May 2014

Training and development: A must-have for candidates, employers

Companies across the upstream sector are revisiting how they train and develop their employees for technical and leadership roles, investing more time and capital than ever in these efforts.

Melanie Cruthirds / World Oil



Julie DeWane 


With more than 20 years of experience in the industrial arena, from aviation and transportation to oil and gas, Julie DeWane knows what it is like to journey from team member to team leader. In her current role as V.P. and global supply chain leader for GE’s Measurement & Control division, DeWane oversees production operations for thousands of GE employees, across a dozen countries. To effectively retain and develop the highest level of talent within such a large organization, she said Leadership Development Programs are an important part of the leadership pipeline. Through continued investment by companies, the programs offer “structured, rotational assignments, which provide focused learning and development opportunities for top talent across the industry.”

To stay ahead of the curve, DeWane noted that it is not simply the programs that matter, but the topics they cover. Employees are given the opportunity to work on technologies from rapidly evolving spaces, such as subsea and Additive Manufacturing/3D printing, and encouraged to participate while developing those ways of thinking.

And, while hands-on training is a mission-critical aspect of maintaining and growing a top-tier workforce, continuing the knowledge transfer from seasoned professionals to newcomers is also an important factor. DeWane said that “one of the simplest ways to accomplish this is to create knowledge sharing opportunities by pairing experienced team members with newer members, and having them work jointly on projects.”

As GE is a technology-driven company, after all, she said the firm also has built internal information systems, which “gather the rich, engineering ‘tribal’ knowledge, so that it can be accessed and made available to the broader population.” The company also has an “inventory” of expertise at the ready, as well as a suite of digital tools that can capture and catalogue information, making it searchable by technologists across the company.

“Think of it as an internal GE version of one of those Internet businesses designed to be a clearinghouse of B2B expertise,” said DeWane. “For example, ‘I need a materials coating expert … who should I call?’”

Looking ahead, and outside of GE to the broader industry, DeWane noted that, in her view, the generation entering the workforce today puts a higher value on having the opportunity to work on “cool stuff,” as well as to help solve big issues.

“It’s not that money doesn’t matter—or that the money isn’t there for them,” she said. “Rather, it’s just that making a difference on the cutting edge is more important. So, we need to provide those opportunities.”

Aside from big-picture factors, like a sense of fulfillment and impact while on the job, DeWane highlighted other important, more practical issues facing today’s employees: flexible work schedules and the ability to work remotely. In addition to providing those options to employees, she said GE also offers job-enriching opportunities, like “bubble assignments,” which provide individuals “with a short-term assignment outside the scope of their job.” This capability, especially for a company of GE’s size, with such diversity, can make a great difference, as the experience that employees gain is quite unique.



Paola Mazzoleni


For Paola Mazzoleni, Tenaris’ HR director for the U.S., in her line of work, energy comes not only from the company’s customers, but also from the city in which they are located (Houston) and the newest batch of professionals entering the workforce. In her opinion, “new hires that are full of energy and [have] a positive approach to problem-solving are the most attractive.” At the center of the North American energy industry, Houston is experiencing a positive period with a booming job market.

“As a general tendency, industrial and service companies working in the oil field increasingly seek two distinct types of profiles. On the one hand, we are looking for people with a specific area of expertise, a highly technical background,” said Mazzoleni. “On the other, we are looking to identify the next generation of leaders, people with charisma and the stamina to take on challenges and solve problems by applying creativity.”

The amount of activity in Houston is important to Tenaris, Mazzoleni said, but the internationally diverse nature of its workforce also stands out. She said the company aims to create strong roots in each of its local markets, and has recently signed an agreement with Texas A&M University’s Engineering Experiment Station (TEES) to “establish a framework for increasing collaboration between the researchers and engineers associated with the two entities.” Through the summer internship program, sophomores and juniors have the opportunity to visit one of the company’s mills in Argentina, Brazil, Mexico or Romania. Over an eight-week experience, students will earn course credit, she said, and the company is selecting its first group of 10 to 15 students for the debut program this summer.

