The repercussions of a downward cycle for the petroleum industry can mean a lot of things for a lot of people. Those who are not directly affected by its downturn can revel in the fact that filling up a car or truck costs less than it has in recent memory. Those who work in the petroleum industry are feeling the pressure more directly.
The Calgary Herald recently published an article which responded to a report by Mercer. In the Calgary Herald article they detailed how that due to cutbacks on capital expenditures by nearly half the respondents to the survey the Mercer report was derived from, there will also be a decrease in the hiring of outside talent and a potential reduction of staff.
In the article Graham Dodd, energy and natural resources industry leader in Canada for Mercer illustrates this by stating that:
“The real response is around the financial perspective. Dropping or reducing capital expenditure, looking at real core selling and (general and administrative) expenses and core operating expenses where the current rate of increase in those can be slowed or indeed stopped or reversed. And that is going to have an immediate knock-on to people and employment. Many of those things ultimately reflect staffing levels.”
In 2014, Mercer published a survey titled Oil and Gas Talent Outlook and Workforce Practices Survey. Not surprisingly, it showed that hiring practices of those surveyed was highly focused on hiring external talent rather than develop talent internally in order to address skills shortages.
As a result of the down cycle, the focus has now changed to developing internal talent.
Looking at strategies and plans for the longer-term (2016 and beyond), respondents were primarily focused on “building” internal strength and capability (45%); coupled with enhancing supervisory, management, and leadership skills (45%); and understanding and optimizing employee engagement (41%). These priorities were followed by seeking to reshape HR service delivery (23%); optimizing the organization at large (22%); and assessing and reshaping their employment value proposition (20%).
While such action can be applauded, there is also the potential for organizations to go back to the cycle of spending money on talent once the market returns to an up cycle. That fact of the matter is that HR should be taking a more nuanced approach and think of how to increase the pool of talent during any cycle.
Jeanette Sutherland, manager of workforce and productivity for Calgary Economic Development gives us more insight in the Calgary Herald article:
“As the report suggests, it’s important that we consider (the right mindset) by taking a long-term view to address short-term conditions. The industry is cyclical, so the markets will rebound and the industry needs to think of human capital strategies to address critical skill shortages when that happens. As we’ve experienced in the past, it can take years to build up our labour force numbers tied to the major projects in the energy industry, so continued investment in training and talent development through re-skilling and upskilling our workforce is key. When we come out of this, it’s expected that competition for talent will be even greater.”
A Closer Look
In order to reduce training expenditures while developing skills internally, organizations should look to how their training is delivered now. In the petroleum industry, there is no shortage of online training that can be used to help develop the skills of the workforce. And while a lot of this training may be adequate, they are not developed with any one organization in mind. Rather they focus of a broad set of standards.
However, there are unique aspects of any organization that fall outside of what “cookie cutter” online training can offer and where custom elearning or even better, a combination of tailored classroom and online follow up can help . This down cycle presents an opportunity and a time for overall skills development. If just standardized skills are developed and not ones unique to furthering the business strategy of your organization, you could miss the opportunity to create loyal, happy, and qualified staff and instead watch them walk out the door when market swings back up.