Amid automation and digitalization, new job requirements call for new hiring practices
By Karen Boman, Associate Editor
As activity begins to pick up, particularly for onshore drillers, and contractors start to rebuild their workforces, they should begin to evolve their hiring practices to identify workers with the digital skills and adaptability that are needed in today’s drilling environment. In particular, the industry’s continuing adoption of digital and automation technologies has accentuated the need for employees who are experienced in software development, data analytics and the internet of things, Bob Newhouse, CEO and Founder of Newhouse Consultants, said at the 2018 IADC Drilling Onshore Conference.
Because the skill sets required on today’s rigs are fundamentally different from the skills sets required even 10 years ago, the drilling industry won’t be able to meet its digital workforce needs via the traditional approach of recruiting friends of friends and family, said Dr Christiane Spitzmueller, Associate Professor with the University of Houston’s Center for Applied Psychological Research. Dr Spitzmueller gave a joint presentation on oil and gas workforce trends with Mr Newhouse at the 17 May event in Houston.
There’s nothing necessarily wrong with the traditional approach, Dr Spitzmueller said, but she believes most companies can’t afford to continue hiring in this manner if they are to secure the digital talent they need. Today, just as an E&P company would use data to make field development plans and decisions, drilling companies also need more sophisticated measuring tools to gather data for hiring decisions.
Adopting more sophisticated approaches to measuring skills would result in faster, lower-cost onboarding of new workers, she asserted. This includes integrating not just measurements of competencies but also measurements of an individual’s safety propensity, learning orientation and cross-cultural competencies – which refer to the knowledge, skills and motivation that allow people to effectively adapt to cross-cultural environments – into hiring practices.
Moreover, companies must keep in mind that workers with advanced digital skills are in demand not only in oil and gas but also in many other industries. To attract them into this business, drilling companies will need to invest in corporate branding that would appeal to these workers, Dr Spitzmueller said. “Nowadays, it’s important to explain what you do and why it’s exciting,” she explained. “You should also emphasize how your work benefits society. That is important to millennials and to women entering the workforce.”
Companies also should think not just about today or tomorrow but further into the future – this means when hiring, don’t hire just for the skill sets needed today but also the skill sets needed in the future. “The argument is that there are things you can measure at the outset that can help you create a more prepared workforce,” Dr Spitzmueller said. Traditional human resource (HR) organizations and operations groups within companies need to work hand in hand so that operations can effectively describe to HR how digital technologies will change work flows today and in the future, Mr Newhouse said.
During the hiring process, rather than simply checking boxes on workers’ experience and knowledge, companies should test potential employees’ digital competencies, including their conceptual understanding of digital technology in oil and gas, such as the implications of automation, the internet of things and data analytics. Companies also need to measure the ability of job applicants to understand and articulate information needs, as well as search and filter data, information and digital content.
Drilling companies also need to identify potential employees’ desire to learn and their ability to learn quickly, so they can evolve along with drilling technologies and the market, Dr Spitzmueller said. To accomplish this task, she recommended using a personality measurement framework called the Big Five Personality Test, which measures traits such as openness to new experiences, conscientiousness, extraversion and agreeableness. The test can show which workers are more likely to thrive in training, which are less likely to violate rules and get hurt or killed on the job, which employees work better in teams and which employees are emotionally stable. DC