Over the last 24 months, energy firms have struggled mightily due to a prolonged slide in commodity prices. While boom and bust cycles aren’t anything new for the sector, companies are reconsidering whether mass hiring and layoffs are the best way to manage those swings. In this article we offer 6 recommendations backed by Universum data to attract and retain business and STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) talent to the energy industry.
The next five years are critical to ensure the older generation stands shoulder-to shoulder with younger workers, sharing experience and knowledge. To deal with it, companies will need to think about how it can accelerate mentorship opportunities between more experienced employees and younger generations stepping in to replace them.
Bolstering this idea, research shows young workers seek out these types of collaborative arrangements. A study from KellyOCG found 45 percent of talent in the energy sector say working with knowledgeable colleagues is a reason to accept one job over another. And nearly two-thirds say their ideal work environment is defined as “highly collaborative”.
Some energy companies are running with this idea, creating professional development opportunities that are essentially knowledge-transfer programs between older and younger workers. US-based drilling company Apache Corp has been working on the problem for over a decade. It runs a three-year professional development program for new hires – created to solidify young people’s relationship to the company. And it has asked older workers to extend their years before retirement to ensure proper knowledge transfer. The investment appears to be working: Approximately half of the company’s technical staff are under 36 years old, and a third over 50.
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Competitive starting salaries and the promise of growth may be something that gets talent in the door, but it won’t make them stay.
It’s critical that employers ensure not just adequate but superior training and development programs. Exxon Mobil Corp, for example, has spent over $2.5 million on workforce training programs in the Gulf Coast of the United States over the last decade.
Employers must also clearly define their employees’ priorities related to “work-life balance” – particularly for younger professionals in the industry – and make meaningful gains to provide it. Many jobs in the industry pose serious challenges to work-life balance, whether because of remote living locations or prolonged periods of off-shore work. Given that students value work-life balance so highly, it’s imperative for employers to (a) clearly describe the nature of work for each job and (b) find ways to support younger professionals’ need for balance.
Consider GE and its bid to attract millennial talent to the company’s manufacturing businesses. The key: Repositioning the industry as a place of tech-led innovation. An article in the Wall Street Journal explained, “Like GE, thousands of companies across the US are trying to rebrand manufacturing as a high-tech industry full of opportunity. Their target audience: Smartphone-wielding Millennials and their parents who still think of manufacturing jobs as high-risk for moving offshore or as a backup career if one can’t become a doctor, lawyer or teacher.”
For energy companies, there are similar opportunities to attract innovation-hungry talent. With so much innovation taking place in the sector – from new drilling and extraction methods, to massive advances in sustainable and clean energy – it’s an exciting time to work in the sector. For STEM students in particular, the intersection of oil/gas sourcing and drilling with technology is driving innovation at amazing speed. For example, consider BP’s Field Of The Future program, which deploys sensors across all types of field locations, and then uses the data to improve security, lower cost, and boost efficiency. Employers hoping to recruit young STEM students need to bring these stories to life if they hope to attract the next generation of technologists.
The industry is long acclimatized to cycles of hiring and layoffs. However, after severe layoffs, you lose critical bands of experience and knowledge. Talent leaders are rethinking the layoff paradigm for high-value talent. Instead, some companies are now looking at other ways to save money – from instituting lower-cost mentoring programs to replace professional development programs, to asking employees to take pay cuts or benefits cuts in lieu of layoffs. These strategies are not without risks (some believe demoting workers can lead to overworking key people, or making them more vulnerable to headhunters).
Research by PwC into the role of innovation inside oil and gas companies found the most innovative 20 percent in the study grew 16 percent faster than those defined as least innovative. What’s more, in just five years, top innovators predicted that their rate of growth would be nearly double the global average (and would be three times that of the least innovative companies). How can these companies build a talent pipeline to support and grow innovation? Students who express an interest in the energy sector are similar to the average of all students in their desire for innovation, dynamic work, and creativity. Is there a way to attract talent that prioritizes innovation – as is seen in other industries, such as technology and finance? It’s critical to understand the desires and objectives of these innovation-seekers, and build talent attraction and retention programs for that cohort.
Research from Universum shows significant variability in goals and aspirations country-by-country, as well as based on area of study. To recruit for specific high-value roles – be they in engineering, occupational safety, or finance – employers must segment their audience. And it’s not enough to do this by region as some – APAC in particular – have significant variability among countries in close proximity. Chinese STEM students bound for jobs in energy vary significantly from Japanese students, who are very different from those from Singapore and Indonesia. To improve the size and quality of the talent pipeline, pursue new partnerships.
Look at opportunities to partner with local governments and academic institutions to increase the talent pipeline – if not for the coming 24 months, at least for the future of the industry. Among the most exciting ideas in the industry are coming from individuals working in academia:
These industry leaders inspire others and demonstrate the types of radical advances taking place in mathematics and engineering, to the benefit of the oil and gas industry. These types of stories are too often overshadowed by the more iconic narratives from the tech industry. Individual energy companies must make a stronger case for dynamic, innovative careers in their industries.
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Universum is the global leader in employer branding. Advising the leading employers in the world to better understand, attract and recruit talent. During our 25+ years we have established ourselves in 60 markets with 15 offices covering the world. Our solutions are actionable research, strategic advisory, data driven communication solutions – and being a pioneer in social media solutions in the world for talent branding, sourcing and analytics. A trusted partner to over 1,700 clients, including many Fortune 500 companies, as well as global media partners that publish our annual rankings and trend reports, with 2,000 partner universities worldwide conducting research on the career and employer preferences of top talent. Universum surveys on an annual basis over 1,500,000 students and professionals worldwide. For more information, please go to www.universumglobal.com