How the Changing Oil and Gas Industry is Pushing HR Software to Evolve

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As the oil and gas industry moves into the digital realm, nanobots, drones and integrated remote pipeline sensors aren’t the only technologies invading the oilfield.

Human resources software developers are pursuing innovative ways to meet the demands of this “cell phone to well head” world of oil and gas operation. With rapid and focused operator training requirements and the generational transition of the work force, HR software crafted to the needs of digital oil and gas is in high demand.

Oil and Gas Seeking Focused Training and Competence Data Transparency

Oil and gas companies must be able to quickly pull together teams with the skill sets necessary to complete their jobs safely and reliably. Multiple managers and operators working remotely need to access workers with the proper skill sets at a moment’s notice.

They want to visualize the skill sets of their teams in real time – including not just formal training, but competency gained from on-site job experience.

To make the most of training ROI, worker training must focus on the tasks and troubleshooting techniques required for the job at hand. And real-time transparency surrounding worker competency is imperative to hiring, team design, alternating management and remote operation.

Over the years, packaged HR software technology has evolved and transformed from purely transaction-focused solutions like payroll systems and employee head count databases to now including talent management tools, succession planning and performance management.

But with novel technologies and remote operators infiltrating the energy industry on a daily basis, oil and gas companies are seeking a competency-based approach to HR software data models and functionality. They want HR software that connects to operations and weighs in on safety, reliability and quality.

Oil and gas companies need HR software systems that:

  • Keep worker training focused to help restock all necessary skill sets
  • Help staff teams equipped to perform and troubleshoot their assigned tasks
  • Transmit real-time worker competency data between operators and asset managers
  • Achieve faster time to revenue per employee
  • Calculate true ROI on training initiatives
  • Prevent safety and compliance issues

Hula Breaks New Ground in Oil and Gas Competency Management

Gone are the HR software systems of the past, at least for oil and gas. Performance management systems aren’t granular enough, and certainly not objective enough to ensure that people are truly competent. Learning management systems are great from the standpoint of tracking your workers’ training, but training is only one step in the journey to competence. It doesn’t ensure competence.

Competency management is game changing in oil and gas HR software, able to assign, assess and track knowledge, skills and experience required to perform specific activities. It provides an objective way of ranking and measuring employees against the training and learning that is being performed throughout the organization. Competency management helps executives balance talent supply and demand.

I recently had the chance to chat with Hula managing partner Jai Shah who developed their competency management software, Kahuna, specifically around the needs of oil and gas companies.

“We were engaged with a total transformation in Marathon Oil’s HR systems after they separated from Marathon Petroleum,” said Shah. “One of their main objectives from this transformation was to understand the skill set of their people in the North Sea operation and in the lower 48 more granularly, and then leverage that data into other talent management processes and workforce planning.”

“Our first attempt was building a bolt-on solution to the SAP data base,” said Shah. “Marathon is still using parts of that today. But we eventually decided to just build something from scratch and make it something that would be based on our understanding of supporting a robust competency management process from stem to stern while still integrating to systems like SAP.”

That’s when Hula went off and built Kahuna, a cloud-based application hosted on Microsoft Azure.

“By creating a modern application which integrates seamlessly with HR and Operational systems and specifically addresses the competency assurance and development requirements in oil & gas we instantly got traction with several large organizations such as, Weatherford, Cameron, and Schlumberger,” said Shah.

“We’ve recently added Pacific Drilling and are at the end of procurement cycles with five other large oil and gas companies. Further, this conversation is resonating beyond oil & gas and we are having a lot of success in other verticals such as manufacturing.”

“We’ve spent two years making sure our application is completely scalable and secure.  The key to our success has been our ability to handle the scale of really large organizations and our ability to integrate into their existing systems with minimal effort.  However, the key to our future success will be finding additional ways to turn this granular competency data into useful information to support operational processes.” said Shah.

Kahuna Focuses on Work Context in Oil and Gas Training

Because Hula worked closely with oil and gas companies in the design and development of its Kahuna software, the program meets a whole new set of demands for the industry. Training focused on specific task requirements is a big one.

Workers don’t need constant retraining. They don’t need to be sent to a training that they are over experienced for. They don’t need a 30-minute introduction to hydraulic fracturing every time they sit down to a training module. They need to know how to do the job and troubleshoot.

Hula’s Kahuna competency management HR software in oil and gas connects learning, training and development activities into the context of the work that’s actually being performed. If a worker is deficient in one of three competencies required for pressure testing, the worker can quickly take a training course in that procedure, close the gap, and the training is in the context of his work.

Kahuna displays the training material available for each skill set, whether a YouTube video, protocol document or web-based training module. The worker clicks on it, completes it and Kahuna updates his skill status instantly. That worker is now eligible to work a certain job.

Kahuna makes training a prerequisite toward competence while also making sure the worker can perform in the field as well.

One worker may not have completed training modules but may have been working in that area in the field for years. On-site experience contributes to competence. On top of assessments, Kahuna can also track experience, per competencies. How many times has Alfredo completed pressure testing in the field versus John?

Workers can also create development plans if they are interested in learning a new task or trade within the company. Maybe an assistant operator wants to be a superintendent and is 67% developed towards all of the requirements. They can analyze what they need to close those gaps in thinking about the future and developmental opportunities.

Oil and Gas HR Software Designs Work Force Teams Around Individual Skill Sets

Say you need to set up a new asset in the Gulf of Mexico. You need specific roles with specific skill sets. Hula’s Kahuna software lets you know who you have on site, if there are any gaps, and how to fill those gaps – whether by hiring, transferring or real-time training.

Kahuna’s competency management software also allows you to visualize competencies for entire teams or filter down to specific skill sets or workers – pretty fundamental for most supervisors. Transactional reports allow you to export data for the whole team and all of their assessments into any preferred format (like Excel).

Competency Management Software Offers Real-Time Transparency

Oil and gas companies are relying on contingent workers. The owner of an asset isn’t the operator. This makes transparency all the way down the line all the more critical.

A guy may be managing thousands of workers on an offshore platform in Africa for only a few months at a time, and then switches off with another manager. HR software like Kahuna that helps these two keep updated on their workers’ proficiency and what gaps need to be filled in real time is a big asset.

In addition, and as I discuss in detail in my book, Giant Shifts – Energy Trends Reshaping America’s Future, rapidly changing work force demographics mean oil and gas companies need a way to connect Baby Boomers getting ready to leave the industry with the younger work force and make sure the work done in the field or in engineering gets transferred down. Oil and gas companies want a codified way, based on a competency framework, to know that the younger work force has absorbed the required knowledge.

With digital oil and gas becoming a reality, innovative human resources software that fully evaluates competency and training is becoming a necessity.

To learn more about digital oil and gas and the novel technologies we are incorporating into our industry today, I hope you can pick up a copy of my new book, Giant Shifts – Energy Trends Reshaping America’s Future.

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