Recruitment and retention in the upstream

Working Smart’s Deidre O’Donnell leads recruitment debate with surprising conclusions.

In the SMi panel session on E&P recruitment and retention, Deidre O’Donnell revealed that head hunters Working Smart received 300 applicants for a single junior geoscience position with a major—100 from MSc-level applicants. The problem facing the oil industry is not so much entry level personnel but the fact that over half of 1st year graduate employees in oil and gas leave to join other industries. For those that stay, a ‘mercenary’ approach and an awareness of self worth is observed. This is particularly acute in the circa 15 year ‘mid life crisis’ leavers!


Serge Brun (Schlumberger) suggested that companies and employees have to remember that ‘there is life outside of management.’ Schlumberger’s problem is the 5 year syndrome—as people are poached by clients after phase one training! Session chair Najib Abusalbi suggested that this could be considered an honor—‘a reflection on the quality of our training.’ In fact Schlumberger operates an ‘open door’ policy for such employees wishing to return to the fold.

5-15 years

O’Donnell stated that five to fifteen years experience is the ‘most sought after demographic.’ Companies should ‘look after them. They are the ones that are most likely to leave!’ The question of family life and mobility was raised. Thierry Gregorius noted that oil and gas required people to move about to get on. Brun concurred— ‘Oils will always require people to move, to work in harsh environments. You need to be even more cautious in recruitment.’


Addressing the thorny question of cycles and letting people go during industry downturns, Brun stated that Schlumberger has learned how hard it is to pick people up after even a short downturn. ‘It will not happen again.’ Gregorius agreed, ‘Shell has learned from its mistakes and is now one of the biggest recruiters.’

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