March 2017


Viewpoint: Three ways to protect the future of your workforce

With job cuts numbering in the hundreds of thousands, the oil and gas industry has been hard-hit by the massive drop in prices. While no immediate end to the crisis is in sight, there are signs that prices—and hiring—may pick up again later this year.

Sathe, S., RiseSmart

With job cuts numbering in the hundreds of thousands, the oil and gas industry has been hard-hit by the massive drop in prices. While no immediate end to the crisis is in sight, there are signs that prices—and hiring—may pick up again later this year.

While we cannot predict the future, we can prepare for it. From the Great Crew Change to future fluctuations in oil prices, we are seeing a need for discovering and retaining new talent, transferring knowledge from veteran workers to up-and-comers, and fortifying employer brands in light of restructuring and layoffs.

As such, exploring different ways organizations in the oil and gas industry can safeguard their workforces and organizations against disruption in times of transition is imperative.

Knowledge transfer

The Great Crew Change will indelibly redefine the demographics of the workforce; however, that should not mean that the retirement of one employee hamstrings the continued growth in workforce expertise. Two ways to encourage knowledge transfer are through cross-functional job shadowing and leave coverage.

When employees are offered the opportunity to shadow those in jobs they find interesting, they are encouraged to explore vocational skills and roles beyond their current responsibilities. By facilitating job shadowing, older and/or more-experienced employees are allowed to breathe new life into their roles, as they take on the challenge of mentorship. Retention, engagement and/or productivity may increase as a result. In addition, you empower your younger and/or less-experienced employees are empowered to be curious about—and pursue—career growth within the organization.

Job shadowing may accumulate some resources in the short-term, as employees leave one role for another, albeit for a short period of time. However, the long-term knowledge transfer can be invaluable.

Creating a culture of mentorship also helps protect against future fluctuations within the workforce. Proactively encouraging employees to learn and grow engages them in their jobs and prevents events like the Great Crew Change from creating “brain drain” in the future.

In addition to job shadowing, introducing “leave coverage” should be considered. Rather than hiring a contract worker, try offering the opportunity to an internal employee or group of employees who have indicated interest in the role. Although this also will require covering those jobs, the professional development needs of several existing employees can be met.

This proactively fortifies an employee’s workplace experience and vocational knowledge, preparing them to take on new roles, expand their skill sets and grow within the organization.

Adjacent careers and redeployment

Job shadowing and leave coverage protects short-term knowledge-transfer, but long-term knowledge transfer, engagement and retention can be bolstered, as well, by introducing adjacent careers into employment options. Adjacent careers are beneficial for employees who have been performing one job for a long time, as they may feel like that job is the only thing they are capable of doing, which limits mobility and workforce flexibility.

Considering adjacent careers allows employees to achieve mobility within the organization, even as they continue in their current roles. Through coaching, informational presentations or even career assessments, work with employees to identify the various responsibilities they are capable of with their existing skills.

Adjacent careers and long-term skills building can actually help prepare the workforce for restructuring. Rather than laying employees off outright, an outplacement provider can be utilized to establish a “redeployment” program, allowing employees to prepare their resumes and discover networking opportunities for open jobs in other areas of the organization.

Redeployment is beneficial because it reduces the potential cost- and time-per-hire, and ensures that top talent—who already understand company culture and values—find their way back into the talent pool and get back to work quickly.


The loss of hundreds of thousands of jobs in the oil and gas industry over the last 18 months has been devastating, both for the employees whose jobs were cut, and the organizations that will need their talent again once hiring picks up. Fortunately, outplacement is an option for protecting the future of a workforce.

Primarily, outplacement helps employees land new jobs quickly once they have been laid off; the coaching and resume help can be invaluable to skilled workers who do not have experience creating and selling a compelling personal brand.

Assisting employees to acquire new jobs helps an organization preserve the brand by reducing the negative sentiment employees may feel upon being laid off. Retention and productivity are improved by showing the remaining workers that the company has an interest in taking care of their former coworkers (and by extension, themselves), and creates opportunities for rehiring when economic and business circumstances change.

Proactively investing in an outplacement program can help employees continue their careers, thereby keeping skilled workers in the industry. Outplacement also helps them pivot to new careers that capitalize on transferrable skills, which can help employees land quickly and without too much interruption in their earning power, thereby bolstering the economy.

Whatever the choice to support employees during these times of transition, options do exist. A proactive approach and a healthy mix of short-term and long-term skills transfer and outplacement support can go a long way toward ensuring an organization’s workforce success, even in the toughest of economic times. HP

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