By Frank Wantland

In July 2011, Schlumberger Business Consulting published the results of their annual Benchmark survey of Petrotechnical Professionals (PTPs), in E&P. The two major conclusions reached in the article are that “technical talent plays a strategically important role in the oil and gas business” and “that a large demographical shift will materially reduce the number of petrotechnical professionals.” The demographics they point to includes not just a reduction in the overall numbers in the talent pool, but also the reduction especially in the number of high quality professionals. The projected numbers are of critical importance, of course; but even more important is the emphasis on technical talent as a strategic issue in the oil and gas business. What I hope this means is that human resource planning becomes more than a commodity-based numbers game and moves into the arena of planning that includes decision-making from out-of-the-box thinking, new ideas and multiple scenario foresight. How does a company shift from a buyer’s market mentality to a seller’s market mentality? How does it identify and retain the top technical talent they have? In short, how does it learn to compete for people?

I suggest that the winners will be those companies that already embrace a learning-based culture that is committed to developing the maximum potential of every employee. They will be the ones who think in terms of whole people. They consistently discover who they employ, not just what they employ. They seek to discover and act on what defines their people, what they value, what drives them, and what alternative futures they envision. The people this kind of culture attracts are the people who have the ability to adapt to change, and move with the company. They are the ones willing to exchange commitment and talent for challenge and development, not just remuneration for services rendered. Top talent gravitates toward like individuals. The competition is to create or build on a core of talented people who become hubs in their network and magnets to attract other professionals.

The winners will be those companies willing to invest in training that is developmental and cultural as well as technical. “We went looking for workers and people came instead.” That is a statement from the earliest students of organizational behavior. Some old things bear repeating.

As organizations seek to retain and recruit top talent in a shrinking talent pool, the professionals need to prepare themselves to compete for the very best positions. They, too, need to know who they are, what core values they share, what drives them, how to gain access to everything, and how to anticipate their future. I think that engaging professionals in conversations about these topics will not only provide insight to undiscovered talent but will be the framework for regaining the most valuable human asset, mutual trust.

Frank Wantland, PhD