Human resources practices of oil and gas companies need to integrate upskilling of their employees within its policy framework and future vision. As a best practice, it should be a continuous process and not just an instant fix during challenging times.
To further establish the importance of skill set upgradation in the oil and gas industry let us start with the definition:
What is Upskilling?
Upskilling is training an employee on new technology or process to improve his present capabilities. It makes the individual future-ready for upcoming technologies and methodologies, especially the ones related to his skill set and aptitude.
Why is it important to Upskill the workforce?
There are two major reasons:
Manual human labour is always at war with the rapid evolution of technology. New technologies have improved productivity by automating processes and replacing large-scale workforce with advanced machine-learning and AI tools.
This has in-turn led to an abundance of traditional talents and a steep rise in demand for experts who can control this new generation human-machine ecosystem. Upskilling in such a scenario can enable the workforce to use new technology and bridge the skill gap.
Also, it may be more expensive to hire new employees and train them rather than develop ways to nurture talent that’s already there in the company’s workforce; Upskilling is such a scenario will act as a strong retention strategy.
For example, in the last 1800s, rotary drills used to be in operation to drill out oil. Now, the oil and gas industry has technologies like seismic imaging and the latest measurement while drilling technology (MWD) to enhance the productivity of oil drilling. A drilling team that is well versed in the newest technology will always prove to be an asset to the company and vice-versa.
However, upskilling in not restricted to hard skills alone; In the energy industry, soft skills are vitally important, especially because of the rigorous nature of work. Professionals from diverse national backgrounds, cultures, and habits come together to work in the industry. They work in a difficult environment away from family and friends.
Interpersonal skills, ability to communicate clearly, and leadership capabilities are vital to keeping the team working and happy.
Skill set upgradation is a continuous process. Why?
It is quite unfortunate that the implementation of upgrading oneself be it learning new tools & technologies or keeping up with the latest industry trends is not proportional to the advancement of technologies. Hence there is always an imparity in demand and availability of talent.
The only way to bridge the gap between talent demand and supply is timely identification of industry trends and recalibrating oneself by learning the new.
Competition is a big driver of upskilling
Globalisation has opened up new markets. Needless to say, the recruitment department has witnessed a rapid growth of tech-savvy and competitive talent base. For the new-age engineers and entrepreneurs, technology is not something to learn; it is a way of life. When they join the global economy, they will steer everything on the motherboard of technology. The amalgamation of old and new talent would be incongruous if the industry stays away from this mission.
The oil and gas industry has its own downturns and upturns, but such is the importance of energy in the modern world, that it continues to be the force majeure in the economy.
Upskilling through technology courses, in-service training programmes, soft skill modules, and software skilling programmes can keep both employees and employers ready to face the competition and the future.
Nrgedge.net has for long partnered with the industry to equip energy personnel with advanced skill sets in various job profiles and positions. Visionary industry experts have lent their minds to design and develop the upskilling courses to facilitate the process of capability enhancement and professional advancement.
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On 10 December 2021, if all goes to plan Royal Dutch Shell will become just Shell. The energy supermajor will move its headquarters from The Hague in The Netherlands to London, UK. At least three-quarters of the company’s shareholders must vote in favour of the change at the upcoming general meeting, which has been sold by Shell as a means of simplifying its corporate structure and better return value to shareholders, as well as be ‘better positioned to seize opportunities and play a leading role in the energy transition’. In doing so, it will no longer meet Dutch conditions for ‘royal’ designation, dropping a moniker that has defined the company through decades of evolution since 1907.
But why this and why now?
There is a complex web of reasons why, some internal and some external but the ultimate reason boils down to improving growth sustainability. Royal Dutch Shell was born through the merger of Shell Transport and Trading Company (based in the UK) and Royal Dutch (based in The Netherlands) in 1907, with both companies engaging in exploration activities ranging from seashells to crude oil. Unified across international borders, Royal Dutch Shell emerged as Europe’s answer to John D Rockefeller’s Standard Oil empire, as the race to exploit oil (and later natural gas) reserves spilled out over the world. Along the way, Royal Dutch Shell chalked up a number of achievements including establishing the iconic Brent field in the North Sea to striking the first commercial oil in Nigeria. Unlike Standard Oil which was dissolved into 34 smaller companies in 1911, Royal Dutch Shell remained intact, operating as two entities until 2005, when they were finally combined in a dual-nationality structure: incorporated in the UK, but residing in the Netherlands. This managed to satisfy the national claims both countries make on the supermajor, second only to ExxonMobil in revenue and profits but proved to be costly to maintain. In 2020, fellow Anglo-Dutch conglomerate Unilever also ditched its dual structure, opting to be based fully out of the City of London. In that sense, Shell is following the direction of the wind, as forces in its (soon to be former) home country turn sour.
