By Velda Addison, Hart Energy

As the oil and gas downturn continues to snatch up jobs, some would think that employees’ views of the traditionally cyclical industry would be tarnished.

But a survey released by oil and gas recruitment specialist Petroplan shows that the workforce’s loyalty to the sector remains somewhat intact. Findings from the U.K. firm’s first Talent Insight Index, which surveyed more than 1,500 oil and gas professionals, show that more than 60% said they were actively committed to the oil and gas sector.

However, don’t expect employees who have been let go to stay loyal to companies that showed them the door.

The Petroplan survey showed that 88% of the respondents were looking for new opportunities, and 56% of those not proactivity seeking a new position said they would consider changing jobs, according to a news release about the survey results.

“There are some oil and gas companies that have not shown loyalty to their people, viewing them as just part of a process. Offers are made. Offers are rescinded. So it’s no surprise then that some employees are out for themselves,” Jon France, regional manager for Petroplan EMENA, said in the report. “There is a potential to shift this culture but only if it comes from the top. Leaders need to want to change the reputation of the oil industry. This will become increasingly important to attract younger talent into the sector.”

Given the ebbs and flows of energy demand, fluctuating production influenced by technology and geopolitical tensions—among a host of other reasons—it is not unreasonable to expect oil and gas companies’ needs and thus, workforce levels, to vary.

But having a sound talent management strategy should be an important part of every company’s strategy in good times and bad—in line with pleasing shareholders and growing production. A strong and knowledgeable workforce is the most valuable commodity.

“The results of the Talent Insight Index show that there needs to be a major shift in employer attitudes to retention and talent management,” Petroplan CEO Andrew Speers said in the release. “Although we have a committed workforce, people are weary of the ups and downs of the sector. Companies have to balance the risks and rewards of job cuts with retaining key people and skills shortages.”

Findings also revealed:

  • 28% are likely to leave the oil, gas and energy industry to work in another field;
  • 59% will invest in other industry training;
  • 63% agree there are skills shortages and
  • 34% rated training as the most important benefit for candidates in the oil and gas sector.

Good news is that the survey also showed there are signs of progress:

  • 40% of respondents believe decision-making in their organizations has improved;
  • 56% believe the industry is cyclical and will inevitably recover;
  • 83% believe oil and gas workers are respected professionals and
  • 61% would recommend a career in the industry to a friend.

Employers should keep the results of this survey in mind. The insight could come in handy when formulating talent management game plans.

“While it might seem like a strange time to talk about loyalty and talent retention, we must,” Speers said. “The industry has to take a longer-term view to investing in, retaining and developing its people. It’s the only way that we can slow down the rollercoaster of boom and bust.”

Petroplan’s recommendations for employers include:

  • Make recruitment part of a developed talent management strategy;
  • Focus on employee and contractor retention and development and
  • Create loyalty from current employees, including by investing in career development to drive engagement and productivity.

Those who don’t take the necessary steps could find themselves losing out to the competition in more ways than one.

Velda Addison can be reached at