we run a Mission Zero safety programme based around our 12 life rules and our number one life rule is  ‘Healthy Body and Mind’. At STS we understand the relationship and importance of mental and physical health and the correlation they have for everybody being safe and healthy at work and at home. We give mind and body health issues equal importance to traditional safety matters.”

For Construction Safety Week over the past few years there has been a broad range of events for all of staff. Linehan notes that different groups face different challenges. “Older people have suffered stress from COVID-19 and mental health is a problem among young people, so this year the company will focus on more mental health and how people can better care for their wellbeing. I believe if you are taking care of wellbeing, everything else will fall into place.”

For the past four years STS has been running campaigns promoting positive mental health within the company linked to its ‘Mind Matters’ campaign. “We have linked up with our partners in Pieta House and VHI to provide awareness talks across our sites and offices, with a view to getting the message out there that help is available and that it is okay to not feel okay.

“Back four years ago when we increased the effort on wellbeing and mental health we knew it was important to have access to professional help and resources so we decided to set up an employee assistance programme with VHI. Over the past number of years it has been reassuring to hear that when our people need professional help it is accessible.”

Linehan says the company tries to ensure the wellbeing programme is active throughout the year, with regular events scheduled. “On 10 September this year we have a focus on World Suicide Prevention Day and then in October for Construction Safety Week, day one will focus on mental health, welfare and wellbeing in construction.

“Health and wellbeing is an area that all companies need to stay active in. The modern challenging world with all of its pressures can be overwhelming at times and at STS we recognise that we must keep pushing the wellbeing programme and supporting our people.”

Corporate social responsibility is also important to the company. “We believe in giving back to the people in the communities we work in. We sponsor sports teams and regularly support charity events. We have worked on housing projects here and abroad also.”

In the past year, for example, STS has held events for the Irish Heart Foundation and Pieta House. Staff took part in the Darkness into Light Walk in Waterford in May 2019. STS Group HQ volunteered at the Waterford Food Bank. Company volunteers travelled to Belarus with Chernobyl Aid Ireland and provided aid to the Grozovo Residential Home in the Minsk Region. STS has also built homes with The Haven Partnership in Haiti.

Aside from charity events and sponsorship, STS sponsors sports teams in Cork and Waterford. In Waterford, STS sponsors Ballygunner senior hurling team and Highfield RFC in Cork.

Tendering is one of the biggest issues for the company – and the industry in general – at the moment because of commodity price increases with copper and steel, says Linehan. “With the length of time it is taking to review issued tenders commodity prices can rise and fall dramatically over numbers of days. Copper has been at a 20-year high in recent weeks and there seems to be no stopping steel prices rising.”

One of the company’s goals for the year ahead is to expand into new regions. “STS’ aim is to continue growing in the countries we are active in and to enter the sectors in those countries that we are not currently working in.”

Linehan’s takeaway from the last year is that you can never be prepared enough for what can happen in business. “It is everybody in STS’s responsibility to ensure that we keep delivering to the highest levels we can. Once that is achieved everything else in the business will look after itself.”