Consultant Insight: Terry Noble

31 October 2016

Oil and Gas: Adapting to change

The oil and gas industry has had a turbulent two years. For a commodity industry reliant on a balance of supply and demand, falling oil prices have put unprecedented pressure on bottom lines and led to swift job losses.  Even the drop in the value of the pound has done little to help UK oil producers in the face of an oil price which at one point had more than halved within a twelve-month period.

After such a long period of uncertainty, some executives are now looking further afield. Some are transitioning to interim work and diversifying into other industries – something all employers will need to adapt to, if skills are to remain in the oil industry in the future.

Rising role of the interim

With large scale cuts across the oil industry and investments and opportunities thin on the ground, few companies are hiring. Some Senior Executives, having initiated job cuts at the start of the downturn are now concerned about the future security of their own position. This is leading to a number different strategies, of which two – to stay and adapt, or shift into a related field – are proving the most common.

Alongside a transition of senior executives into interim management, the role of interims within the industry is becoming increasingly important. The oil and gas industry is gradually realising that interims can be a valuable investment, which can safeguard a company’s future in uncertain times.

By using interims, firms can maintain flexibility within their leadership structure and bring an ability to manage transformation and scaling up which will be necessary as the industry recovers. In terms of streamlining operations and minimising costs, hiring an interim can be an efficient way to maximise resource at the right moment. Oil and Gas rarely has a steady project stream, with fluctuating resource capacity and projects. Hiring an interim can bring effective savings in return and can provide advice about how to sustain the business in the current tough environment. Restructuring, although synonymous with job cuts in the oil industry also brings more available interim positions and flexible work opportunities.

Hunting for opportunities

A second important trend is also emerging, as an increasing number of oil and gas executives transition to similar positions within the manufacturing, rail, nuclear, energy, aviation and even automotive industries. Across a wide range of functions, incorporating HR and finance, this transition appears a natural fit with the skills needed to succeed in the demanding oil and gas industry.

Candidates moving across from the oil and gas industry are highly-valued within their new industries and clients appreciate they are hiring high-calibre employees with transferable skills. The oil and gas industry is incredibly well-respected and the often multi-functional leadership skills developed from managing multiple projects easily transfer.

Bringing talent back

Longer-term, within the oil industry, what do these new trends mean? Movements into interim management are providing an alternative – and keeping skills within tangible reach for the industry’s recovery. Although adapting to the different skillset required to succeed as an interim may come more naturally to some than others.

Cross-sector moves however, do provide new opportunities for those feeling the strain, providing reassurance that skills and experience are just as valuable within more generally, secure heavy industries, but also risk removing skills permanently from the oil sphere.

Once senior executives gain experience of working within a different environment it may be difficult to tempt them back into oil, particularly back to the unpredictable nature of employment.

But there could also be a mutually beneficial exchange of skills between related industries. Those who have worked in different areas will undoubtedly bring valuable expertise and be able to initiate change within the energy sector – so harnessing and tempting back top people will prove the next challenge. But we’ll cross that bridge when we get to it.

Terry Noble, Head of Oil and Gas at Odgers Interim


Categories: Energy, Manufacturing & Infrastructure

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