Talking ‘bout my generationTo which generation do you belong? It’s likely that a majority of readers of this column will be Baby Boomers (born between 1946 and 1964), along with a smaller portion of Gen X-ers (born between 1965 and 1980). The two groups have their differences but, broadly, as a member of either denomination you’ll be experienced, long-term members of the oil and gas industry, reasonably advanced in your careers and you’ll have had a long slog to get where you are today, having worked up the ranks, seen off decades of boom and bust and paid your dues.
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The group I want to focus on today is very different. I’m talking about Millennials (a group that has previously been referred to as Gen Y). Millennials (born between 1980 and 2000) are the future of the oil and gas pipeline industry and represent quite a challenge for it, being widely touted as the ‘selfie’ generation (and I’m not just talking about the propensity to take smart-phone photos of themselves).
At the Pipeline Technology Conference (ptc) in Berlin last month, one of the running themes was how best to retain knowledge within your company and, in a wider sense, how best to retain and record accumulated knowledge within the pipeline industry. This is especially important given the ‘the great crew change’ that looms: that’s you Boomers – you’re off to enjoy retirement soon and the rest of us need to learn to cope without you.
So, in the interest of future staffing and recruitment challenges, we should give some thought to the characteristics of this new generation and, crucially, what they are looking for when it comes to employment. How can we make young professionals excited about the pipeline industry? How can we inspire them to work in this sector and take on the huge challenges it holds for the next 50 years?
Conventional wisdom has it that Millennials are about ‘hearts and minds’ rather than ‘salaries or perks’: as a group looking for employment they value experiences and opportunities for advancement over the traditional lure of cold hard cash and benefits (although I’m sure renumeration is somewhat important too). Experts agree that Millennials care about the ‘why’ of a job: they want to know why they are doing their job, who benefits from it and where they fit in the bigger picture. They want to be valued and trusted and, importantly, they expect to be included in decisions. They want opportunities for movement within a company. They need to feel a part of the bigger machine in order to stay interested. Millennials have grown up with technology at their fingertips; they likely were educated within a much more fair and caring school system where the winning team wasn’t the only team to get medals; they are also more likely to have grown up in single parent families where family decisions were discussed and decided as a committee; and they have been exposed to the most far reaching, 24 hour global news coverage ever experienced.
So what does this mean for recruiters in the pipeline industry?
There’s a perception amongst Millennials that the oil and gas sector is not a desirable place to work: the old story rears its head – we’re polluting, old fashioned, a relic in a world that should be moving towards other forms of energy. We need to re-evaluate what compels recruits: the shale gas boom in the US has attracted a slew of young entrepreneurs with its frontier appeal, because shale is particularly suited to tech-savvy generation Y-ers, who want to be at the forefront of an exciting new industry. Why not make the pipeline industry a similar draw? Reframe the industry, set challenges, make it exciting: encourage mentoring, job swaps and opportunities for young employees to prove themselves.
I’d also urge employers to consider the new realities of: dual career couples and what this means for travel demands and relocation requests; the retention of female staff; and the importance of creating and maintaining a company brand. I’d welcome your thoughts at firstname.lastname@example.org