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Bridging the Oil & Gas Industry Age Gap Using Social Media – Part I

This post is the first of a three-part series that deals with how the oil & gas industry can use social media to connect with and recruit younger workers.

The oil & gas industry is facing a crisis. It doesn’t have enough skilled workers to fill the void left by those who are retiring. Nor does it have enough new workers to meet the growing demand.

Industry pundits point to the oil bust of the 1980s as a root cause. The collapse in oil prices forced many companies to freeze hiring while others resorted to layoffs, leaving baby boomers as the last generation to be hired and move up the management ladder.

This age gap issue, which the industry refers to as the “big crew change,” isn’t simply a matter of a lowered census count. The lack of experienced works could lead to a financial crisis. PetroSkills Alliance, an organization focused on meeting this challenge through skills development, said that even a 20% reduction in E&P could cost the industry approximately $35 billion.

Of even greater consequence, hiring inexperienced and untested employees presents a safety hazard.

For example, when the Deepwater Horizon rig exploded in April 2010, none of the engineering team had been on the job for more than six months.

Using Social Media as a Means to Recruit New Talent

As the industry finds younger workers to replace those who are retiring, one way to recruit them is to use a medium they are intrinsically familiar with: social media.

In order to make effective use of tools such as Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and others, we first need to understand the target audience, which is comprised of people born between 1980 and 2000, and who are referred to as “Gen Y” or “Millennials.”

It’s imperative that the oil and gas industry begin to interact with this group, some of whom are still in high school and could be influenced to pursue engineering or other oil & gas industry-related jobs as a career path.

Those who are in college or entering the workforce may find the oilfield has laid out the welcome mat in an economy that has closed its doors to many opportunities. The oil & gas industry must capture the hearts and minds of this generation if it has hopes of halting the steady workforce decline.

Understanding the Millennial Mindset

Before that can happen, the industry needs to understand the Millennial mindset, which is characterized in the following ways:

They are active social media users.
Somewhere between 77 and 83% of online adults in this age range use social network sites on a regular basis.

They like to collaborate.
Millennials are known for their interest in interaction, collaboration, and connectivity.

They are multi-taskers.
Millennials can manage several projects simultaneously and can easily shift from one task to the next.

They create and innovate.
“Millennials are not locked into limited, linear patterns of thinking about industry issues or challenges,” said Amy Lynch, co-author of The M-Factor: How the Millennial Generation is Rocking the Workplace.

They seek perks beyond pay.
Millennials have a tendency to choose meaning and personal passions over money when making career choices.

They are not afraid to make a change.

Dan Schawbel, managing partner of Millennial Branding, notes that his company’s studies show Millennials leave their corporations at the two-year mark. While some may see them as disloyal, others see them as comfortable with challenge and transition – a characteristic that rapidly growing industries in transition, like oil and gas, should find appealing.

Companies vying for Millennial candidates need to offer higher salaries than competing industries, but just as important are the non-monetary perks. These younger workers are as concerned with “culture” and work-life balance, so they want to know more than what their roles and responsibilities would be; they want a very clear picture of what life is like at the company.

Social media is a brush companies can use to paint such a picture.

To learn more about how social media can help close the age gap, download our white paper, The Big Crew Change: Using Social Media to Find and Retain New Talent (PDF).

Image Source: Flickr Creative Commons

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