Energizing Oil and Gas Workforce At Time of Little To No Growth

06.25.2021 | Opinion Piece | Doug Schlegel

Energizing The Oil and Gas Workforce


As the industry and country, really, emerge from the challenges of the last 18 months, we are seeing strong indications that the E&P Industry will continue to operate within cash flow for the foreseeable future despite a recent increase in consolidations. As seen in the graphic below, reduced reinvestment has contributed to a significant drop in growth. The reinvestment rate of under 100% demonstrates that capital investment remains below cash flow from operations. Operators are instead paying down debt and/or distributing excess cash to shareholders as dividends or buybacks. This has and will continue to translate not into growth, but into strategies and actions such as swapping assets rather than adding acreage, conservative drilling programs and continued focus on running existing operations as efficiently as possible.

For an industry with a history of emphasizing, reinforcing, and valuing growth, this feels different and can negatively impact a workforce’s level of engagement. Growth, and the work to make it happen is an attractive elixir and for many, it can be more attractive than running and maintaining existing operations and coloring within those lines. This change in emphasis, particularly if it is relatively new for your organization, can impact how people feel about their work, the company and even their profession. The result can be reduced engagement, which we know impacts results and innovation, and increased attrition as people choose to search for new opportunities (the proverbial ‘greener grass’), go back to school, change industries, or relocate.

So what can an organization do? The actions that come to mind are to proactively ‘re-recruit’ your people both individually and organizationally and to re-align your Human Capital systems. Four interconnected areas of opportunity along these lines are offered below:


Shorten the Line of Sight

The people you want to work with are those who want to work for a successful organization, and they really want to see how ‘what they do’ impacts the business. Imagine the potential value of a two-way conversation between leader and employee that starts with this statement – “Let’s talk about how what you do in your role helps the business …………”  The directions this can go are many, so it’s important that the leader does some thinking in advance – what questions may arise, how well do I know what the person does and the business’s objectives for my team, how does this individual’s role impact key performance metrics like safety or cash flow. Carnrite’s Map to Value and Real Time LOE tools can help your organization make these connections.

Involve People in the Goal Setting

Involving people in the goal setting process will result in their having a better understanding of the business and its objectives and give increased clarity on how their work impacts the business, which will naturally grow peoples’ interest in being able to make an impact. Empowering people through more involvement with setting goals can be done in different ways. Examples include: 1) early and deep communication of the company’s strategy and goals, as well as the underlying thought process of “why that strategy” and “why those goals”; 2) explicit and visible linkage (think of the links of a chain) of goals as they cascade from Company to the department to an individual; and 3) gathering input from all leadership layers, and possibly staff, before finalizing company-level strategies and goals.

Stay Current

The last 18 months have had a lasting impact on more than growth. The workplace, workforce and work itself have seen irrevocable change, and if one word can sum up what organizations need to prioritize in response, I would choose ‘Flexibility’. Remaining competitive in the market for top talent requires that businesses stay contemporary and adjust to what the workforce is saying …. and to know what the workforce is saying, you need to ask them. Carnrite’s work on Culture has found that businesses often don’t really know what people think about working there or how to adjust based on the business strategy and what is being said – and this risks being able to achieve business results.

Align your Human Capital systems

The above actions have proven potential to impact employee engagement. To sustain a successful ‘re-recruiting’ effort, adjustments to key business processes which are impactful to your people – performance and reward, development, resourcing, workplace flexibility – will be required. If you have not reviewed them in the last year or more, now is a great time to take a fresh look at the purpose, outcomes and approach to executing these systems to ensure they are fully aligned to a fundamentally different business and evolving employee expectations. Reward systems provide one example – reframe the results and behavior that are valued in the new business environment (what does good look like), and ensure these expectations are fully integrated into company, group and individual goals, and that compensation systems incentivize people accordingly.


These actions allow a business to adjust to its current and anticipated reality. While all staff may not warm to working in a low to no growth environment, taking these steps visibly, transparently and with ample communication will allow your workforce to see the business as responsive and understanding of their interests. At the end of the day, good employees want interesting work, the opportunity to contribute, responsive leadership and a contemporary workplace. With these actions, employee engagement will improve, and business performance will follow.

Carnrite has been active in helping management teams realign their business and people strategies to this different and evolving operating environment. Contact us if you would like to explore whether it may be timely to take a pulse check on alignment and engagement within your organization.


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