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Human Resources: Availability, Productivity, Health and COVID-19

By Cas Biekmann | Wed, 10/28/2020 - 15:42

You can watch the video of this panel discussion here:

Human resources are the backbone of successful oil and gas operations. This was the main topic of Mexico Oil & Gas Summit 2020’s third panel of the day, moderated by Guido Van der Zwet, General Manager - Commerce at iPS - Powerful People.

The first question dealt with how the economic impact of the pandemic has reshaped the labor market in Mexico’s oil and gas industry. Panelist Zayra León, Talent Acquisition Manager for Latin America at Halliburton, noted that organizations only have a very restricted room to maneuver due to the downturn. “Massive lay-offs in the industry are challenging our reputation as a reliable employer,” she said. Attracting new talent was not a new priority because of the state the sector is in but it is nonetheless a priority for the future.

Socorro Aldape, HR Manager of Golfo Suplemento Latino, noted that many jobs were left on standby or scrapped as a result of the pandemic. Nevertheless, the pandemic has also reshaped the way the sector works. “Changes that we thought would not happen in decades, such as working from home, occurred quiet rapidly,” she said.  

The second question dealt with how employment in the oil and gas industry would shift in the periods to come. Aldape expects recovery in the sector will happen next year, as this year will there will be no major changes. “Depending on the evolution of COVID-19, recovery could start by mid to late 2021,” she said. León agreed, but warned that some jobs might not come back at all and that recovery could be slower as a result. Jenni Lewis, Managing Director at RelyOn Nutec, concurred. “We will see a slow ramp in mid to late 2021 and a more rapid growth curve in 2022.”

The following question dealt with gaps in talent and how to fill them. According to León, having skills and experience are the main requirements. One major opportunity to improve is to address diversity within the workforce. Aldape mentioned that adaptability of the workforce was essential, based on knowledge management, ethics and attachment to the company. These three competences would need to be addressed adequately among employees in the new normality.

Aldape also said processes within companies need to be adapted. People need to learn how to work alone, while simultaneously staying connected through various tools. Lewis noted that this adaptation process might be difficult, especially for older generations that did not grow up in the world of internet. Nonetheless, there are clear benefits in how efficiency can be enhanced. “What we see is a lot of efficiencies that can be created in the back-end of the operation. Using Zoom instead of flying or driving around saves a lot of time. A lot of these efficiencies are here to stay,” she said.

Talent in Mexico might be widely available but the industry has nonetheless voiced its concerns regarding employees. Van der Zwet identified language as a commonly heard issue. “There is still some work to be done in this area,” he said. León, however, argued that an increasing number of professionals in the sector were already bilingual, so the issue was more about refining language skills rather than starting from scratch. All panelists agreed that Mexico had a wide pool of talent available. To further develop this pool, cooperation between IOCs and the government was desired, noted Lewis. Keeping the pool healthy and happy is yet another constant hurdle the sector needs to overcome. “Many of the qualified people have some health problems due to the heavy work they do. Maybe there should be more processes and checkpoints to diminish this,” Aldape said.

To conclude, León expressed that oil and gas companies should engage local talent early on. Nevertheless, to really make the sector appealing, companies would need to plan for the long term and learn how to boost worker satisfaction, said Lewis. “We have to make oil and gas sexy again. The sector has seen a lot of turmoil. The frequent layoff and rehire cycles make it less attractive.” Aldape agreed, adding that rather than only focusing on experienced staff, the sector needs to find and keep young professionals on board to stay healthy.

Cas Biekmann Cas Biekmann Journalist and Industry Analyst