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Talk tech first, oil later: five ways to attract new talent to oil and gas

Oil and gas is facing the 'Great Crew Change’, when many older workers approach retirement. The industry is now playing talent catch up and needs to refine its attraction and retention strategies if it is to change perceptions among millennials, says Boris Ivanov, founder and managing director of international petroleum exploration and production firm GPB Global Resources

Oil and gas talent

There is a skills crisis facing the oil industry. The 2019 Global Energy Talent Index (GETI) found 40% of professionals in the oil and gas sector felt a crisis had already hit, with a further 28% expecting it to take hold in the next five years.

Skills shortages and rising labour costs have challenged the oil industry for many years and are increasingly impeding the industry’s ability to diversify and grow. The situation emerged following cuts to graduate recruitment and apprenticeships during the oil downturn, with the industry now playing catch up after a stagnant period of recruitment.

The crisis is expected to intensify as the sector goes through a transformation known as the ‘Great Crew Change’, when many older workers approach retirement and only having a small pool of recruits to pass their decades of experiential knowledge on to. This means the industry loses invaluable experience.

Firms should be clear on their genuine interests in reducing the risk they pose to the environment, redesign and communicate new career progression opportunities and combat misconceptions by sharing stories from current employees and move beyond recruiting from traditional hotspots or top-tier universities

For oil and gas companies to build a chain of talent to succeed in a new energy world, they need to assess their workforce attraction, retention and development strategies. Once these have been refined to suit the millennial profile, oil and gas firms will be well equipped to compete in the global race for talent.

Focus on technology

The war for traditional technical talent is now less fierce, but competition for new skills and capabilities has increased instead. Companies seek digital business talent, especially people with industry, leadership, digital skillsets and a drive to solve business needs with digital solutions. There is fierce competition between industries for graduates possessing these skills, with many students choosing to move into fast moving technology firms over traditional sectors.

For oil and gas companies to compete, they need to talk tech first, oil later.

Firms must solidify their digital strategies and learn to shout about the exciting new technologies they are using in specialisms such as IT and telecommunications, instrumentation, automation and process control to attract young talent. Bringing in employees with strong digital skills is vital for companies to modernise their processes to pull ahead of the competition, so putting focus on attracting this sort of talent should be a business priority.

Changing perceptions

Research indicates that recent generations tend to view oil and gas (O&G) as an industry in decline rather than an innovative sector in which to build a future. Businesses, therefore, need to bridge the disconnect between millennial views on the oil and gas industry and real career opportunities. Firms should be clear on their genuine interests in reducing the risk they pose to the environment, redesigning and communicating new career progression opportunities and combating misconceptions by sharing stories from current employees and moving beyond recruiting from traditional hotspots or top-tier universities.

Big salaries are not enough

The GETI report also found young people are less attracted to big salaries and are more interested in roles which offer promotion opportunities and growth. Unsurprisingly, young employees who aren’t happy with the support and training their employer provides will leave to work for a company which cares about them. HR departments should ensure solid upskilling schemes are in place, so employees continue to be trained and supported to meet the needs of this changing industry and for recruiters to be aware that such schemes exist.

Assuring a modern work/life balance

The energy industry is unlike any other in that it is primarily a field-based industry, with the roles demanding a combination of mental skills and often physical resilience. The global nature of the trade can also bring the challenges of working as an expatriate in an international role, while many roles, particularly those based offshore, can mean long hours. In an Ernst & Young survey of 20-35-year old US consumers and oil and gas executives (2017), 49% said work-life balance was among their top career considerations, yet only 10% of executives believe this to be an industry selling-point. Policies such as a healthy amount of annual leave, flexible hours, working from home and a frequent review structure to ensure employees do not become overworked are important for recruitment and HR teams to promote.

Investing in training and apprenticeship schemes

Apprenticeship schemes offering young people a combination of college education and practical training from industry experts are a great way to train the next workforce generation and address skill gaps. Whilst the oil and gas sector needs digital talent to keep on top of the ongoing technological evolution, there still needs to be a continuous hiring cycle for roustabouts, drilling workers, roughnecks and technicians.

For the oil and gas industry to survive the skills shortage challenge, firms need to recognise that the world has changed and consequently the desires and priorities of the next generation of talent are different. For oil and gas human resources professionals, the next few years will require them to respond, develop and drive a strategy that can foster, attract and recruit talent.

HR professionals must work together to ensure their companies are positioned as modern and progressive and that expectations meet realities. Given the global nature of the industry, HR and their recruitment partners must also think of global solutions and rethink how to engage with the next generation via technology and understand their measures for a successful career.

As the war for talent intensifies, increasingly innovative solutions are required to fill in demand disciplines. The industry needs to reflect its pioneering nature within the recruitment and talent pipeline to pave the way for many exciting careers in the years to come.

Boris Ivanov (pictured below) is founder and managing director of GPB Global Resources

Boris Ivanov, Founder and Managing Director of GPB Global Resources

Published 19 February 2020

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