There is a specific grievance that Royal Dutch Shell has with the Dutch government, the 15% dividend tax collected for Dutch-domiciled companies. It is the reason why Unilever abandoned Rotterdam and is now the reason why Shell is abandoning The Hague. And this point is particularly existentialist for Shell, since its share prices has been battered in recent years following the industry downturn since 2015, the global pandemic and being in the crosshairs of climate change activists as an emblem of why the world’s average temperatures are going haywire. The latter has already caused the largest Dutch state pension fund ABP to stop investing in fossil fuels, thereby divesting itself of Royal Dutch Shell. This was largely a symbolic move, but as religious figures will know, symbols themselves carry much power. To combat this, Shell has done two things. First, it has positioned itself to be at the forefront of energy transition, announcing ambitious emissions reductions plans in line with its European counterparts to become carbon neutral by 2050. Second, it is looking to bump up its dividend payouts after slashing them through the depths of the Covid-19 pandemic and accelerating share buybacks to remain the bluest of blue-chip stocks. But then, earlier this year, a Dutch court ruled that Shell’s emissions targets were ‘not ambitious enough’, ordering a stricter aim within a tighter timeframe. And the 15% dividend tax remains – even though Prime Minister Mark Rutte’s coalition government has been attempting to scrap it, with (it is presumed) some lobbying from Royal Dutch Shell and Unilever.
As simplistic it is to think that Shell is leaving for London believes the citizens of the Netherlands has turned its back on the company, the ultimate reason was the dividend tax. Reportedly, CEO Ben van Buerden called up Mark Rutte on Sunday informing him of the planned move. Rutte’s reaction, it is said was of dismay. And he embarked on a last-ditch effort to persuade Royal Dutch Shell to change its mind, by immediately lobbying his government’s coalition partners to back an abolition of the dividend tax. The reaction was perhaps not what he expected, with left-wing and green parties calling Shell’s threat ‘blackmail’. With democracy drawing a line, Shell decided to walk; or at least present an exit plan endorsed by its Board to be voted by shareholders. Many in the Netherlands see Shell’s exit and the loss of the moniker Royal Dutch – as a blow to national pride, especially since the country has been basking in the glow of expanded reputation as a result of post-Brexit migration of financial activities to Amsterdam from London. The UK, on the other hand, sees Shell’s decision and Unilever’s – as an endorsement of the country’s post-Brexit potential.
The move, if passed and in its initial stages, will be mainly structural, transferring the tax residence of Shell to London. Just ten top executives including van Buerden and CFO Jessica Uhl will be making the move to London. Three major arms – Projects and Technology, Global Upstream and Integrated Gas and Renewable Energies – will remain in The Hague. As will Shell’s massive physical reach on Dutch soil: the huge integrated refinery in Pernis, the biofuels hub in Rotterdam, the country’s first offshore wind farm and the mammoth Porthos carbon capture project that will funnel emissions from Rotterdam to be stored in empty North Sea gas fields. And Shell’s troubles with activists will still continue. British climate change activists are as, if not more aggressive as their Dutch counterpart, this being the country where Extinction Rebellion was born. Perhaps more of a threat is activist investor Third Point, which recently acquired a chunk of Shell shares and has been advocating splitting the company into two – a legacy business for fossil fuels and a futures-focused business for renewables.
So Shell’s business remains, even though its address has changed. In the grand scheme of things, never mind the small matter of Dutch national pride – Royal Dutch Shell’s roadmap to remain an investment icon and a major driver of energy transition will continue in its current form. This is a quibble about money or rather, tax – that will have little to no impact on Shell’s operations or on its ambitions. Royal Dutch Shell is poised to become just Shell. Different name and a different house, but the same contents. Unless, of course, Queen Elizabeth II decides to provide royal assent, in which case, Shell might one day become Royal British Shell.
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