Is Digitalization In Oil And Gas Wowing The Workforce?

Digitalization is the buzzword on everyone’s lips in the oil and gas sector. It is seen as the remedy for all the industry’s problems from operational efficiency, safety and lack of visibility. But it is also being heralded as a solution to the industry’s constant struggle to recruit the young, tech-savvy workers that it needs.

It promises to radically transform how the oil and gas workforce operates. But most companies are still confused about how to separate the reality from the hype. Is flexible working the next great recruiting tool? Can firms go digital without having to go toe-to-toe with Silicon Valley for talent? And what’s this about robots running job interviews?

Earlier this month I attended a roundtable held on the heels of the 2018 Global Energy Talent Index (GETI) report that discussed just that theme. In attendance were Peter Searle – CEO, Airswift, Hannah Peet – managing director, Energy Jobline, Stephanie Rogers, managing director, resources, Accenture and Tony Salemme, VP, craft labor risk assessment group, Industrial Info Resources.

The lure of digitization
This involves a couple of things. For starters, companies can seek out individuals that are especially keen to utilize new skills. It is also important that companies show workers how these technologies support various career paths and ultimately keep their skill sets relevant as roles shift. Finally, a clear understanding of how these technologies can achieve the desired business outcomes and company-wide impact will be essential.

“It’s also worth pointing out that, though new opportunities are important, remuneration is still one of the top selling points for workers,” Peet added. “The benefits of digitalization will complement the power of pay, but not replace it.”

Flexible working
There is clearly still a divide between the potential of digitalization and what’s achievable. With this in mind, the conversation turned to what it is realistic to expect from more flexible working opportunities.

Salemme voiced the opinion that there is a strong business case for it. “The push for economies of scale and onshore development for offshore projects ties in nicely with flexible and remote working,” he said.

“We recently saw this in action with a major project in Papua New Guinea, where much of the early development was done by teams in Singapore and Houston. Instead of just working on the PNG project, these teams were able to serve multiple projects remotely. The company was then able to hold off on sending full teams to the PNG site until close to launch. This not only reduced the labor burden onsite but made for a more efficient use of those remote teams.

“This is a good strategy, considering that many of the job candidates for flexible and remote working are typically onshore and office-based,” Rogers said. “Examples of these roles include project management, data science, and analytical support.  That said, there will still be some limitations.”

Opportunities to upskill
When it came to discussing other ways that digitalization can help increase worker satisfaction and improve retention rates, the fact that workers are more eager to upskill into the new roles created through digitalization than many realize was raised by Rogers. “We have conducted research which shows that workers are very interested in developing new skills to have greater digital capabilities,” she explained. “Where companies aren’t offering training opportunities, workers are taking the initiative to go out and find the education themselves.”

This point tied into what the GETI report revealed, where training and development opportunities were cited as one of the biggest drivers of satisfaction. People are going to want to stay with the companies that are invested in their futures. “Along these lines, apprenticeships and local development schemes are going to be essential,” Salemme said. “As powerful as multiskilling is, nothing beats having strong local talent.”

Workers pushback
One criticism that has been leveled at the wave of digitization and a barrier to its acceptance is the belief that it poses a threat to employment, but that sentiment was debugged by Salemme. “It’s amazed me how, after 35 years of working with information and technology, that people still don’t respect their power,” he said. “There are still plenty of companies who make the minimal investments when it comes to big data and technology. It’s really a cultural issue, rather than a budgetary one.”

Searle added that for a long time, people saw technology as a threat, instead of seeing it as an enabler of efficiency, productivity and, ultimately, satisfaction, while Rogers explained that digitalization isn’t about job reduction, but job evolution.

“Touching upon what was said earlier, digitalization will help create a more diverse working environment,” Peet concluded. “There simply aren’t enough people available in the oil and gas sector for companies to continue only hiring from within. Digitalization introduces a skills fluidity, where it becomes easier for someone from a sector like mining or aerospace to move into oil and gas.”

Companies are going to have to be more open-minded about who they hire. And this goes well beyond people from other sectors or industries. Women and minorities must make up more of the workforce for the industry to remain viable in the long-run. This broad mix of backgrounds will introduce new ways of thinking and, along with the technology itself, help spur innovation. Together, digitalization and diversity will propel the industry forward.The 2018 GETI report found that the oil and gas sector is quite excited about the prospects of digitalization and Peet was quick to agree with that. “I think digitalization can be a strong selling point for workers when the benefits are made clear,” she said. “As the GETI report showed, greater opportunities for remote and flexible working are very much in demand, with four-in-ten respondents citing it as key to attracting fresh talent to the sector. Companies that offer flexible working are very much at an advantage in attracting talent.”

Searle agreed and added the last thing anyone wants is to be in a stagnant job. “Digitalization offers a lot of room for growth,” he said. “For starters, data analytics and machine learning will transform humdrum processes into more agile and dynamic activities. People can be upskilled into new roles where they’ll be intellectually stimulated and have more room for advancement.”

Source: Forbes
Date: Jul 20, 2018