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Specialist Contractor of the Year (turnover over £100m): Winner

Winner: Lanes Group

For its focus on improvement, passion for its staff and exceptional use of technology, our judges were unanimous in crowning Lanes Group this year’s Specialist Contractor of the Year with a turnover of over £100m.

The panel praised the company’s performance in what is a very difficult and often unheralded sector, particularly its efforts to develop ways of understanding and managing its workforce better.

Lanes describes itself as the UK’s largest independent drainage contractor, taking in three distinct brands and a number of divisions. The business has grown from revenue of £350,000 in 1993 to turning over £186m in its latest results, and this growth has driven its directly employed workforce to 2,000.

Such significant expansion, combined with the nature of the company’s work, has made engaging a disparate workforce challenging. As part of moves to address this, the firm has launched its Feeling app.

All field workers use Lanes’ operational app on their smartphones. At the start of each shift, the app asks how they feel, with five options from ‘very unhappy’ to ‘very happy’. If a worker taps ‘very unhappy’ they are told someone will get in touch to offer support, unless they select not to talk.

Not only has the app improved worker engagement and reduced churn, Lanes has also identified links between app feedback and performance metrics, helping improve workforce management and drawing praise from the judges.

“Lanes has a genuine passion for its staff and has shown outstanding innovation in a very difficult sector”

Judges’ comment

The company is working with leading charity Mind to further improve its approach to mental health and has shared its software with Thames Water, which plans to roll the app out for its 5,000 staff.

This degree of care for its employees extends to health and safety, with Lanes’ AFR halving year on year during 2016 to 0.18. Upskilling has been similarly prioritised, with £60,000 invested in a 360-degree digital training theatre in what the firm describes as a first for its sector.

Also recognised by the judging panel were Lanes’ external relationships, from clients down through the supply chain. Its customers include Highways England, London Underground, Network Rail, Scottish Water and Severn Trent, and client feedback combined with further contract wins in the past 12 months demonstrate the strength of this base. Its Network Rail work, for example, has increased by 45 per cent in a year.

Looking ahead, Lanes is halfway through a five-year strategic fleet plan targeting improvements such as reducing mileage across its vehicles, with £20m invested in 2016 alone.

As one of the judges summed up: “Its work is not glamorous but Lanes does what it does extremely well.”


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