Everyone seems to agree that the talent or generation gap in oil and gas is one of the largest worries facing the industry today. The energy industry is booming and their biggest worry according to NPR among others is that “the oil industry can’t find enough new workers to replace an aging workforce.” In fact, Power and Energy interviewed Andy Inglis of BP Exploration & Production about the talent gap in Oil and Gas: “The really big strategic issue for all oil and gas companies is matching the earth’s resource endowment on the one hand, with the capability – technology, skills and know-how – required to bring those resources to market on the other.” Near the top of the list of strategic challenges in the industry today is capability.
While there are significant demographic pressures impacting Oil and Gas today, there’s a large increase in the 20-34 year old bracket. But despite that influx, the impact, estimated by Cambridge Energy Research Associates, is a potential 10-15% ‘people deficit’ below the number of staff needed. While many in the industry today are hard at work recruiting talent to fill the gap, some are looking to technology to improve productivity and enable effective knowledge transfer between these generations. What I’d like to discuss in this article is how SharePoint, and specifically new features in SharePoint 2013, can help mitigate the impact of the generation gap in oil and gas.
SharePoint For Knowledge Management in Oil and Gas
Many Oil and Gas organizations have already deployed SharePoint, but there seem to be two current barriers to knowledge management: 1) SharePoint’s advocates might not know how to share its capabilities and generate uptake. 2) SharePoint is being used for information management, but not knowledge management. Finally, the new social aspects of SharePoint 2013 look like they may be the key to improved knowledge transfer!
Advocating for SharePoint’s Capabilities and Generating Uptake
Oil and Gas is full of busy people, which makes it full of people who should be benefitting from SharePoint’s efficiency improvements, but if they don’t know what the platform can do for them, they won’t be incentivized to start using it. One of the major blocks to knowledge workers trying to use SharePoint is that as the SharePoint repository grows, the site gets used the same way the z:// drive was used before – with a confusing document library and folder structure blocking users from accessing the information they need. A SharePoint Audit can help identify where your blocks are occurring and how to address them. For preliminary, advice on when and how to use folders in SharePoint check our developer Carol’s article, “A Note about Microsoft SharePoint Folders in 2010 and 2013.” Meanwhile, our article on herding your flock to SharePoint gives a starting perspective on how to manage technology changes to drive use. In fact, we’re currently working with one of the supermajors on the ‘gamification’ of their SharePoint portal to keep users interested in new aspects of the technology being made available to them!
Distinguishing between information management and knowledge management
Oil and Gas is full of documents describing all sorts of industry standards, but what about the experienced-based knowledge trapped in the minds of a workforce that’s preparing for retirement? Here at Entrance we take knowledge management seriously. Every organization has thought leaders and everyone in an organization has specialized knowledge about something. Many companies have created large-scale mentoring programs and other ways to connect the two generations in oil and gas today. SharePoint can aid thought leadership by making it both available and interactive. MySites can be used to create knowledge profiles of leaders in each area across your organization and an organizational wiki can help you keep up with everything; from how safety incidents are filed to which drill bits are best based on the type of rock you encounter.
SharePoint 2013 Bridges the Generation Gap
Of particular note in SharePoint 2013 is the concept of ‘social’ SharePoint. Not only are there MySites, ‘liking’, tags and other fan favorites from SharePoint 2010, the concept of following people who create interesting content, or even following documents themselves is central to 2013. Because the younger generation is very used to interacting in this way – following, liking, commenting, etc. – SharePoint 2013 can be a bridge from one generation eager to learn to the outgoing generation looking for a platform to reach out and share knowledge. Social sharing might still feel foreign to those who have worked in the industry for years, but they are not the ones needing to find and share knowledge. What the near-retirement community should do is focus on sharing interesting and relevant knowledge via the channels available. For instance, presentations, webinar recordings and blogs are all great arenas for informal thought distribution, which can all be sorted, tagged and shared within SharePoint 2013.
For more on using SharePoint to bridge organizational gaps, request a SharePoint consultation today!