Developing a Nationally Diverse and Competent Workforce for the Oil and Gas Industry
At SPE’s Annual Technical Conference and Exhibition (ATCE) this year, SPE’s Sustainable Development Technical Section held a special session panel discussion focused on workforce diversity and competency in the upstream oil and gas industry. The objective of this discussion was to emphasize the importance of diversity efforts in the industry and emphasize that these efforts should not fluctuate with oil price as they unfortunately tend to do. Building cultural diversity, combined with gender diversity, is a long-term initiative requiring leadership conviction and perseverance. What is called development of local content has been, and still is, the most urgent and crucial objective for the industry. Included within its scope are
- Improving the ability of the education system and of the universities to deliver continuously well-educated engineers and technicians.
- Increasing the commitment of oil and gas companies and the whole supply chain associated with the oil and gas business to hire and develop men and women from the country. Research shows that out of 10 jobs created by the industry, nine are in the supply chain.
- Accelerating efforts to develop local talents to a level of autonomy. This requires coordinated actions and investments from the oil and gas sectors to use best-in-class training technology. Research shows that huge efficiency gains could be achieved in this field.
- Getting oil and gas companies to adopt a “farmer” approach as opposed to a “poacher” approach, and using regulations to encourage companies to develop young talents from universities, vocational schools, and high schools. It is proven to be good for the companies, for the industry, and for the country.
- Opening international opportunities to local talents to avoid having their career in the oil and gas sector limited and to allow them to reach the highest levels of responsibility in their own company. Women are a natural extension and enrichment of the talent pool.
During his opening keynote address, Amin Nasser, president and chief executive officer of Saudi Aramco, highlighted that managing talent was part of his four-part framework for the future. Despite tough times, he also stated that now is the time to reboot the industry’s approach to human resources, including bringing more women into key positions. Similarly, during his opening remarks, Abdul Munim Saif Al Kindy, director of exploration, development, and production for the Abu Dhabi National Oil Company (ADNOC), emphasized the importance of developing staff, further adding that ADNOC is committed to developing the next generation of leaders judged on merit and that he will work to empower women, which he acknowledged was a neglected human resource in the industry.
Both of these perspectives provided an excellent backdrop for the topic that was explored further in the panel. The session was kicked off by Janeen Judah, 2017 SPE president. She stressed the importance of the topic and the need for SPE to do what it could to support its global members in this area. The discussion was moderated by moderated by Roland Moreau, SPE’s vice president of finance, and included the following distinguished panelists:
- Pierre Bismuth, senior adviser for Accenture Strategy Upstream—Importance of Diversity and Early Engagement
- Tony Montes, senior adviser in talent development for Abu Dhabi Company for Onshore Petroleum Operations (ADCO)—Competency and Diversity From Operator’s Prspective
- Mohamed Al Hosani, program director for Emirates Foundation—National Development Strategies as They Apply to License To Operate
Bismuth started the discussion by sharing his personal perspectives and experience as they relate to diversity and early engagement. This was then following by Montes, who provided an operator’s perspective along with examples of how to effectively address competency and diversity as part of your business. The final speaker was Al Hosani, who addressed the development strategies and how they relate to a company’s license to operate.
The Slow Yet Deep Transformation of the Industry With the Rise of Diversity
Bismuth shared a timeline with the audience that showed the industry’s progression in integrating diversity as part of its business model. This timeline started with the emergence of national oil companies in the 1970s and identified other key milestones that included the promulgation of US affirmative actions, state regulations, and faculty diversity. All of this was presented with the context of industry upturns creating a huge demand for talent; increasing easy access to worldwide career opportunities via the Internet; and the growing number of women attracted to oilfield-related and science disciplines, including remote operations. All of this stresses the importance within the oil and gas industry of planning for the workforce of the future.
The type of transformation promoted by Bismuth, however, is not without its challenges. Fig. 1 summarizes some of the arguments expressed either for or against diversity in the industry. Industry continues to focus on this integration, and, today, diversity is part of the industry in a significant way, both the perspective of cross-cultural diversity and gender diversity. While there remains room for much more progress in this area, both universities and industry are seeing an increasing percentage of women interested in this industry sector.
Bismuth discussed how future success related to diversity hinges on resolution of the following issues:
- The ability of companies and employees to work together in finding the right balance between career needs, family needs, and personal ambitions. Related considerations that must be addressed when weighing this balance include child care and education, health, family economics, and the stress/competition of dual careers.
- The need for companies to address female career progression issues effectively, including glass-ceiling perceptions, lack of support, pre- and post-maternity challenges, lack of career expectations, and isolation/exclusion in some situations.
- The continuous demand for more diversity among both university faculty and students.
As an example of progress, however, Bismuth noted that several companies have actively committed to ensuring success with gender diversity and have endorsed the seven-principle call to action at the World Economic Forum. The call to action invloves
- Leadership—Make it a strategic business imperative led from the top.
- Aspiration and goal setting—Set challenging but achievable goals.
- Science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) pipeline—Support development of women into STEM in school and university.
- Clear responsibility—Delegate and oversee diversity goal achievement with managers.
- Recruitment, retention, and promotion policies—Ensure gender-sensitive process.
- Inclusive corporate culture—Create an open culture wherein all genders thrive.
- Work environment and work/life balance—Develop and communicate gender-sensitive policies.
In closing, he highlighted what he feels are the success factors and conditions that need to be met for diversity sustainability:
- Demand for new graduates to be sustained despite cycles.
- International companies to increase efforts on nationals.
- Companies committed to developing talent pool instead of poaching.
- Create and preserve same standards for all.
- Develop an open and sensitive leadership.
If you have questions regarding Bismuth’s presentation, he may be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.
