Talent in the Time of Bankruptcy: A Primer for the Oil and Gas Industry

Many employees may find it difficult to respond to this kind of uncertainty by renewing their commitment to the organization, but the fact is that downturns create significant opportunities for employees to increase the value they offer during times of volatility. Employees should proactively look for opportunities and projects that allow them to learn from colleagues with experience from previous cycles and with other parts of the business. At the same time, employees should invest in growing one’s external network, a prudent step given that the future is impossible to predict.

In the end, all stakeholders need to be guided by the principle that current survival must be in the service of a long-term vision for the future. As the CEO of a $10 billion energy company told us, “While we’ve had to cut costs, we can’t lose our focus to innovate: innovation around our operational processes, our administrative processes and those things we can do to become more efficient, more effective and more profitable with the people that we have today.”

Key priorities for each stakeholder constituency during bankruptcy and/or market turbulence


  • Conduct management diligence on the teams you may inherit
  • Ensure that management capabilities are aligned with the forward-looking investment thesis

Boards of Directors

  • Ensure that board processes are robust and composition provides varying perspectives to help navigate the downturn
  • Stay engaged – or become more engaged – in talent development

CEOs and CHROs

  • Maintain focus on long-term succession planning
  • Commit to investing in developing (and communicating to) high-potential employees


  • Find ways to partner with more experienced colleagues to benefit from their knowledge of previous cycles and areas of the business
  • Invest in professional networks, both internal and external

Todd Auwarter is based in the Houston office of Egon Zehnder's energy practice, and Steven Goodman leads Egon Zehnder's energy pratice in North America.


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Mark Harrington  |  May 26, 2016
What a great article, and spot on. It is always about the people. Having a rubber-stamp BOD is a recipe for disaster. Using a focused, respected and engaged BOD with complementary skill sets as a second Brain Trust is a fantastic asset in any times, good or troubled.