(This post originally appeared on the LinkedIn Oil & Energy Channel January 2015 just as crude was sliding.)
Well, that time has come...(again?) Prices have plunged and consumers are happy with gas prices. Truck sales are soaring, traders are stockpiling for the run-up and the economy in America is booming. The recent supply glut has created a future we've predicted over and over in the past, my friends.
I urge us all to think long term and how this recent more frequent volatility in the markets can inspire change. While many of you are cutting back, perhaps now is the time to double-down on three important investments: education and advocacy, talent, and culture.
1. Education and Advocacy.
Consumers take oil and gas for granted. The only piece of data they have is price. For years our world has relied on oil and gas and other sources of fuel to power our lives. With the explosion of social media and an interconnected global economy, is now the time to double down your investments to educate, advocate and connect the dots for those in the dark?
- Should we open doors with mainstream and social media and share what we know without the fear of being shut down or criticized?
- Should we teach consumers about supply and demand?
- Should we educate people about how our products have brought other innovations to our world: iPhones and medical devices?
- Should we talk with consumers and our kids about what a sustainable future looks like and work with governments and other entities to build the infrastructure to support it knowing it will take time, real investments, and focus?
- Should we discuss very openly the risks of a hazardous business and the exhaustive measures that we do put on safety, environment and operational excellence?
2. Talent Acquisition, Retention and Development
Before this dip in price, we were struggling to fill technical roles. We've been starving for talent since the 1980s when industry stopped hiring due to the big bust. With an experienced workforce retiring for the past few years, this downturn will only accelerate those retirements, putting many younger less experienced talent in shoes that may be tough to fill. Ask yourselves:
- How are you strategically assessing your talent pipeline? Are you applying a diversity lens to assure you have the right balance?
- Are there people that can be retooled to take on other roles to broaden experience?
- If you must cut, can you get creative on outplacement and keep talent inside industry?
- Has your knowledge transition plan between senior staff and the up-and-comers been executed sufficiently?
- Are you empowering Generation X (children during the 1980s bust) with the rights tools and culture they need to lead us into the next frontier?
- Are you continuing to invest in the partnerships with schools and academia to keep those linkages relevant?
3. Continuous Improvement Systems and Culture
Technology has changed our world and our industry. Every business and industry can improve, not just ours. Applied in the right way, technology can drive efficiency into operations, help assess risk, make better decisions and drive more bottom line value.
- How are you harnessing technology to connect your investors, suppliers, partners, customers, and employees?
- What measures are you putting in place to perform better?
- What kind of culture are you creating to get different results?
The time for our industry is now.
- We need to share what we know. We need to speak up loud and proud about the work we do and how vitally important it is to the world.
- We need to educate consumers about supply and demand fundamentals and teach about the innovation and goods we enable.
- We need to remind consumers that we are consumers too, and that we care about people, quality of life and our planet.
- We need to think longer term about our talent pipeline by continuing to invest in our people, the communities in which we operate, and the academic institutions that feed us great talent.
This industry is undervalued, misunderstood, yet full of challenges and opportunities. Let's go share it with those who need to be a part of it.
Katie Mehnert is CEO of Pink Petro, the first global social channel for women in energy and their advocates. Katie is a talent development and change consultant, author, and speaker in the energy sector. She helps leaders and companies get curious so they can connect, grow, and perform better.
This post originally appeared in LinkedIn Pulse on the Oil & Energy Channel in January 2015.