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Both True — One Eye Part 6: Retaining Our Millennials

April 30, 2020

Before our pandemic world, millennials faced extraordinary peer pressure to leave the oil and gas industry, even in oil and gas safe havens like Alberta and Houston. If we don’t collectively mobilize to retain and ultimately rehire our millennial work force, reinventing the energy future will be extremely difficult — or damn near impossible.

Both of these things are true:

  • Today’s peak-pandemic challenges require all of our energy, wit, and capacity.
  • Keeping one eye on the future requires harnessing the innovative capacity of our millennial workforce — which incidentally requires that they are retained and engaged.

The situation:

Response, recovery, and rebuilding our post-pandemic communities is providing oil and gas companies across North America a singular opportunity: to transcend historic polarized paradigms though civic leadership. Our millennial workforce is our secret weapon. Here’s what we need to be thinking about:

  • Compared to other career opportunities, oil and gas before the pandemic did not appear stable, innovative, or environmentally responsible to many millennials. On the whole, millennials already working in oil and gas were under extraordinary peer pressure to find another career path.
  • Millennials have suffered the most layoffs of any generation in our current pandemic. As of March 30 (ancient history at this point), 31% of millennials had lost their job. We don’t yet have oil and gas workforce data by generation, but you just have to monitor your LinkedIn feed to see that this component of our work force is being hard hit.
  • Millennials are the most significant generation to our sector in raw numbers, economic impact, and political potential. So our future relationship with the public will be shaped by how millennials feel about the oil and gas industry.
  • Understanding our industry’s millennial stakeholders requires that we ourselves have a robust millennial work force with whom to plan our next chapter.
  • To join the public and our stakeholders in reinventing the post-pandemic energy future, we need our millennials to inform our thinking, creativity, and impact — essentially our entire strategy.
  • We need to do more than retain our millennial workforce we must empower them to participate in the creation of every aspect of our post-pandemic strategy, at every level of our organizations.

The critical mistakes not to make:

  • Stay stuck in the same pattern. In a crisis, we naturally turn to those we trust. However, there will be nothing status quo about our post-pandemic energy world. Relying on the usual tight circle of the same old people to get through this will not, well, get us through this.
  • Take our millennial workforce for granted. Across the workforce, mobility may be down and appreciation for our jobs up — but that does not mean we shouldn’t invest in caring for each generation of our workforce.
  • Expect employees to take the lead or manage up. Employees at every level are fighting each day to maintain their own momentum, focus, and clarity right now; many are doing this while working remotely and homeschooling small children. It is every boss’s responsibility to show care and concern for their team members. It is each leader’s opportunity to invite millennials into crafting the business strategy of response, recovery, and rebuilding.

Seize the day: Successful millennial workforce engagement begins now.

  • Show empathy. We really can’t overcommunicate with team members, especially to check in on how individuals are doing with the uncertainty, stress, and novel demands of this time. Take the time to imagine how your millennials colleagues are managing, and then ask them how you can support their success.
  • Keep in touch. If we have lost, say, one-third of our millennial oil and gas workforce (which I don’t think is an exaggeration), we are going to want them back. We will need our millennial workforce at all levels of management and leadership. Stay in touch and provide networking support during what is otherwise a lonely, devastating, and uncertain time. And remember, it’s just as likely that you will be asking them for a job next.
  • Invite your best and brightest into the inner circle. As we start crafting our response, recovery, and rebuild strategies, expand the diversity of your strategy team. Our old way of thinking will take us nowhere. To invent a novel future, bring in new faces. And then listen.

Millennials — what did I get right? Wrong? I want to know and I’ll share in these weekly posts!

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