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Are you thinking what they're thinking?

A recent survey suggests the next generation of oil and gas workers will be hard to attract
This article appeared in July, 2017

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A recent survey by EY - How do we regenerate this generation’s view of oil and gas? - has thrown up some interesting insights into the shape of the oil company of the future. While some of the results of the survey will come as no surprise to regular readers of these pages, it is clear that oil company executives may not be completely aligned with the needs of their future employee base, as time and again the study shows that the executives over estimated the appeal of careers in the oil industry.

'By a narrow margin (+3%), executives believe oil and gas careers are appealing to young people. By a wider margin (-11%), the young people surveyed said those jobs are unappealing'. How do we regenerate this generation’s view of oil and gas? EY 

Are you listening?

EY identify what they call the ‘want disconnect’ between what oil and gas companies believe younger generations want from a job and what young people themselves say. With the use of simple infographics, EY highlight the ‘dramatic’ mismatch between what oil companies think is important to the Millennials that will populate oil companies of the future and what the youngsters themselves say they want from a career; whether it is related to the attraction or otherwise of using new technologies or the desire for greater work-life balance, the oil companies and young people seem to be at odds over what is of most importance.

Inevitably, EY also found a gender gap, with far fewer young women (24%) finding the idea of a career in the oil industry as ‘appealing’ than their male (54%) counterparts.

'Young men value job stability more than young women, while women ranked on-the-job happiness higher'. How do we regenerate this generation’s view of oil and gas? EY

Clearly, from the EY survey, there is a lot to be done to attract talent to the industry. And getting those things done may not be as easy as it would at first seem; how for example do oil companies help the younger generation overcome their ‘unwillingness’ to move to Houston or other major industry hubs?

Breaking the cycle

As if the identified trends were not worrying enough, EY finish their analysis warning that Millennials perceptions of the oil industry are ‘just the tip of the iceberg’ and overcoming these perceptions will require 'substantial change’; not least the industry’s usual reaction to oil price volatility - reducing staff and cutting pay during downturns. Everyone, it seems, on the oil patch, has either experienced a layoff or knows someone who has and young people are fully aware of that fact.

'Each company’s workforce, and its strategy to deploy that workforce efficiently, is a differentiator'. How do we regenerate this generation’s view of oil and gas? EY

Any answers?

So, what, if any, tools can we employ to attract the Millennials with their apparent dislike of all things oil? Addressing the widely held notion of oil industry careers as 'unstable, blue-collar, difficult, dangerous and harmful to society’ must be the very minimum starting point. Easier said than done of course.

If the younger generations cannot be attracted to oil and gas then EY identify another possible solution to future staffing gaps - technology. Digital automation of workflows and robotic process automation can help minimise the need to fill positions and can be used for a wide range of repetitive tasks. Additionally, technology will provide the key to knowledge retention, as it seems the industry still continues to consist of a 'rapidly aging workforce'. Although one wonders if the use of technology in this way (swapping people for algorithms) is in fact what is such a turn-off for young people?

Whatever your view, it is clear that great change is needed in the way the industry hires, retains and fires staff. If you want to get ahead of the game you should start by reading EY's fascinating survey.

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