Competency Assurance & Safe Operations

As we listened in on the International Association of Drilling Contractors (IADC) session, Perspectives from the Field, the message was clear. What keeps frontline rig managers up at night? The safety and competence of their workforce. Competency assurance is essential to safe, effective operations.

What is competency assurance?

Competency assurance at its most basic level is a process where skills, experiences, knowledge, ability, and behaviors are assessed against specific proficiency standards set by an organization. To help formalize these processes and manage the complexity of the workforce data, organizations often employ competency assurance programs. In more advanced programs, this data is tracked in digitized systems so it’s accessible no matter the location.

What are the benefits of competency assurance?

Having clear insights into the skills, knowledge, and capabilities of your frontline workforce improves safety, quality, productivity, training spending, and talent retention, just to name a few. With a competency assurance program in place and a system to help track the data, organizations can equip frontline managers and their teams with what’s needed to operate safely. 

Below, we’ll take a look at five key points made by rig and drilling managers from organizations like Energy Drilling, Helmerich & Payne, Scandrill, and Norton Energy. We’ll also offer solutions business leaders can employ to ensure a more competent, skilled workforce.

1. Safety is ALWAYS #1

There’s a universal goal on the rigs to go to work and return home — unharmed and without injury. The number one concern from rig and drilling managers was the safety of themselves and their team members. In such tedious, high-risk environments, there are of course, many components that go into ensuring this safety while on site. From the IADC session, a few notable issues stood out:

  • A lack of properly updated training tools
  • Accessibility on the worksite
  • Crew turnover

To maintain safe operations, people need to buy in to their roles, stick with it, and become masters of their trade.

Solution: Accessible, updated, and accurate training resources

Business leaders need to make sure training tools are easily accessible on rig sites, provide updated and accurate training resources, and be transparent about what potential career opportunities could look like for their frontline workforce. Efforts like these show employees they are valued both in their contributions to the business AND in their personal and professional development. Retaining skilled, experienced, and knowledgeable talent helps safety remain the number one priority on site.

2. Incompetence keeps managers up at night

The fast-paced nature of rig environments means managers need to know within seconds who is and is not skilled and competent in their roles. Who knows what and who needs what training should never be a guessing game. Finding out by receiving a violation is not the answer either.

Solution: Use a platform that can handle complex competency assurance data

Access to current competency and training data is essential to maintaining safe operations and mitigating risks on the rigs. Use a system that allows more granularity when assigning job roles, required skills, and expected proficiency levels. You’ll be able to track and manage technical skills and ensure compliance with global, regional, and local regulations at all times.

3. Usable, accessible, and accurate policies are best

Managers know and trust that policies are put into place for the safety of their day-to-day operations and serve as guidance for decision-making, streamlining processes, and following regulatory requirements. They want to follow them. But to do so, they need to be accessible, accurate, updated, and optimized based on actual working conditions.

Solution: Digitized documentation with offline access

Binders and file cabinets are hard to access and find, and even more difficult to consistently update with equipment, customer, and location-specific criteria. Instead, policy and procedural documentation should be kept in a digitized system that is easily accessible by all who need it. A platform capable of handling mobile and offline functionality is ideal so data can be tracked regardless of internet or data connectivity on location.

4. Iron sharpens iron

Mentoring programs were mentioned often throughout the discussion session, and for good reason. Mentorship programs not only support professional development, but ensure knowledge and skills are continuously retained throughout your workforce. It goes beyond a one-time training program. Instead, it establishes an ongoing learning process. Having a mentor can be the differentiating factor in retaining talent that excels in your organization.

Solution: Transparent development

Employees at all levels of the organization should have visibility into the expected proficiency levels for each of their assigned roles. This empowers them to steer their professional development towards closing skills gaps and identifying future career aspirations. A system that gives employees this career visibility can help them develop action plans around their development goals, inclusive of identifying applicable training and mentors to help them along the way.

5. Recognition and retention

Life and work on the rigs is HARD. Managers repeatedly echoed that positive reinforcement is a big ask. Front line workers want to know when they’re doing good and how they can grow professionally, not just when they mess up or receive a violation.

Solution: Validated competency records

A comprehensive look into an employee’s skills and experience profile relative to the requirements and expectations of their roles is a great way to recognize employees for their work. With insightful and validated skills data, organizations can avoid unnecessary training or skill verifications because competency records will be a true reflection of skills, knowledge, and capabilities. And bonus: Reducing unnecessary training quickens time to productivity and increases savings within the organization’s training budget. 

Bonus #6

This was a big request: Rig managers want a sixth man. All of the technology, policies, procedures, and advancements can’t and won’t supply what a sixth man can do for a rig team. But when hiring is already hard, adding a sixth man to frontline teams can prove to be even more difficult.

Solution: Skills data at your fingertips

Go back to the roots of how your organization is finding and retaining talent. It may be hard to hire for a floating role, but with skills data tracked and validated consistently, employees that match criteria can be used as the extra set of hands quickly and efficiently when needed.

Streamline competency assurance

As business leaders, you’re consistently seeking solutions to enable a more safe, efficient operational environment. As you strive to do so, listening to the needs of your front line employees should be the first step. Implement processes and systems that will help them work efficiently and safely. This will streamline the competency assurance processes, and help your rig managers sleep soundly.

Talk with a skill advisor to learn more about what a system like Kahuna can do to help validate the skills and competencies of your teams, and create a more safe operating environment.