As business cycles back up, we will be presented with different talent management challenges than ever experienced in the past.

Making it through one of the worst recessions in decades was no ride in the park for any industry. In particular, the upstream segment of the energy industry has had its share of layoffs and downsizing. Cuts in late 2008 in anticipation of the downturn and expectations for slow first and second quarters, followed by an even slower 2nd quarter in 2009, left the remaining management with a challenge of how to run their businesses efficiently and effectively with fewer people.

The energy industry is a cyclical business. Historically, we know this. There is a lot of speculation about where exactly we are in this downturn. Many experts claim that the end of tough financial times is in sight, and others say that while the worst is over, we may dip again before we trend back up. As business cycles back up, we will be presented with different talent management challenges than ever experienced in the past.

Adversity begets opportunity. While the downturn was not invited, it has created an opportunity for companies to reposition and develop better, more efficient teams, coming back stronger than ever. As companies regroup to take advantage of market trends and to gain on their competition, they are also looking to conserve precious resources, making the need for the “right” hires more crucial than ever. The past year’s changes in organizations have been significant, and the trend we have seen is that companies hiring right now, or planning for the future, have spent their time thinking through their organizational strategy and changing their tack slightly.

  • Companies are hiring and actively looking for talent right now but with different criteria:
  • They are not hiring back in the same numbers or types of positions they eliminated;
  • They are expecting fewer people to take on more work, preferably looking for “A” players who are both multi-tasking and multi-skilled; and
  • In many positions, some not historically commercial, they are looking for rainmakers who can bring and close new business. For example: engineers who also sell. Just as 2009 needed a different approach, 2010 will require a distinctly different hiring strategy and likely thoughtful assistance from outside resources.

Considering the changes currently taking place within organizations, you may want to ask yourself:

  • How has your business strategy changed permanently based on what you’ve learned during the last year?
  • What new or hybrid positions have been created that you will need to fill?
  • In what ways have you become more selective about your hiring needs?
  • How long will it take to find/replace great players for difficult-to-fill positions that were eliminated?
  • What are the most critical talent needs for your company as the market trends upwards? In what order and how quickly will you need to fill these positions?

So what can you do?

Start planning early. Anticipate future hiring needs. Give careful thought to the objectives and critical measurements of success.

Consider your sources for talent. If you are really looking for the RIGHT MATCH, not every position can be filled internally. Have a clear-cut process for evaluating internal talent and be ready to look outside. For outside talent, the recent influx of candidates in the market has actually made the hiring challenge more difficult as there are far more resumes to process.

Include proper vetting. Whether your recruiting is done internally or with an outside third party, ensure candidates are checked out thoroughly. With such increased competition among candidates, resume fraud is on the rise.

According to CBS News correspondent Kelly Wallace, three out of 10 people lie on their resumes. And even in the relatively good economic climate of 2004, a survey of human-resource professionals cited that 61% said they "often" or "sometimes" find resume inaccuracies when vetting prospective hires, according to the Society for Human Resource Management. In the current economy with an increasingly competitive applicant pool and unemployment at 10%, more job seekers are becoming desperate enough to stretch the truth. This trend drives home the point that companies must have a strategic and thorough hiring process in place, which can often be accomplished by retaining an outside perspective through recruiting firms.

Take the time to screen properly. It’s less expensive and more advisable to do the homework on the right candidate the first time rather than realize after the fact that the quick or easy choice was the wrong one. It takes time and deliberation to get it right, but it pays off.

Consider a creative and sticky compensation package. More and more positions will include incentive-based compensation, distinct deliverables, and measurable results.

Don’t forget the “soft” skills! Culture, personality fit, drive and desire are as important to finding your “rock star” as the tangible “hard” skills of experience, education, and job history.

Don’t wait until the last minute. Finding the RIGHT people takes time and resources. It requires careful thought regarding the need at hand and carefully identifying the vital characteristics. Then it requires careful sourcing and screening. Don’t assume that the talent is waiting outside your door or necessarily waiting at all. Your next talent may need to be discovered.

Article By Marie Guillot, ABACO International
Originally Published Nov 13, 2009 for E&P Online

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