Northern Gas Networks

Identifying and maximizing the involvement of talented staff in business strategy realization

NGN transports natural gas to 2.7 million customers across the North East, North, East and West Yorkshire and Northern Cumbria. The company has over 1,500 direct employees and a further 600+ employed through service providers.

The challenge


In 2010 NGN was rated the worst performing gas network for customer service. By 2015 it had become the leader in all performance areas; having driven through a relentless program of change, focused on creating the right culture to deliver for its customers. In response to regulatory pressure to simultaneously reduce costs and improve operational performance, NGN’s talent management strategy forms an integral and critical part of the CEO and board members’ ambition to be more customer oriented and agile; identifying and maximizing the involvement of talented staff in its realization.

NGN recognized a need to partner with a leading talent management consultancy that would provide support and challenge to the strategy’s development and realization as the business planned to draft and win their bid for the next 10-year regulatory period. NGN identified as a priority making a serious investment in developing its people; enabling them to be at their best and allowing individuals and the business to understand strengths and development needs as a starting point for further growth. NGN’s mandate to us was to create a strategy that resulted in a talent identification and development process that for individual staff was different, challenging, but also fun.

The solution

Since NGN looks outside of the energy industry for inspiration to successful organizations such as John Lewis and McLaren, rather than use leadership behaviors from elsewhere in the energy industry, we recommended development of a bespoke competency framework, using language to reflect NGN’s culture of inclusivity and to enhance engagement and take-up. Using best-practice job analysis and research methodology and maximum participation across the business, the resulting seven competencies were in turn aligned with three broad talent pools. These competencies formed the foundation of the design of a series of talent centers and a choice of behavioral and psychometric assessments.


NGN’s CEO, Mark Horsley and Business Review Group (BRG) colleagues were intimately involved at all stages of the development and implementation of the strategy. Given the mandate for an element of fun and NGN’s excitement about McLaren’s operation, we recommended a Formula 1 theme to percolate through all language used in the talent centers (e.g., rating scales, roles of observers and assessors, pre/during/post center communications – even to the extent that participants wore F1 shirts!).

Each participating individual received a feedback report, shared in a 1-1 coaching session that summarized:


  • Talent center performance against competencies.
  • Preferred talent pool (People Manager, Networker, Specialist) as suggested by competency performance.
  • Saville Wave, Emotional Intelligence Profile and Learning Styles Questionnaire results.
  • What this meant for current or future roles.
  • A talent development plan to implement in the workplace.

The results


  • Since completing the talent centers, six participants have been promoted within NGN, and two of them have taken positions on the senior management team.
  • 78% of candidates had a better understanding of their strengths and development areas.
  • Data from the talent centers resulted in a professional development program, influencing its planning, content and approach.