Hiring the next generation of hourly oil and gas talent

Source:Jean Martin and Mark Strong, CEB

Nearly everyone is aware that surging North American production coupled with a wave of retirements is causing an unprecedented shortage of talent across oil and gas companies. Increased production in North America is expected to create 500,000 to 1 million new energy-related jobs in the next 10 years. Yet, with an improving economy and rebounding 401k accounts, hourly employees of retirement-age are more confident about retiring than they were a few years ago. These employees have been operating and repairing equipment and machinery for decades, and will take their institutional knowledge with them when they go.

CEB has analyzed operations and maintenance jobs in the world’s leading oil and gas companies and finds that to replace experienced, successful workers, companies must find candidates with a set of fundamental skills and abilities:

• Dependability and reliability
• Safety orientation
• Teamwork orientation
• Learning ability
• Troubleshooting and problem solving
• Mechanical aptitude

Online, pre-employment assessments allow companies to identify candidates with these characteristics during the application stage with greater accuracy than a resume or interview will elicit. As oil and gas companies compete for talent, using assessments can help them broaden their talent pool, reduce safety concerns and hire the right people.

Reach into unconventional areas for talent
Hiring a refinery operator from a competitor or an instrument technician from a contractor is fairly easy, and most of these individuals already have the necessary skills. However, when bringing in candidates from unconventional sources, companies must determine if they have the fundamental skills and abilities suited for these roles. For instance, a hospital lab technician follows procedures, is dependable and may have experience with shift work. Online assessments can test for the compatible characteristics before a recruiter reviews a resume or schedules an interview. Once those characteristics are assured, companies need to design compelling employment offers for non-traditional talent pools. Without that, it will be harder to pull top talent from other industries.

Emphasize safety
The drive to fill vacancies quickly can put people’s lives and businesses at risk. The energy industry has some of the most extensive safety training in the world, but the best companies start focusing on safety at the hiring stage. Our research shows that a small group of high-risk employees account for a large share of accidents and injuries, even after undergoing safety training.

An oil and gas services company we work with implemented a safety assessment in their hiring process and realized a 28 percent reduction in at-fault accidents and incidents after screening out candidates with the lowest safety orientation scores. In addition to improvements in employee safety and well-being, the cost savings associated with accident reduction was over five times the cost of implementing assessments as part of the hiring process. Also, as safe individuals tend to be more dependable, the company found that the rate of failures in their drug screens and background checks was reduced as well.

Selectively hire the right people
Hiring mistakes happen – such as those who do not show up to work after their first paycheck, tend to cause conflicts with others in the workplace, or simply cannot learn the procedures and requirements of the role. These hires greatly affect productivity and usually have short tenure.

By using online assessments, individuals’ suitability for roles can be measured and determined – these types of hires can be screened out of the interview process, allowing recruiters and hiring managers to focus their time and effort on the candidates most likely to be successful. In fact, organizations that use assessments early in the hiring process see a 30 percent reduction in unqualified candidates in the interview, an 89 percent reduction in overall time in the selection process and a 55 percent reduction in cost per applicant.

With a growing need for new oil and gas talent, almost all companies will feel pressure to hire new employees as rapidly as possible. Although it seems counter-intuitive to utilize assessments to screen out candidates during a talent shortage, valid and appropriate selection assessments can speed the hiring process by focusing time and effort on only qualified candidates, rather than wasting time on those who have little chance to be successful.  

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