Who are the Faces of Energy?
Who would know…we’ve never been allowed to show them.
The only time the industry is ever in the media spotlight is when disasters occur. No wonder the public has such a bad view of us. But why should all the passionate workers be tarred with the same brush as the operating company executives who historically have maintained a cloak and dagger facade of the workplace? A workplace that’s home for half the year, year after year, of fathers, sons, husbands, wives, mothers, sisters and brothers...real people, with real families, working in close-knit teams all around the world.
For too long the oil and gas industry has hidden behind a cloak of secrecy that only acts to perpetuate the dark public image it’s historically had.
What the industry fails to do
is highlight the individual people who make this industry what it is today…a high-tech, fast-paced, innovative and exciting place to work.
Using the power of social media to improve the public’s perception of the oil and gas industry
Allow photos in the workplace?? Let the outside world in on what it is we actually do on an offshore oil rig?? Surely not! Some companies even have strict terms in their employee contracts that state they are NOT allowed to take photos in the workplace. What sort of companies are so restrictive that they prohibit workers from showing pride in the work that they do and wanting to share it with family and friends?
When LinkedIn started with videos, Jeff Weiner (LinkedIn CEO) started a challenge for LinkedIn employees to post a video of themselves. He knew that bringing a personal face to the company would make the public feel like they could trust the online platform with their business. I loved it. It showed people who look just like you and me, ordinary people, showing pride in their workplace and the platform through which they are helping to link people’s professional networks. And the best part was that they were all showcasing something about their personal lives, not what they do at work. It was a chance to show the world their interests and passions outside of work; traits and interests that exhibited their core values.
Even the Prime Minister of Australia is now posting selfies on social media, for the same reason the O&G industry should be doing it... to show the human side of his “industry”. We can’t underestimate the effect happy faces can have on public opinion.
We need to start finding ways to embrace the power of social media instead of fearing it. It’s here to stay and like every other industry we need to embrace it for the powerful medium it is.
How refreshing would it be if our industry gave us that opportunity? The opportunity to share a selfie on the helideck of the facility we work on, or any other intrinsically safe location of a facility, with no fear of repercussions.
Why can’t serious work also be fun?
While preparing to depart an offshore rig for shore leave one day, I joined some of the people I had been working closely with on the project for a photo under the helideck. Most were local Myanmarese nationals and they were childishly excited about having their photo taken with the Australian wellsite geologist.
But it was more than that. I was also proud to be a part of their photo…a photo that summed up the shared knowledge, experience and passion that a diverse workforce brings to a project. It’s a photo that makes me smile every time I look at it because I remember the dedication and respect these people brought to the job I worked on. They were fun to work with. They taught me a lot about the Myanmarese culture and landscape. You don’t get that working in an office in a city. That’s what I love about working in this industry.
The excitement and pride these “locals” felt by taking this photo was priceless. Why should we be made to feel guilty about doing this?
Obviously some rules need to be followed. No filming of market-sensitive operations is a no-brainer, but why can’t workplaces have dedicated “photo friendly” locations where photos are permitted. But don’t make all the places boring. I challenge companies to come up with novel ideas for allowing their workers to show their pride in their workplace and be allowed to share it through social media outlets.
Don’t just say “NO”. This has been the directive for too long because it’s the easy way out. It’s time to show the human side of our industry. Show the incredible diversity of the workforce. No other workplace has such cultural diversity (unfortunately not gender yet) as offshore oil and gas facilities. Show the comraderie. Show off the beauty of the environment in which we work...sunsets and sunrises along ocean horizons and onshore plains.
If you are a big company, have a dedicated social media person who can organise responsible dissemination of appropriate work-related photos and videos. Encourage the workforce to show the personal, and the professional, side of the job they do.
Run competitions for the best entries in topics of the month...safety related, career related, following procedures, best sunsets/sunrises, etc.
Like all innovative suggestions, there will always be people who will only see the downside of such an initiative. Try to think outside the box and brainstorm creative ways to make it work for your company and workplace.
The upside is:
- Workers having a fun few seconds in their otherwise busy and often physically demanding job. This ultimately leads to a more cohesive workforce through strengthening of morale. Countless studies have shown how exceptional worker morale underpins the safety culture in any workplace.
- Getting the message out that the O & G industry is about people, not just ugly steel structures and stock market prices.
- The world seeing the human side of an industry that has traditionally been a closed door to the public. Being able to share their work life with family and friends makes the work-home gap seem less extreme than what it otherwise would be.
The objective is to show the world this industry can, and should be, all about the people who work in it. The industry has forced its workers to be mute for too long and it’s time to change that.
It’s time to show the world the
“Faces of Energy”
Amanda Barlow is a wellsite geologist in the oil and gas industry and also a published author of "Offshore Oil and Gas PEOPLE - Overview of Offshore Drilling Operations"and “An Inconvenient Life – My Unconventional Career as a Wellsite Geologist”. You can connect with Amanda through the Pink Petro community and LinkedIn: https://au.linkedin.com/in/amanda-barlow-wsg.