Whether it is a new-to-the-industry candidate, or a seasoned professional, Mazzoleni said her company views people as its greatest competitive advantage. For Tenaris, bridging the generational gap “involves finding people with different perceptions and ways to tackle problems.” One way that the firm aims to find such impactful people is through trade shows throughout the region, to introduce individuals and communities to their businesses. In fact, in Blytheville, Ark., home to the company’s Hickman welded pipes mill, she said Tenaris created an afterschool program for elementary school children. In addition to this initiative, Mazzoleni said the company also supports technical high schools around the world, and looks to “enhance the level of curricula on both elementary and secondary levels.” Online, the company uses social media outlets, including Twitter, LinkedIn and, most recently, OilPro, to engage candidates and communities.

Within the company, Mazzoleni said Tenaris provides training and development through its Global Trainee Program, which is a “two-year training plan for entry-level employees, that includes a month-long induction course at our mill in Campana, Argentina, alongside their peers from around the world.” By building this network of young professionals early-on, they benefit throughout their careers, having had the chance to interact with Tenaris leaders, and take on significant responsibility. Today, she said, 70% of the company’s senior managers began their careers in the program.

Another avenue used for training and development, she said, is TenarisUniversity, which strategically integrates, aligns and disseminates knowledge and expertise uniformly across the company. Mazzoleni said the initiative is responsible for “developing and delivering corporate training, [and] has designed job-specific Curricula and Development Plans for Tenaris’s salaried and hourly employees, respectively.” TenarisUniversity now has four campuses at mills in Argentina, Brazil, Italy and Mexico, with six schools dedicated to different career paths within the company. Mazzoleni said, each year, more than 1.2 million training hours are delivered throughout Tenaris.

She also noted that, in 2013, the company announced a strategic collaboration with a not-for-profit online learning initiative, edX, founded by Harvard and MIT, to expand training and education for almost 27,000 of the company’s employees around the world. “Through this collaboration, edX will provide training and consulting for online course development for TenarisUniversity,” Mazzoleni said.

Through recruitment and training, to climbing the professional ladder, Mazzoleni shared one overarching thought: “At the end of the day, professionals want to know they are valuable members of their respective teams, that their contribution is valued and recognized; this goes beyond a question of economic compensation.” She said, at Tenaris, identifying growth opportunities based on merit, and granting employees challenging responsibilities early in their careers, are all part of the equation.



Pennelope Ratcliffe


 Through five major learning centers, supported by a network of other facilities across multiple continents, Schlumberger delivers more than 500,000 training days per year. A key constituent population are the more than 5,000 trainees, who, with multiple touch-points, make their way from new hire through on-boarding, and into deeper technical and field training. Pennelope Ratcliffe, the company’s training manager, oversees all of this activity, including the Schlumberger-wide shift from traditional training “just in case,” to more innovative training-on-demand methods, giving employees the skills they need, when they need them.

In fact, as Ratcliffe spoke to World Oil, the company was putting on a webinar training session, covering the human factors in deepwater operations. More than just a few PowerPoint slides in a classroom, the session was attended by employees from the Gulf of Mexico and offshore Angola, to land-based outposts around the world. Now, personnel do not need to come into the office, and can receive the timely instruction in an active work environment.

Where people are learning is not the only component to change, Ratcliffe said. “The way that information is presented is also evolving. Instead of instructor-led instruction by slides, [training is] now employee-led or participant-led; people are encouraged to discover for themselves, and spend much more time on practical skills,” she said. “Our population is very receptive to that. Not only is it a more effective way of learning, but they want to be finding out things at their own pace in a manner they would every day.”

With training and development methods that are adaptable and responsive to the pace of the industry, it is natural that Schlumberger seeks the same qualities in its new hires. No new employee, from within the company or without, is fully formed, said Ratcliffe. “It’s less about the skills that they bring, and more about their attitude and ability to learn and apply. What we do is so specialized, and that’s only increasing with the complexity of what we do, and the way the industry is evolving,” she continued.

