Challanges of Workforce Planning in the Energy Industry

By Vidal Ferreira

A recent study by Mercer shows that less than 1/3 of companies believe they have an effective workforce plan to cope with this shifting scenario. Needless to say that we have been talking about this for years, but apparently we haven’t reached a level of progress where we can feel comfortable about this process yet.

With impending growth, driven by global demand (especially from emerging markets) and technological advances, a talent shortage in some key disciplines can mean a potential threat to the progress of the industry. Several talent outlook surveys highlight Petroleum Engineers, and even industrial jobs, such as technicians, are in a short supply that will become more profound in the next decade.

Many recruiting surveys point out that most companies are working their shortages often by hiring roughly 2/3 of their talent from their competitors or adjacent industries. You don’t have to be a genius to realize this is not a viable long term solution, but a stopgap measure. A question that corporations often ask is: How to return to the “building from within” model that was predominant decades ago? Sadly, it’s not as easy as it used to be, a looming issue nowadays is how do you grow and retain people? How to better understand what is in their minds in this very diverse and competitive market? Companies that manage to break such enigma, thrive.

The truth is that most companies still use the one-size-fits-all approach in attraction/retention despite, the new times – ignoring segmentation. What appeals to a 50 year-old, might be very different from what interests a 25 year-old. If you look closely at demographics, age group and the geographical sources of talent for instance. There is a clear call to strategically customize this approach when developing packages, to align with the drivers of the ever growing differences among generations in the workplace.

Many of the current initiatives in the energy industry across the globe, pre-salt in Brazil, deep water drilling in Angola, the petrochemical development in Saudi Arabia, to shale gas in the U.S., will require a solid pipeline of skilled talent – flowing in both the industrial and professional tracks. The shortage of a corresponding workforce, can very well threaten the success of some of these projects. With the retiring generation massively exiting the labor market in the coming years, there are serious concerns over the knowledge gap to be addressed.

This concerning future scenario, with a lot of new entrants seeking leadership and guidance from an older generation, considering the lack of manpower in the middle and a big retirement wave already on the move, is what keeps leaders up at night lately across the oil and gas industry.

A structured workforce planning effort now, will not necessarily rescue companies in the short term, but should however, ensure that the future does not repeat the past and allow leaders a better understanding of talent implications on the achievement of strategic business goals going forward, and to prepare accordingly.

About the author:

Vidal Ferreira is a Strategic Workforce Planning & Analytics Consultant with a major energy corporation. He has over fifteen years of a diversified Human Resources experience with extensive international exposure across six continents. Having lived in over seven countries throughout his career, he is considered a truly global mindset professional.

Vidal’s work spans from Business Partnering, Global Mobility, Talent Management, and Process Optimization Management to lately Strategic Workforce Planning & Analytics, continuously dedicated to linking value added Human Capital Management practices to bottom-line results. Mr. Ferreira received a degree in HRM, a M.B.A in Business Management, is specialized in Project Management, and a certified Six Sigma Black Belt. Additionally he holds certifications in ISO 9001, SWP – Strategic Workforce Planning and HCS – Human Capital Strategist. His motto is, HR as a progressive and cost-effective strategic enabler with significant impact on business core drivers for success.

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