Developing talent in Oil & Gas | WMG
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News, Sep 30, 2019

Developing talent in Oil & Gas

Several of the best-attended panels at the SPE Offshore Europe 2019 conference took time to address and explore the future of the oil and gas sector and the changes that can be expected.

Since the conference finished, I’ve been thinking a lot about one of the questions posed that concerned: “what our industry needs to do to attract and retain talent”. As one of many business leaders working across specialist recruitment in the oil and gas sector, this is an area I want to contribute to as well as learn from.


The starting point is always going to be technology. Whether you’ve embraced it quickly or slowly, technology is already having a transformative effect on the way businesses operate in the oil and gas sector, and there is no question that this disruption and evolution will extend to staffing and personnel too.

In this respect, Next Generation is a term that can be applied just as easily to people as to technology. Because whilst the needs and capabilities of technology are moving quickly, so are the needs and technologies of the new generation of students, graduates and work-entrants into the oil and gas market. And in our industry, the combination of people and technology is becoming impossible to ignore and even more essential to understand.


As with technology and people, there is also growing combinations of experience shaping employment and skills in the workplace today. More and more, we see cases where a young person is actually mentoring a more senior colleague due to the rapid development of technology, which can alter the balance of how we think of experience and skills in the workplace.

The presentation by Ryan Fernando and Gareth MacQueen expanded on this idea at SPE in one of the most memorable sessions. The speakers conducted a great amount of research and prepared their presentation in a very interactive and creative way. But what surprised me is that despite the advance of technological integration and the demand for talent with technological skills, the oil and gas industry is actually struggling to attract the younger generation.

Onboarding Talent

Even in more traditional settings where families or relatives have been working in the energy sector, young people are not attracted to the industry and efforts aren’t being made to engage with pupils and students enough. So, our job as businesses, employers and leaders in the oil and gas space is to make the opportunities well known.

This underlines the importance of the initiative I have written about previously to allocate funds for students from Kazakhstan to to study at Aberdeen University, deepening the relationship not only with the two countries, but with the student body itself.

Developing Talent

But as a company, WMG can do more too. A huge part of my business is dealing with employees in energy sector, construction and infrastructure, which all require young people and new capabilities. I need to explore new ways to develop outreach, coaching and skills development in my business supplying workforce to companies. This will lead to greater capability in the workforce WMG can provide, as well as contributing to how employees are engaged and appreciated. We need to take care of our people, we need to provide a better engagement between the young and the older generations. As one student put it at SPE, “We bring innovation, but they have the knowledge.”

Part of developing talent is being flexible too. The younger generation wants to be multi-skilled, and expects to work smarter rather than harder. We need to get this balance right if we are going to attract the top talent. In her panel, Helen Williams said how important it is to be competitive for companies in terms of recruitment. People applying for jobs are sometimes hiding that they have children, private life and hobbies which shouldn’t be necessary. Her company Equinor is changing that now by offering flexible working for employees to spend time with their children and families, go for sport or even just meet up with friends.


Flexibility, skills and balance also contributes to the culture of a company. In her panel at SPE, Sue MacDonald defined culture as “how you feel when you come to work every day.” And culture comes from the top: it all depends on the leader. More and more, talented people will leave businesses because they feel underestimated and disrespected, not because they go for more money or even more responsibility. Culture is about managing and fulfilling expectations, around matters like flexibility, or mission and social conscious, and even giving employees the space to explore these ideas within an organisation.

The industry is developing quickly, and listening to the needs of new talent is the most critical step in not falling behind.