Divergent Views on Optimum Oil, Gas Staff Size in Malaysia

As layoffs during an industry downturn could potentially include a skilled or talented staff, such action could be detrimental to the company’s longer term interests.

“In an economic downturn, talent becomes even more crucial in the organization because you want to keep them in and not have them scare and running to your competitor or running to a different industry altogether,” Sharmini commented.

She added that “when they [staff] leave, not only you have to rehire but you then have to retrain and you have a whole lot of delays [to your projects] because of that.”

Such views resonated with another speaker at the KL event, who pointed that staff layoffs is not a viable solution given the long term manpower needs of the industry. Redeployment of staff as in the case of PETRONAS could be an option.

“There will be an upturn ... and we don't want to scramble to hire again. We [will] try to ride out the storm,” the speaker noted, adding that “studies have tracked the performances of downsizing firms versus non-downsizing firms for as long as 9 years after a downsizing event. And the findings as a group, the downsizers never outperform the non-downsizers.”

Talent Management Still Key in Current Market

Even in the worst industry downturn in nearly a decade, talent management remains a top item in the agenda for oil and gas companies.

“The world is becoming smaller and we need to look after our talent a lot better. And when I say talent, it’s not the top 5 percent or the top 10 percent, it’s the entire organization,” Sharmini said.

“Whether there is a business turnaround [upwards or downwards], talent risk, cost optimization, demographics, deal situations … Talent is an issue and you need to think about it.”

In fact, CEO Wan Zulkiflee told the New Strait Times Oct. 12 that talent management is one of the six focus areas for PETRONAS over the next few years. The others are cash generation; delivery on growth projects – RAPID, floating liquefied natural gas (FLNG) and Canadian LNG projects; lowering costs and simplifying processes; investing in technology; and work culture.

“Last year, we spent $115.9 million (MYR 500 million) on talent management. I want to be sure that every [Malaysian] ringgit we spend on talent management is well spent. We are not cutting back on talent management spending, but we must make sure that we spend in areas that we really need to spend. We are looking at how we can do this better,” he commented.

“This is to ensure that there are enough leaders in the pipeline for succession planning and to drive the business forward … we are continuing with talent development even in these tough times.”

Commenting on the change in demographics of staff working in PETRONAS, where 55 percent of employees are below the age of 35, the CEO said that the company’s management has got to be more engaging.

“With the company now having more people of the younger generation ... management style has got to change. I feel there are a lot of untapped potentials in this company. If we can unleash this potential, we can do a lot more things,” Wan Zulkiflee told the New Strait Times.

PETRONAS is not only trying to tailor its management style in keeping with a younger staff profile, but the company is also enhancing its appeal among existing and potential female employees.

“We … take note now of the number of females in the organization. We got our first lady drilling supervisor and … we have mothers’ rooms, many of which we converted from smoking rooms. We also allow three months’ maternity leave. These are to attract the female gender because there are more female graduates now. These are the kind of things that will make the company attractive.”


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