The oil and gas industry is no stranger to volatility and uncertainty. Fluctuating gas prices, geopolitical tensions, recessionary fears, and supply chain constraints continually reshape the landscape. Another lingering concern is the mass exodus of employees within the industry driven by the inherent challenges and demanding conditions. So, how can oil and gas companies increase employee morale and retention while adapting to workers’ changing needs in a dynamic environment?
Frontline employee feedback is an often overlooked but invaluable resource in building resilience and innovation. Frontline employees, such as rig workers, field technicians, and maintenance crews, are the backbone of the oil and gas industry. Faced with unique operational challenges, their firsthand experiences offer a wealth of insights that can significantly impact decision-making processes.
Understanding Employee Feedback
Frontline industries, including the oil and gas sector, typically respond to workforce feedback reactively, waiting until concerns escalate into significant problems. This approach negatively affects efficiency and can result in employees feeling undervalued despite being vital assets to the organization, pushing many out the door. With a shrinking talent pool and a consistent drop in new graduate applicants throughout the industry, executives can’t afford to tune out their workers. Actively listening to employees is essential to keeping the sector moving forward, ensuring business continuity, and increasing retention.
Envision the profound impact of proactively harnessing employee insights. Industry leaders can access real-time employee feedback by cultivating an open and safe communication environment. Whether it involves addressing safety issues, operational inefficiencies or cultural challenges, the insights provided by frontline workers offer a more accurate representation of on-the-ground realities so company leaders can make the appropriate adjustments to ensure safe, people-centric conditions.
Mitigating Safety Risks
Given the daily interactions with potentially hazardous materials and heavy equipment, there’s no evading the reality that working on oil rigs and other frontline positions within the industry can be dangerous. In fact, being a derrick operator in oil, gas and mining is the third most dangerous job in the world, with a fatal injury rate of 46 per 100,000 employees. That said, a focus on safety serves as the cornerstone for the well-being of workers and the integrity of oil and gas companies. Frontline workers are in the best position to identify potential hazards and suggest improvements to safety protocols. Their feedback can lead to immediate corrective actions, reducing the likelihood of accidents and ensuring compliance with safety regulations.
Fostering an Employee-First Culture
Involving employees in safety discussions fosters a culture of awareness and a shared dedication that helps prevent accidents and production disruptions and nurtures a culture of accountability. As we move up the executive hierarchy, safety, although a top priority, can sometimes become a distant, abstract concept. Executives do not face the same everyday dangers that oilfield workers do. This distance underscores the value of employee feedback. Patterns in feedback can pinpoint areas that require immediate attention.
For example, consider a scenario where one onshore oil rig employee expresses concern over a team member’s consistent misuse of equipment during hydraulic fracturing. Drawing from experience, they foresee potential safety issues with negligent exposure to chemicals. But maybe they are nervous about bringing the issue forward, perpetuating a dangerous environment. If the employer were to have offered an anonymous feedback mechanism where this worker could address their concerns without fear of retaliation, the matter would reach the right ears. This would prompt necessary protocol adjustments to ensure better safety adherence.
Implementing Effective Feedback Mechanisms
Establishing an environment where team members can openly express their thoughts, worries and ideas with the assurance of confidentiality can foster active engagement and participation. The benefits of anonymity extend beyond simply highlighting issues or criticisms. Anonymity encourages sharing constructive suggestions, congratulations to colleagues and managers, innovative concepts, and observations that might otherwise go unspoken due to anxiety or uncertainty.
Here are four ways employers can enhance their adaptability, resilience and readiness for success to ensure their employees’ voices are heard in a safe space, free from the worry of retribution for their input.
- Foster Open Communication: Embracing the notion that “you can’t know what you don’t know,” the journey to success involves recognizing hidden challenges and framing the proper inquiries. However, identifying these pertinent questions can be a challenge. Company leaders often remain in the dark due to blind spots, oblivious to areas in need of attention. Encouraging employees to share their perspectives through open and accessible feedback channels like anonymous reporting systems encourages candid input and removes uncertainty from critical decision-making processes.
- Employee Involvement: Involve frontline employees in decision-making processes and problem-solving initiatives. This empowers them and ensures that their perspectives are considered in strategic planning. Involving employees in planning also creates a more agile organization that is able to proactively evolve with both internal and external stressors.
- Embracing the Right Tools and Technology: Employee feedback offers organizations an unparalleled opportunity to unlock the full potential of their workforce. Identifying trends and patterns in feedback helps leaders prioritize areas for improvement and innovation. Embracing and seamlessly integrating suitable feedback platforms creates conduits for immediate and continuous interaction between employees and managers. With the added advantage of anonymity, employees can candidly provide feedback without fearing repercussions.
- Taking Decisive Action: Act promptly on feedback, especially concerning safety and operational issues. Employees are more likely to provide feedback when they see tangible results from their input. Leaders need to establish a structured process for regularly analyzing feedback, setting goals, and ensuring concrete steps are taken. Close the feedback loop to fortify a culture of trust and communication within teams.
Why Employee Feedback Matters
Frontline feedback is a valuable asset and strategic imperative that shapes a more resilient and forward-thinking industry. By actively seeking and acting upon this feedback, companies can enhance safety measures, improve operational efficiency, drive innovation, and build a resilient workforce. Having open communication where all feedback is accepted and appreciated also helps engage employees, making them more likely to remain loyal and motivated, even in challenging times.
When frontline workers see their feedback taken seriously and acted upon, it fosters a sense of ownership and pride. In an industry where experienced workers are in high demand, empowering employees with the power of their voice is critical for resilience and retention.
Max Farrell is the cofounder and CEO of WorkHound, a company committed to giving a voice to frontline workers through a real-time, anonymous feedback platform. WorkHound empowers thousands of employees with a platform that captures anonymous feedback every week, offering real-time actionable insights, and helping leadership teams to foster communication, drive company culture and, ultimately, build better workplaces.
Oil and gas operations are commonly found in remote locations far from company headquarters. Now, it's possible to monitor pump operations, collate and analyze seismic data, and track employees around the world from almost anywhere. Whether employees are in the office or in the field, the internet and related applications enable a greater multidirectional flow of information – and control – than ever before.