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Digital technologies demand—and enable—a fundamentally different, digital workforce. They also drive democratized, customized and seamless work experiences.
Rapidly advancing digital technologies are accelerating the use of both brawn and brain. As oil and gas companies continue to digitize work and start to compete more on data management and analytic proficiency, it will transform the nature of the industry’s work and workforce. The convergence of data, machines and people—and analytics powered in part by the emergence of the cloud—will enable smarter decision making by people on the edges of the organization. Digital literacy skills are becoming increasingly important, including analytic capabilities, development of new software and intelligent hardware, and the ability to effectively use new tools such as live collaboration technologies.
This point of view argues that, to effectively compete in the future, oil and gas companies will need to fully transform themselves into digital businesses that increasingly compete on talent. This requires them to not only radically extend both brain and brawn through new digital work practices but, just as importantly, create a very different digital workforce and completely rethink the work experience.
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Researchers at Oxford University believe that 47 percent of jobs across industries could be automated over the next two decades. Remote sensors and drones, for example, are rapidly helping replace the need for people to physically monitor equipment. Autonomous robotic drilling, for example, is now able to completely remove people from the drill floor, while robotic moving platforms are now being developed for shale wells, and remote controlled trucks are getting ready to transport oil or gas. Some companies are even monitoring subsea conditions using wave gliders, which are unmanned marine vehicles that can travel across the oceans collecting data for up to a year without fuel or crew.
Remote sensors and drones are improving safety and increasing the frequency of information about assets; analytics performed on this data can then help increase the productivity of assets through predictive maintenance. According to one benchmark study, oil and gas companies need to hire 11,900 new data analysts.
The global talent map is quickly losing its borders. With an experienced workforce and a chronic skills shortage of engineers, oil and gas companies are increasingly sourcing scarce skills wherever those skills reside, such as emerging markets like India whose universities outpace Western countries in producing these skills.
But how to attract and create a new digital workforce and retain scarce talent in an industry known to be environmentally unfriendly, dangerous and prone to cyclical layoffs? How to best utilize the talent in increasingly knowledge-intensive roles? To do that, oil and gas companies in the future will have to adopt an entirely new approach to managing their people, extending to more democratized and customized work experiences, tailored learning experiences, performance appraisals, benefits packages, careers and jobs.
In addition, they will have to tap open platforms such as emerging digital talent exchanges for potential or current workers all around the world, including a new connected workforce of experts available on demand. The industry may even rely on an open innovation model, drawing on the crowd to solve problems or get innovative ideas.
Colin Sloman is managing director, Strategy, Talent and Organization, Accenture.
Rich Holsman is managing director, Energy Global Digital, Accenture.
Susan Cantrell is a research fellow at the Accenture Institute for High Performance.
June 13, 2014
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