Over the last year or two, several industries faced their share of labor shortages. The oil and gas industry is no exception, with many skilled professionals in the industry moving to other spheres entirely, such as tech or renewable energy, after two price slumps and the focus on ESG in the last several years. As a result, oil and gas companies are fighting to attract and retain top talent, an increasingly difficult challenge in today’s literal and figurative climate.
In fact, attracting and retaining talent is vital for the present and future of the energy industry. The transition to renewable energy requires extensive training and skills development of talented professionals, while experienced personnel are necessary to ensure the supply of conventional energy sources. The problem is, younger people tend to ignore opportunities in the energy sector because they associate it with “dirty fossil fuels” when, in reality, so much more is involved.
This stigma is incredibly important when considering the challenges the industry faces in securing talent. Many professionals seeking new opportunities prioritize their personal brand when making decisions about their place of work. After all, one of the first questions people are asked when they meet someone is, “Where do you work?” While oil and gas companies may have a tarnished image, many people do not understand the vital role of oil and gas in the energy transition and supporting economies in less economically advantaged countries.
Many prospective employees see the oil and gas industry as being at risk or on its way out entirely. Because the industry is facing long-term challenges in terms of growth, many potential applicants fear that they will have limited opportunities in the sector. And, with two industry crashes over the last 10 years, oil and gas companies are less likely to send workers overseas, which means fewer opportunities for expat assignments.
People have this idea that the oil and gas culture is antiquated or highly hierarchical and is slow to adopt new trends, such as a remote workforce. A lot of talent sees the industry culture as still being exclusive, and young applicants are less likely to want to follow in the previous generation’s footsteps. Given all of these challenges, it’s easy to see why oil and gas employers need to find innovative ways to compete for top talent.
Telling the Full Story
While there are several factors in play that make it more difficult for oil and gas companies to recruit top talent, there are ways to highlight what makes working in the industry so exciting right now. To start, the oil and gas industry has a branding problem that is making it tougher for companies to attract employees. Candidates will not overlook the threats to the environment and human health posed by oil and gas. To overcome this perception issue, industry leaders need to recognize the harms associated with the industry, as well as the good it does.
Put simply, they need to tell the full story. Specifically, there is no denying the negative role hydrocarbons played in environmental and human health issues in the past. However, what many people don’t understand is that oil and gas companies are best positioned to tackle energy and climate change problems. They are also leading the charge when it comes to renewable energy by adding sustainability training for their workforce and offering young people the opportunity to add climate related skills to their resumes.
When industry leaders present both sides of the story, however, they must look beyond Wall Street and target the talent pool. They can do this by inviting the workforce to join them in their efforts.
It’s important to note that oil and gas companies are global enterprises attempting to solve some of the toughest scientific, engineering, geopolitical, energy and climate challenges. If they try to recruit people into a traditional corporate structure, they will likely lose out on talent. Instead, companies need to find other ways to engage their talent pool beyond the traditional corporate mantra. The whole world is talking about climate and energy transitions. Sure, these transitions are difficult, but industry leaders need to position workers as an integral part of the solution.
Oil and Gas Recruitment Strategies for the Year Ahead
There are several obstacles the oil and gas industry must overcome in order to attract the best people, but there are ways for the industry to connect with candidates. It all starts with telling the story of oil and gas’s role in renewable energy and traditional energy consumption. Here are some tactics oil and gas companies should keep in mind in working to attract a new generation of talent:
1. Recruit by focusing on problem solving.
When oil and gas companies post job opportunities, they should keep the language solution-focused. In other words, they should tell the story about how roles contribute to the solution and tailor the language to describe the company’s role in the energy and climate transition.
Job postings should include the attributes of the oil and gas industry that genuinely interest people. These include words and phrases such as scientific, engineering, geopolitical, energy and climate challenges requiring solutions. Also, use language that positions candidates as part of the force that will meet these challenges head-on. The workforce has evolved to be far more purpose driven. Your recruiting efforts should make it clear how their role will align with your organization’s purpose.
2. Shift the focus away from traditional incentives.
Importantly, when recruiting new talent, companies should expand beyond traditional compensation and incentives such as paid time off and healthcare packages. These traditional benefits are table stakes, and the game has changed.
Instead, oil and gas companies should create innovative work environments that foster collaboration to rival tech companies. Today’s talent wants leadership opportunities sooner, an office that can exist anywhere (aka remote work), and a role that contributes to their views on making the world a better place.
3. Try rotation programs.
Instead of hiring talent and setting them in one department or business unit, create rotation programs that expose workers to different areas of the company. For instance, if you hire someone for an oil and gas role, ask them if they would like to gain exposure to other types of energy as well (assuming your organization is migrating or expanding in this direction).
This will create opportunities for employees to work in areas that align with their personal brands rather than forcing silos that may be less fulfilling. Plus, it will also communicate to your workforce that the oil and gas industry isn’t eroding; it is evolving.
It’s no secret that the significant change the industry has experienced over the last several years may have hampered oil and gas recruitment efforts, but make no mistake that creative and constructive people are the driving forces of the oil and gas industry’s clean energy transition. Once oil and gas companies fully embrace their critical role in the energy and climate transition, they will be better equipped to handle the challenges of the future thanks to motivated talent that’s been recruited to lead positive change.
Alan Henson is a principal at Pariveda, a consulting firm driven to create innovative, growth-oriented and people-first solutions. Read more about the work Pariveda Solutions does here.
Henson has over 18 years of diverse experience in technology, including leading operations for an international software company, handling software development projects, and delivering implementation solutions for emerging technologies. Henson’s many years of expertise allow him to map out comprehensive, tech-based solutions to pressing problems.
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.