I’ve spent several months working from home (same as you, no doubt). And I now realize this could be the new way work gets done for the foreseeable future.  

One thing about it bothered me at first: my backyard. Let me explain. I decided to create an outdoor space that I could enjoy while spending so much more time at home. What I wanted to create required a few landscaping and construction projects. Ordinarily, I might have hired someone to do the job. But given the uncertainties of COVID transmission and expected quarantines, I didn’t want to bring contractors to my home. Instead, I decided to create the backyard space I envisioned by myself, with the help of a few videos and several well-documented examples I found  online. With this information at hand and a few troubleshooting calls to local experts, I was able to learn “on-the-fly” and ultimately finish these projects to enjoy my newly refreshed backyard during these uncertain times.   

Engineering and technical savvy on tap  

While a relatively simple analogy, something similar to my scenario has played out across the energy industry as most office-based workforces have shifted to working from home. While this transition brought with it a certain amount of uncertainty, most teams have adapted to the new ways of working—including gaining access to needed technical expertise for both routine and ad-hoc support.  

They’re increasing the frequency of video calls, relying on collaborative file sharing, and experimenting with the fluidity of working hours and access across time-zones. Engineers have led day-to-day troubleshooting and interacted with plant operations from home. And virtual teams have initiated and designed new energy concepts and capital projects. Additionally, IT systems upgrades have gone live with entire deployment teams managing programs remotely. While some critical safety situations require face-to-face interactions, advances in collaboration technology and data accessibility may continue to help enable greater remote workforce effectiveness. 

How this can affect the future  

Looking ahead, the industry’s experience over the past few months should reframe what energy companies consider possible. Specifically, they can expand access to talent and apply the right resources to the right problems. With refreshed operating models and talent strategies, they can:  

  • Break down organizational silos and remove internal barriers to collaboration  
  • Improve global access to scarce skills by enabling virtual collaboration 
  • Unlock new talent pools in cities distant from physical operations  
  • Create centers of expertise in locations with an abundance of talent at competitive costs      

To fully leverage the opportunity at hand, companies will have to wrestle with some tough questions for which there are no one-size-fits-all answers: 

  • How might we minimize potential efficiency impacts of virtual collaboration?  
  • How might we establish the ”right” mix of capabilities across local workforces and remote teams?  
  • How might we build (and maintain) a shared purpose and establish trust within teams?  

The future looks remote—in a good way 

As the energy industry continues to evolve, engineering and technical talent management strategies should advance along with it. With an increasingly competitive marketplace for these in-demand skills, pressure may likely continue to build, making a compelling employee value proposition even more important. In addition, society may increasingly expect companies to consider their carbon footprints and how their non-operational activities such as commuting, traveling, and maintaining an office footprint contribute to their environmental impact.  

Imagine a world where the free-flowing interactions we take for granted in our day-to-day lives are suddenly mimicked by our activities and interactions at work. Such a world is now emerging. The most competitive energy companies will move quickly to reshape how they optimize global capabilities. New connected and collaborative models can help make that effort as easy as, say, my DIY backyard project. 

Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this document are meant to stimulate thought and discussion. As each business has unique requirements and objectives, these ideas should not be viewed as professional advice with respect to the business.

Andrew Cartey

Senior Manager – Strategy & Consulting, Energy

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