When a company is looking to recruit top talent, however, the coin has two sides. Ratcliffe explained the value proposition that has become so important in today’s hiring market, where companies must sell themselves to candidates, as much as candidates must sell themselves to prospective employers, like Schlumberger. “You need to demonstrate what you are going to provide for them as a career. That’s the first thing they are looking for, whether they are new graduates, or experienced professionals already in the industry,” said Ratcliffe. “By-and-large, the vast majority of people are looking for a career, and an environment where they are encouraged to continually develop new skills.”

And, these days, the hiring pool is very keen, and candidates can spot disconnects in company messaging very quickly. Ratcliffe said that, if a company states values, whether it is that they offer advancement based on merit or that they value diversity, then it has to be backed up with reality. The same idea applies to training methods, too, where flashy facades and seemingly cool effects are not enough to mask tools that could be performing better.

“You can pour millions of dollars into a simulator that can drill a well with very high fidelity, and simulate all sorts of things, but if that actually doesn’t result in people learning correctly, then you have wasted a lot of money,” said Ratcliffe.

At Schlumberger, on-demand training and smarter simulation strategies are likely to be followed by what Ratcliffe called “one of the most exciting things out there”: online training, especially massive online open courses (MOOCs). Through these types of classes, which can range from bite-sized to large-scale, hundreds of people can participate from as many locations.

After the initial training, retention becomes the most important part of the full hiring process, Ratcliffe noted. One of the key factors in retention is keeping people engaged, motivated and seeing the impact of their work. Providing practical training, rather than more esoteric or just-in-case training, can help keep attrition rates low, especially in such a competitive environment.

“It really comes down to expectations and delivering on what you promise. An important component is enabling people to manage their careers and to achieve or exceed their ambitions; not only when they join the company, but as those ambitions change over time,” said Ratcliffe.



Denise McAnulty


As COO for the EMEA region and the U.S. for global specialist recruitment business Hydrogen Group, Denise McAnulty, like anyone in the upstream oil and gas industry, is still seeing the effects of the 2010 Deepwater Horizon incident on today’s market. From where she stands, it is people, not necessarily price-per-barrel, that are seeing the greatest changes.

With a more stringent, timely regulatory structure in place, the U.S., while home to a healthy economy and job market, is a fast-paced place to find employment or recruit talent. There are plenty of HSE personnel, but an under-supply of professionals with the right niche skills.

“It’s really critical for us, when we are actually sourcing people, that we are sourcing people who are up-to-date with the latest professional certifications, because they are evolving and changing so quickly,” said McAnulty of what she called the biggest change in HSE recruitment.

Although the training and professional accreditation requirements for health and safety personnel are constantly receiving updates, the amount of experience that candidates have is not. McAnulty said one of the biggest challenges in hiring today is the fact that professionals with 10-plus years of experience are few and far between. That is where global talent mobility comes in, she said, as companies and recruiters are able to draw and relocate individuals from various offshore rigs and onshore projects elsewhere.

When considering a possible move, across the country or across the world, each candidate is different, said McAnulty. In today’s candidate-driven market, she said, the two biggest components of successful relocation efforts are the type of organization, and the attractiveness of the employment package offered.

“It’s difficult, because it depends on the individual. Most people are driven by development and the specific project that they could be working on,” said McAnulty of relocation. Many candidates in such a competitive market look at factors including company type (operator or service provider, etc.), share options and potential sign-on bonuses. Family circumstances and the livability of a new city or country also come into play, she said.

Thousands of drilling projects are now underway around the world, and that makes it difficult to “pinpoint a specific project that’s driving talent mobility,” said McAnulty. Regardless of location, though, the fact remains that health and safety are increasingly important to any organization active in the oil and gas supply chain.

“Companies realize how important health-and-safety is, especially over the last three or four years, and, because of that, there has been more investment in training,” she said. “We see a lot of candidates or employees having quite robust training.”

Even considering the HSE regulatory environment, rising compensation rates and under-supply of qualified candidates, McAnulty noted that the biggest factor, over the next few years in recruitment, will be the pace of technological advancement in oil and gas extraction. With improvements in E&P equipment and methodology come “a whole new set of skillset challenges, and people needing to up-skill and be aware of some of these technical changes.” wo-box_blue.gif

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Melanie Cruthirds
World Oil
Melanie Cruthirds
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