How Can Oil, Gas Firms Manage Talent Better?

How Can Oil, Gas Firms Manage Talent Better?
Executive coaches discuss how oil and gas employers can regain trust of displaced talent.

Following an industry downturn that – by at least one account – led to a 400,000-plus reduction in the global oil and gas headcount, there are signs of a hiring rebound in some corners of the industry. The phrase "talent squeeze " has even crept up on Rigzone in recent weeks.

For many who have left the oil and gas industry involuntarily during the past 2 to 3 years, such reports will likely amplify hopes of rejoining it. But what about those with transferable skills reluctant to return to an industry known for its volatility? Is there anything that oil and gas employers could do to keep more talent on the payroll through the next bust?

Rigzone recently posed a series of questions along these lines to executive coaches who have advised clients in a variety of industries: Peter Stark with Peter Barron Stark Companies and Priscilla D. Nelson with Nelson Cohen Consulting

Read on for Stark and Nelson's perspectives on how oil and gas employers can manage talent differently, including another sophisticated industry's approach to retaining human capital during lean times.

Rigzone: The oil and gas industry has traditionally experienced booms and busts characterized by aggressive hiring and then major layoffs, respectively. When times are good, companies devote considerable resources to recruit and develop talent, but they can quickly lose this valuable institutional knowledge in a layoff. Given the nature of the industry, do you think that such a volatile employment pattern is avoidable?

Peter Stark
Peter Stark, Peter Barron Stark Companies
Peter Barron Stark Companies

Stark: Major hiring ramp ups and layoffs are common in commodities and cyclical industries. There is no doubt that when companies make major layoffs, they are losing significant institutional knowledge. Successful organizations design personnel strategies to keep their core workforce employed in both good times and bad. They may execute this strategy by outsourcing specific pieces of the work to contractors as well as directly hiring individual contractors to do the work. More and more organizations and industries are turning to the Gig economy to get the work done so they do not have to make significant hires when the commodities pricing or economy improves or layoffs when the economic cycle turns south.

Nelson: Organizations can decouple how much they are growing or shrinking based on how they orient the learning needs of their employees. Employers must learn how to capitalize on the talents they have available within their organizations at any given moment. For years we have been hearing about the “knowledge worker gap” and ignoring it. Talent has been walking out the door. The aging of the workforce, the mismanagement and poor use of Gen X, the misunderstood and underutilized millennial … we're missing opportunities everywhere to maximize the talent we have in front of us. For example: the average millennial will change jobs every 18 months. One reason we know this happens is because they are looking for growth opportunities, more ways to expand knowledge, and skills. If they can't get it where they are currently, they will leave.

What we also know from our vast research of learning and development is that the number one reason employees stay in a position is because of their relationship with the leader they work with. If that leader is vested in their future they will ensure that they continue to grow and the best way to ensure that is through learning and development. That learning and development, in turn, helps to cement the relationship with their leader, facilitating once more, the number one reason they chose to stay with the organization and at the same time, feeding their need and desire for more ways to expand knowledge and skills.

Priscilla D. Nelson
Priscilla D. Nelson, Nelson Cohen Consulting
Nelson Cohen Consulting

When times are challenging, organizations still need to spend time in development. This is also the perfect time for employees to build skills and relationships with coworkers and leaders. Leaders also need to build people skills, especially in technical fields, which are often ignored, and these skills are useful whether they stay with the organization long term, or move outside the organization.

Rigzone: Can you think of any other industries that also experience a similarly dynamic business cycle but take a different, more measured approach with managing talent? In other words, is there a better way?

Nelson: The IT Services Industry would be the most glaring example that comes to mind for me. The IT Services Industry uses a model referred to as “sitting on the bench” when you are not needed for a project (or a client). You can expect to sit on the bench up to 10 percent of the time. The organization plans for this and assigns the employee to internal projects, cross-skilling and upskills.


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Generated by readers, the comments included herein do not reflect the views and opinions of Rigzone. All comments are subject to editorial review. Off-topic, inappropriate or insulting comments will be removed.

Dharmesh MISTRY  |  May 30, 2017
Major fluctuations in demand /supply of skilled workers can never be met by any means unless the COMPANY has enough corpus to sustain employees during the down-turn. Time has come that employers seems to negotiate every bit of money while re-employing post lay-off which creates dissatisfaction and unwillingness to give the best performance. There is a lot of favoritism while picking employees for termination and the reasons nee no explanation. Many times it is the one who performed well gets the beating at the end. One has to re-define employee-employer relationship to seek more professionalism rather than commitment.
David H. Thompson  |  May 15, 2017
Whenever there's a downturn, who goes first? The old guys who are making more, keep the rookies and irritate the operators, good business sense. Now, when things are looking up, they're looking for guys with 15+ years of experience, but don't want to pay. I hate to say it, but the major service companies have habitually shot themselves in the foot by allowing the bean counters to rule. I've been out here for 37 years, seen the ups and the REAL downs, even went to chemical sales for a few years, then came the call. Still got a mud kit? Yup, and it was back to what I love.

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