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Editor's note: This column appears in the new E&P newsletter. Subscribe to the newsletter here.

The energy technology and services sector has a history of leading transformative innovations that scale to meet the world's energy needs. From the hydraulic fracturing revolution to the new frontiers emerging from our development of digital applications, the impact these advances have on global energy has required and continues to require a workforce transformation. Our companies are recalibrating recruitment and retention efforts to upskill current employees and attract the next generation of talent.

The need for upskilling isn’t new. I’m not implying that we’re going to stop the presses with that headline. Like so many other things, the pandemic put upskilling back on the front burner. Do you remember when work from home started over a year ago and we asked how work will continue? Not only did it continue, we became so productive that we are now trying to figure out how to balance productivity to not burn out our workforce. 

In an Accenture report on the future of learning, they found that the U.S. could lose as much as $975 billion between 2018 and 2028 in cumulative growth if upskilling doesn’t catch up to the rate of change spurred by technology and other forces. At the organizational level, Accenture's research fielded during the pandemic showed that digitally fluent companies that have workforces with strong digital skills are over five times more likely than peers to project high-revenue growth for the upcoming three years. And at the individual level, the research found that technical skills are the currency for individual future opportunity and are needed to make significant jumps in economic mobility.

Even with budgets constrained by effects of the pandemic, energy companies are finding value when they prioritize developing and upgrading worker skills. These investments are critical to emerging from the crisis, prepared for a more prosperous future. The pandemic accelerated existing trends and timelines as service companies strived for greater efficiency to survive a time of reduced revenue, and employers are pushing to align workers with the pace of change. 

Retraining the existing workforce contributes to reinforcing positive corporate cultures. The current workforce may be retrained to meet the needs of other business units with less downtime. Retrained employees require less time and supervision because they don’t need retraining related to common company processes. Investing in the existing workforce also pays off by making employees feel valued and showing potential recruits the company appreciates the value individuals bring to the organization.

According to PwC surveys of more than 32,000 individuals, 77% of workers are ready to learn new skills or completely retrain. The pandemic showed that people could transition quickly to remote work while keeping productivity high—40% said they did it by learning new digital skills. While PwC’s research shows that 80% of employees are confident they can adapt to new technologies entering their workplace, 60% are concerned about job security. Programs designed to constantly refresh employee skills can pay off handsomely in morale, retention and productivity. 

Our companies need to begin by creating an environment where people want to learn and grow, and that takes intentional leadership to change any aspect of culture. Leadership, from the C-suite to frontline managers, will need to motivate their teams to choose to adapt and adopt a mindset of continuous learning. Employees will need training, coaching and mentorship to provide the necessary skill set and the internal networking for career growth. There are also opportunities to send employees for additional education outside the organization. This should all come together in one comprehensive package that feels thoughtfully designed with the employee’s growth in mind.

There is no single answer to our staffing challenges, but the combined commitment of our companies to develop our employees is the right thing to do. We employ more than 600,000 hardworking men and women, and the business case is clear that reskilling ensures they can perform the roles most necessary for the success of the individual and for the company. Demonstrating leadership by investing in our workforce makes our sector and our industry a place where everyone will want to work.


Profile: Women in Energy: Leslie Beyer, Energy Workforce & Technology Council

Analysis: The Future of Work in Oil, Gas and Chemicals