A picture shows job candidates waiting in chairs.
Attracting & keeping candidates requires adapting to new workplace culture expectations

The oil and gas industry can sometimes face more challenges than other sectors to provide the kind of employee experience that nurtures engagement. This matters because highly engaged employees increase productivity and safety, reduce errors, deliver a better customer experience and improve retention, all of which directly impact the bottom line.

Although since the pandemic, every industry is facing challenges and uncertainties when it comes to attracting and retaining employees, oil and gas has additional issues to address. For example, younger generations comprise 46% of the United States workforce, and many have a negative view of the industry, seeing it as antiquated, unstable, cyclical and unsafe.

Research shows that about 62% of Generation Z and 14% of millennials reject the energy sector as the place to build their careers. This means oil and gas have to compete not only with other companies within the sector but with other industries more attractive to younger people, such as information technology and telecom.


Another factor weighed against the oil and gas sector is that, in addition to an aging workforce and higher-than-average turnover rates in the industry, 77% of employees would consider changing their employment status within the next three years, according to a 2021 GETI report. Most would move to staff positions or contractor roles, creating the need to increase upskilling and training.

People want to work for the “right” kind of company. Developing new approaches to overcome outdated perceptions of the industry and building cultures around new ways to engage candidates will help you find and keep the talent you need to grow.

Candidate engagement amounts to the sum of all the critical “little” things you do throughout the hiring process — the ones that make people feel valued and enable you to successfully compete for their talent. Use the following seven steps as your guide.

1. Check Your Brand

Your employment brand — whether it’s positive, negative or nonexistent — significantly impacts your ability to attract top talent. What makes your organization a great place to work? It’s important that you understand how your policies, practices and culture make employees feel because they’re out there telling the world about it. You cannot control how your employees describe you, nor can you hide the impressions you make on vendors and customers. This means you can’t just say who you are as an organization — you have to be it.

A strong employment brand clearly communicates your workplace culture, mission and values. It gives potential candidates a compelling reason to consider you as their next employer and a reason for current employees to stay.

There are several ways you can get an accurate view of your employer brand. One is to regularly ask your current employees what they like and don’t like about working for you. In employee surveys, ask how likely employees are to refer friends to work for your organization — the question many experts believe is the most telling.

Check out how employees describe your company on sites like Glassdoor. Hire first for values and attitude rather than for experience to ensure candidates are the right fit with your culture and more able to succeed.

2. Understand Trends & Expectations

Today, no one would disagree that workplaces have fundamentally changed. It’s clear that many workers took stock of their priorities over the pandemic years and have raised their expectations of employers. They’ve moved from having to accept whatever employers mandated to demanding more humane environments that include empathy, flexibility, purpose, safety, work/life balance, transparency, inclusiveness and fairness. Trends are leaning toward remote and hybrid work (where possible), well-being and personal accommodation.

As many companies finally implement return-to-office policies, a lot of workers are choosing to leave for fully remote or hybrid jobs, higher pay, better working conditions or more opportunity for growth. Watch trends, understand changing expectations and update continually. There is no more being one-and-done when it comes to workplace environments.

3. Personalize the Experience

While there is a definite trend toward automation in recruiting, the human touch is still important and increasingly valued by candidates looking for human-centered workplaces. You can personalize your candidates’ experience by:

  • Creating messaging specific to each job
  • Leveraging social channels and references to connect directly with prospective candidates, moving from email and text to personal calls as soon as possible
  • Researching individuals to see what’s important to them in life and work and letting them know how your company can support their interests and values
  • Developing a relationship with each candidate through 10 to 12 touchpoints

4. Communicate Frequently

There are many ways to communicate with candidates. Find the right balance of timeliness and relevancy for individual candidates, so you don’t risk turning them off by not keeping them updated. At a minimum, consider the following:

  • Use a variety of contact methods, from social media to personal notes that express appreciation and respect for their time and effort.
  • Write interesting, honest and detailed job descriptions that cast a wide net and don’t eliminate good candidates with unnecessary requirements. (Does that job really need a college degree? Does it require 10 years’ experience or just solid experience?)
  • Develop an inviting careers page on your website that includes videos and employee testimonials along with information about mission, values and culture.
  • Get feedback on your process.

5. Lead with Empathy

Empathy is about taking time to listen, putting yourself in someone else’s place and sharing feelings. It requires a willingness to take yourself off center stage, be vulnerable and not judge. These acts are often difficult for leaders to perform. Yet, empathy has been shown to be the most important trait the best leaders share. When leaders dare to care about their people, it creates the kind of human-centric culture candidates and employees everywhere are looking for. Be brave and allow yourself to connect with people on deeper levels.

6. Ask & Tell Stories

Storytelling is the best way to get to the truth. When both organization and candidate are putting only their best foot forward, they forget that it takes two feet to get where they want to go. By inserting storytelling into the interview process, you elicit greater authenticity, build a stronger connection and make a memorable impact.

Storytelling should not replace your normal interview questions and assessments, but it helps you look beyond skills and experience to attitude and cultural fit. It gives you a broader and deeper look at each other, leading to better, more lasting employment decisions. Some questions that generate storytelling are:

  • What’s your most memorable work experience? What’s your second-most memorable?
  • Describe a time when what you did deeply reflected who you are.
  • When in your career have you so passionately focused on something that you lost track of time and were completely lost in what you were doing?
  • Describe a time in your career when you felt uniquely valued.
  • What’s the biggest risk you’ve ever taken and how did it make you feel?
  • How do you hope it would feel like to work for this organization?

7. Streamline Your Process

If your hiring process stretches on for too long, you risk losing candidates to a competitor who acts more quickly. Here are tips to ensure a speedy, responsive hiring process:

  • Establish a standard hiring process emphasizing timeliness and quality candidates, and get all stakeholders on board.
  • Set timelines for all stakeholders and communicate regularly to ensure everyone is keeping pace.
  • Take advantage of current tools, such as interview scheduling programs, automated email reminders and online pre-screen questionnaires.
  • Ensure that anyone involved in the interview/selection process is coached well.
  • Stay in touch with candidates and keep them informed of their progress. It’s better to explain a delay rather than leave them wondering.
  • Look for areas in your hiring and onboarding processes that you can innovate.

If you want to win top talent, make sure you are offering candidates what they are looking for and that you treat them like the potential assets they are. People decide to work for you for the same reasons they buy your products or services: largely because they’ve come to trust or like you based on what you say and do. You’ll never have trouble engaging top candidates if you remember that everything about your business begins with people, not profits.

The oil and gas industry earned record profits in 2022, based on Deloitte reporting. This should mean you have the resources to spend promoting the value of working in the energy sector and improving your company culture. Younger generations are looking for purpose. Show them they can find it in the oil and gas industry and in your company. Reach out to change their negative perceptions. Tell them that next to solar and wind, propane is one of the cleanest renewable fuels approved under the Clean Air Act. And explain that a career in the industry is taking a role in solving the climate crisis, a strong sector commitment.

Take a deep internal look and change your culture to meet the expectations of today’s employees. Create an engaging environment that allows your people, your company and your industry to thrive.

Kathleen Quinn Votaw is the founder and CEO of TalenTrust, a strategic recruiting and human capital consulting firm that has helped companies nationwide address immediate needs and drive long-term growth since 2003. She is the author of the 2016 book “Solve the People Puzzle” and the 2021 book “Dare to Care in the Workplace.” Visit talentrust.com.


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