Tisha’s Insights

Is your workforce Real Decarbonization ® ready?

February 22, 2023 Tisha Schuller & Anna Kieffer
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Scaling and accelerating Real Decarbonization ® will require our industry’s leadership, period. To industry skeptics, I say: What’s your scalable alternative that repurposes as much of our energy infrastructure as possible?

That’s why I so enjoyed a recent report on oil and gas net-zero initiatives by the National Petroleum Council, which has got me thinking about our industry’s next Real Decarbonization ® moves. I serve on the council, an advisory board to the U.S. secretary of energy, and the report was requested by Secretary Jennifer Granholm. (Skeptics, please take note.)

The report explores in granular detail the oil-and-gas-adjacent energy resources by means of which a successful transition will thrive, including renewable fuels, hydrogen, geothermal, and sequestration. It’s worth a full read—it outlines the actions necessary for achieving a net-zero economy, including policy changes, investments, and private industry–government collaboration.

These necessary changes all depend on one important element: a skilled, adaptable, and innovative workforce capable of meeting the requirements of the energy transition.

So are you prioritizing getting your workforce ready as part of your Real Decarbonization ® strategy?

The report states, “An evolving workforce with a wide range of capabilities will continue to be needed to discover, develop, and deploy energy solutions to meet society’s needs while reducing emissions.” Our workforce has a unique and crucial role to play in this large-scale transition. Your company’s readiness to seize the opportunities ahead depends on your workforce’s readiness to meet this challenge.

Both of these things are true:

  • The oil and gas industry’s existing skills, resources, and knowledge are relevant to decarbonization scaling and acceleration.
  • The energy transition requires our workforce to think and act in innovative ways.

The situation

In a world where the only constant is change, you already know that employee development is central for companies to evolve and adapt. In my new book, Real Decarbonization ®, I lay out many of the company culture traits and personnel skills that you will want to cultivate as you develop your 10-year Real Decarbonization ® strategy. Today we further explore one piece: explicitly engaging your workforce.

As Forbes has reported, a Robert Half study found that 35 percent of American workers would decline a job offer they considered to be otherwise perfect if the company culture clashed with their values, and companies that value their employees’ development through strong organizational cultures have an astounding 72 percent higher employee engagement ratings. Furthermore, workplace culture matters significantly more among younger adults in the United States, and we can expect that trend to increase.

Right now it’s easy to get sucked into the investments, technology development, and project trajectories that decarbonization requires. I encourage you to also think explicitly about how you will engage your employees for their buy-in and—more importantly—their contributions, both today and tomorrow. Here are the primary ways in which your workforce matters for a Real Decarbonization ® plan:

  • Your workforce is the strategy. Ultimately, it is our people who drive results. In Real Decarbonization ® work, companies are simultaneously executing on their base business and selectively investing in their decarbonization strategies. Your employees must buy in to your doing both.
  • Who will adapt? At the core of every internal change: employees who identify the need, propose the shift, process the change, and adapt to it. Fostering a culture of adaptation will require explicit attention and occasional training.
  • Employee buy-in precedes community buy-in. Building participation externally in your Real Decarbonization ® activities first requires that your ambassadors be fully engaged. Your employees are community members, consumers, and voters who can relay your plans with a great deal of credibility.

Seize the day

Here are four ways you can create a workplace that’s ready to meet the energy transition:

  • Attend to company culture. As I cover in my book, the stresses of Real Decarbonization ® execution exacerbate any existing company culture shortfalls. From an employee-centric vantage point, assess where today’s culture and values do not serve the adaptive needs of your workforce.
  • Curate skills for tomorrow. Oil and gas companies have excelled at the engineering, science, and financial skill sets that will serve many of the oil-and-gas-adjacent decarbonization solutions. Yet we all know there will be novel requirements, created by public pressure, policy jujitsu, and the need for new business models. Are you building resiliency into your training, incentives, and review process?
  • Embrace the tension. There’s not much to love in the way oil and gas companies are treated in the public conversations about the energy future. Your employees are going to want to both vent about what you’re doing and understand why you’re doing it. Some will think you’re moving recklessly; others will be certain that your efforts are insufficient. The resulting tensions can create great stress tests for your ideas—and build a curious, lifelong-learning culture.
  • Fuel and optimize your employees’ passions. Including your workforce in your energy transition plans will help many feel confident that they are part of building the energy future (and not working for a Muppets caricature of the oil and gas villain). I’ve heard again and again that employees’ passion and enthusiasm for this work are energizing and contagious.

Looking for assistance in balancing the many priorities of your Real Decarbonization ® strategy? Adamantine can help! Ask us about our availability to take on new clients. Thank you to Anna Kieffer for her support in bringing this Both True to you.

Ready, set, lead!



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Both of These Things Are True

By Tisha Schuller