The world has passed through an unprecedented challenging time as a result of Covid-19. It had a negative impact on most of the industrial sectors, particularly the oil and gas sector. This pushed many companies to rethink about how to improve their performance to keep their long-term sustainability as well as manage their workforce. The Human Resources (HR) department is the key player in this regard.
Accordingly, HR mangers changed their mindset towards the workers and the conventional ways of working to cope with the new situation. This came by adopting the concept of working remotely (at least for the workers who are able to do so). Such a concept includes retaining highly skilled operations and maintenance workers on-site, attracting top talent and reducing costs. Working remotely seems to be easy, but needs flexibility and facilities from HR departments.
Working from Distance: The New Normal
Avoiding the spread of the pandemic, many companies in the oil and gas sector, shifted their work to be online. According to an article entitled “HR Managers Rethink Their Role During the Coronavirus Pandemic”, face-to-face collaboration is replaced with e-mails as well as video and audio conferences. File sharing applications are used more broadly. The article stated that some companies had sent laptops to their new employees’ homes. HR departments offered flexibility regarding the implementation of tasks through providing different working hours. The focus becomes to accomplish the target whenever and however the employees wish.
Additionally, HR mangers are trying to keep their personnel productive, motivated, engaged and connected. This could happen by inducing the mangers to organize daily touch point meetings, virtual coffee breaks and more frequent meetings. Under the leadership of the technology departments, many companies worked quickly to develop solutions and buy equipment to facilitate remote working. Also, some companies allowed their mangers to create their own schedules that become suitable for new virtual work situations.
In the oil and gas sector, many oil companies adopted new technologies to facilitate working from distance, not only for the safety issue, but also to reducing costs at the time of the oil prices drop that resulted from the lockdowns. An article, published on Wall Street Journal, entitled “Drillers Go Remote as Pandemic Reshapes Oil Business” mentioned that the three major oil-filed service providers have been adopted new technologies enabled on-site drilling, inspection, maintenance and fracking operations to be implemented remotely; these companies include Baker Hughes, Schlumberger and Halliburton,.
The Black Point
Every new emerging concept should accompany its challenges that need to be observed and overcome. The new normal is not achieved without some obstacles. An article entitled “HR to Play a Bigger Role During and After Covid-19” declared that employees adapted to work for longer hours. Data was released stating that there was a significant drop in absenteeism during the crisis. Moreover, despite the fact that employees showcased agility and resilience to adapt this new way of working, this may be brought upon only from fear of losing their jobs during a difficult time; especially since employees may not have the necessary skills to successfully work remotely for a long time.
Relying mainly on the internet is considered another key challenge for working remotely. This is because some energy companies have inadequate technology infrastructure in addition to the lack of organizational efficiency. Also, many remote areas may face certain limitations such as insufficient internet bandwidth. For oil and gas industry, many executives and analysts said that the shift to work remotely will urge the workers to adapt to new technologies. This, in turn, will push companies to focus more on hiring data-analytics specialists and subject-matter experts to remotely support multiple operations. This means that some traditional roles will gradually disappear until they eventually become redundant.
After the experience of remote working, HR should modify multiple factors such as: recruitment policies, rewards and recognitions practices, and engagement initiatives. This can be done by keeping the workforce updated and enhancing their capabilities to work remotely. They have to provide learning and development programs to make employees ready for the future. The Hire Hive blog suggested that talent acquisition is a new critical role for HR departments. Companies may need new talents that they wouldn’t have hired before to cope with the new normal.
Additionally, recruitment might be done online as well. Hiring could be done through virtual interviews rather face-to-face. Paperwork can be prepared with e-signatures. What’s more, HR mangers should develop new legal compliances according to the current situation such as paid time off, sick leave, and family leave. They, also, need to make sure that the remote working policies are consistent with the local labor requirements.
The Next of the New Normal
Mckinsey suggested that companies need to find ways to make the new roles permanent solutions. Mckinsey described five critical qualities for business leaders in this regard: resolve, resilience, return, reimagination and reform. Mckinsey explained that energy companies have to reimagine their operating models across four dimensions; structure people, processes and technology to come back stronger than before.
As per the Structure, companies have to asses if the project operation needs could be shifted online or if it should return to the previous operation model. As for the People aspect, team leaders determine what is more efficient for their teams (i.e. whether to work remotely or work conventionally onsite). Regarding the Process, companies should assess which established processes have reduced the risk of misalignments, increased operations transparency and improved productivity. As for Technology, companies have to arrange the priorities in providing and modernizing the needed technologies.
At the end, we conclude that the challenge situation of covid-19 may lead to a total transition of how work is being implemented thanks to new technologies which is emerged quickly in response to the crisis. It also proved that changing mindsets of working environment and collaboration could transform the loses to profits.