A New Contract Between Management and the Petrotechnical Professional
- Henry Edmundson (R9 Energy Consultants) | David Bamford (Premier Oil)
- Document ID
- Society of Petroleum Engineers
- Journal of Petroleum Technology
- Publication Date
- July 2014
- Document Type
- Journal Paper
- 86 - 89
- 2014. Copyright is retained by the author. This document is distributed by SPE with the permission of the author. Contact the author for permission to use material from this document.
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Talent & Technology
The continued search for oil and gas relies in equal measure on good management and superior petrotechnical expertise. The key is ensuring that the two worlds mesh smoothly and create a working environment that motivates both parties to succeed. This is less obviously achieved than might be thought for a number of factors.
First is the scarcity of top-quality petrotechnical professionals (Fig. 1). This used to be blamed on the famous “crew change,” which described the paucity of recruits during the oil price crash of the 1980s. But things have now changed. The past few years have seen abundant recruiting by both operators and the service industry, and the crew change problem has morphed into the challenge of accelerating the development of thousands of young professionals to fill the still prevalent mid-career gap. The result is an industry obsessed with accelerating employee development.
Second is the market force generated by the continued lack of midcareer petrotechnical professionals. These lucky individuals command a price in excess of their equivalent managers, and so even do the young aspirants joining their ranks. With the oil price robust around USD 100/bbl and global upstream activity buoyant, there remains an extraordinary lack of competent geoscientists, drilling engineers, and petroleum engineers. And they know it. Never has it been so easy to jump ship, hoping for a better future.
Third is the meeting point between management and the petrotechnical expert. Both obviously aspire to business success, but beneath broad corporate goals lurk important differences. In companies of any reasonable size, managements must ensure that their machine to find and extract oil and gas is properly assembled, well lubricated, and working to maximum efficiency. Standards and discipline are important; within well-defined limits, employees are expected to conform.The technical expert, however, marches to a different tune, motivated by quite different criteria. When it comes to creativity and improving technical knowledge, petrotechnical professionals prefer less rather than more management, or even no management. The ideal state is being self-directed; satisfaction comes from solving tough technical problems. When it comes to their career, peer recognition and involvement is as important as management input. In short and at risk of working an analogy beyond breaking point, the square peg that is the technical expert may not always fit the round holes of the smooth-running business machine. How to manage this less-than-exact fit requires some unusual strategies.
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