An Operator’s Perspective and Journey on Developing a Nationally Diverse and Competent Workforce
Montes then focused on efforts undertaken by ADCO to address workforce diversity and competence, including the importance of leveraging diversity in a connected world. More specific to ADCO, he shared an operating company’s perspective with respect to business realities and organizational strategies, the need to build frameworks for competency and capability building, the pace of implementation, and the challenges faced along the way. For starters, Montes noted that, within ADCO, women represented 15% of the total workforce. This increases to 35% for their Abu Dhabi operations and, not unexpectedly, drops to 2% when looking at only field operations.
He then offered his perspectives on the concepts of diversity vs. homogeneity by sharing the following considerations:
- Seek out new environments (e.g., companies, industries, countries). Whenever we are in a new environment, we carefully observe what is going on around us because we want to understand.
- In a new environment, we are not afraid to ask silly questions. Active observation with the will to understand helps us to become more comfortable with questioning.
- Procter and Gamble and Google regularly exchange employees for a few days so that they can observe peers from another great company at work.
Montes noted that ADCO is faced with the same challenges as many other companies in that the supply vs. demand gaps for experienced engineers will continue to grow. Within ADCO, he shared that the average operational age is expected to drop from 40 years in 2014 to 35 years in 2017. Similarly, operational experience over this same period is expected to drop from 16 years to 12 years, a decrease of 25%. Total Emiratization over this span is expected to grow from 53% to 75%. Fig. 2 reflects how these data highlight the challenges of competing realities that support the need for diverse workforce talent and capabilities.
Next, Montes described the process used within ADCO to help address these challenges. First among these is a performance management succession planning process that is intended to guide entry-level employees through the various level of professional development to either leadership or technical specialist roles. Each of these steps along the development path is supported by suggested training that focuses on the necessary skills and experiences required to meet performance expectations. This process is further supported by preparation of a personal development plan, periodic career ladder reviews, and learning academies focused at enhancing key skills. Elements of their overall career development program include strategic recruiting, accountable entry point development, competency-based strategy learning, removing the glass ceiling for technical staff, a leadership development framework, and succession planning.
ADCO also designed a discipline development framework that captures all elements of an employee’s career path and development needs. It brings together all learning, skills, and competencies, support, management, and implementation landscapes required for career progression (i.e., delineating a clear career path). More detailed elements of this framework include mentoring, on-the-job training, courses/programs, and self-study.
In closing, Montes offered the following guiding principles supporting the need for more integrated workforce diversity and competency in the future:
- The business case for leveraging diversity is compelling. It determines sustainability of organizational performance.
- Defining the differences that “make the difference” goes deeper than national identities.
- The agenda for nationalization and attracting, developing, and retaining international talent are two sides of the same coin.
- Robust and structured talent and capability development frameworks and processes will fail if they are implemented as technical solutions to adaptive challenges.
- Enable and support female empowerment.
If you have questions regarding Montes’ presentation, he may be contacted at email@example.com.
Developing Local Talent
As noted earlier, the third panelist, Al Hosani, provided his perspective around the Emirates Foundation strategies for addressing the important issues of diversity and workforce competence on the global stage. First, he shared the Emirates Foundation vision and mission statements.
- Vision—Emirates Foundation inspires, empowers, and guides the youth of the UAE to secure the nation’s sustainable future.
- Mission—We work in partnership with the private and public sectors using venture philanthropy to impact the lives of youth positively and permanently.
Not surprisingly, Al Hosani stressed that youth is their strongest asset, with youth in their database totaling more than 60,000. Emirates Foundation focuses on understanding youth trends as they relate to knowledge and expertise and on establishing powerful networks connecting the private and public sectors.
He then described the concept of venture philanthropy, which is summarized in Fig. 3. This can be best characterized as business-based, built on best practices, systemic, and long term. The objective is to respond to gaps in the market. The model is endorsed by the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development and is the only such foundation in the Middle East. As an example, one of the noted programs—Kafa’at—strives to align philanthropy with the needs of local talent. This is accomplished by equipping youth with leadership skills, driving youth interest and potential to become social entrepreneurs, building youth capacities through mentorship, and providing youth with insights into the private and semigovernment sectors. More specific to the latter point, the Emirates Foundation conducts a program aimed at attracting talent to the private sector that includes the following elements:
- Job readiness—Training workshops to university students, job seekers, and newly joined employees that combine theory and experiential learning and that build awareness of the work environments to steer youth mindsets toward considering private sector careers.
- Discover the private sector—Organizing trips to companies in the private and semigovernment sectors, giving youth insights into various business functions and work environments.
- Future leaders—Introducing youth to leadership learning theories and models to help equip them with the necessary skills and knowledge to become future leaders.
- Social enterprise—Developing youth capacity to become social entrepreneurs and contribute to increased social impact.
- Emirates Award for the Arabian Gulf Youth—A competition aimed at promoting social-enterprise projects by youngsters across the Gulf Cooperation Council states.
- Mentorship portal—A 3-month structured program connecting Emirati youth with senior mentors and business leaders that guides youth in personal and career development and is aimed at transforming them to contribute more toward national development.
Finally, the Emirates Foundation works with businesses to promote internship opportunities with the objective of further improving skills and providing a better awareness of the working environment. A web site has been developed for both interns and employers that helps identify opportunities and provides additional resources for interns. The site also highlights flexible opportunities designed to address individual situations more effectively as they relates to availability (e.g., seasonal, part-time, evenings, Saturdays only).
If you have questions regarding Al Hosani’s presentation, he may be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.
All in all, this special panel session proved to be a very enlightening discussion on the topic. Once all was said, however, it was obvious to all those in attendance that workforce diversity and competence is definitely a timely and strategic topic for the oil and gas industry today.