EY makes the case for people and culture amid historical oil and gas disruption

The pandemic can be an opportunity to accelerate a workforce transformation. Photo by Sarote Pruksachat/Getty

When considering the future of energy, you might see a world powered by cleaner energy sources and guided by bots and algorithms in the workplace. But digitalization and decarbonization are complex transitions. The road ahead will mix human talent with cutting-edge technologies, fossil fuels with low-carbon alternatives, next-generation renewables and energy storage.

These trends present a potentially dizzying array of challenges for the oil and gas industry. Today's strategies for tomorrow's reality require skills that are continuing to evolve and jobs that haven't been defined yet — all against a backdrop of unprecedented uncertainty and disruption.

This past year, the COVID-19 pandemic has accelerated digital adoption while reducing energy demand and prices, causing companies to focus on survival. Now more than ever, the industry must find an investment balance between addressing current market pressures and positioning for the future.

EY's 2020 Oil and Gas Digital Transformation and the Workforce Survey shows that 58% of oil and gas executive respondents agree that COVID-19 has made investing in digital technology more urgent, with 80% planning to invest at least a moderate amount relative to their total budget in digital technology today. The most popular targets of that money include remote monitoring, mobile platforms or apps, cloud computing, and operational technology.

However, digital technologies alone are not a panacea. Digital integration is a process that requires human and organizational investment. Nearly all respondents in the EY survey said that too few workers with the right skills in the current workforce is a major or minor challenge to technology adoption, with executives identifying nearly 60% of the workforce as needing to be reskilled or upskilled.

The need to incorporate an intentional skills strategy into digital implementation is crucial. It will require change management and leadership commitment to address human and organizational challenges alongside digital investments. Looked at positively, the pandemic can be an opportunity to reset the agenda and accelerate a workforce transformation in which rig workers, data scientists, internet of things, and remote monitoring sensors are all co-workers building toward a new future.

Organizational challenges hindering technology adoption
Challenges to digital adoption and workforce reskilling can be embedded deep in a company's structure, processes, and culture. Over half of oil and gas executives in the EY survey say that their culture and organizational structure limit how well skills are developed. Companies can often struggle with reskilling efforts when there is no unifying program to organize around.

The tone and commitment from the top of an organization can convey the importance of reskilling. To cultivate a digital mindset, company leadership must develop a deeper understanding of how digital can enhance business operations. Executives can complete a data-driven assessment of their organizations and current workforces to diagnose skill gaps and set tangible benchmarks to measure progress. Addressing skill gaps will require a mix of techniques from online and in-person training curriculums and on-the-job experiences, to mentorship and coaching.

Building learning programs can take significant investment. Oil and gas can collaborate with other organizations to leverage platforms and courses tailored to develop specific skills. Similarly, oil and gas companies can look to partners to fill talent and skill gaps. Companies must assess which skills and functions need to be owned and which ones can be performed better by a partner.

Importance of trust and transparency
Transparency is going to be very important for the industry to remain resilient through the energy transition. With the global population expected to reach 10 billion within a few decades, eliminating fossil fuels — while keeping energy affordable and reliable — is not feasible based on the technology available.

It might seem like a paradox, but the oil and gas sector can draw on its skills in meeting the energy needs of the planet to advance decarbonization in broader areas, such as the circular economy, hydrogen, and better batteries that rely less on rare-earth minerals.

This is an opportunity for oil and gas companies to lead with purpose and tell the story behind their environmental, social, and governance (ESG) metrics.

In order to have that transparency, the industry will need to embrace a standard way to measure, track, and share data that is reliable. In doing so, oil and gas companies can attract strong, diverse talent that wants to work for companies with a sense of purpose. Nearly three-fourths of Gen Z agree that business has a responsibility to create a better world, and current employees are three times as likely to remain with a purpose-driven organization, according to the Global Energy Talent Index Report 2019.

The future of work for oil and gas requires different capabilities and mindsets, not just technical expertise. Critical thinking, creativity, innovation, problem solving, and ideation are needed to adapt to a new technology, consider how it can be applied to the business and extract every bit of value possible.

There's a growing acceptance that a return to the pre-pandemic "normal" is not an option; that's doubly true for oil and gas companies. Yet that desire for normality is in itself misplaced: proactive organizations should always think about what is possible. New talent strategies are at the heart of what a business wants to be and the world it wants to build in the process.

The views reflected in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of Ernst & Young LLP or other members of the global EY organization.


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EY refers to the global organization, and may refer to one or more, of the member firms of Ernst & Young Global Limited, each of which is a separate legal entity. Ernst & Young Global Limited, a UK company limited by guarantee, does not provide services to clients. Information about how EY collects and uses personal data and a description of the rights individuals have under data protection legislation are available via ey.com/privacy. EY member firms do not practice law where prohibited by local laws. For more information about our organization, please visit ey.com.

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Building Houston


Check out these conferences, pitch competitions, networking, and more in the month of October. Photo via Getty Images

Houston's busy business event season is in full swing, and there are ton of local innovation and entrepreneurship-focused programming across the city. Here's a rundown of what all to throw on your calendar for October when it comes to innovation-related events.

This article will be updated as more business and tech events are announced.

October 4 — Softeq Venture Studio Happy Hour

The Softeq Venture Studio is excited for you to meet the newest startups accepted into its 2H 2022 Cohort. Meet the teams and learn more about how they secured $125K in funding.

You'll have the chance to meet the startup founders, learn about the problems being solved, and learn more about how the Softeq Venture Studio de-risks growing startups.

The event is Tuesday, October 4, at 5 pm, at Yardhouse (City Centre). Click here to register.

October 5 — State of the Airports

Houston Airports is one of North America's largest and busiest multi-airport systems in the world and plays an important role in the greater Houston region's position as a great global city.

State of the Airports features Houston Airports Director, Mario Diaz, who will share the latest information and growth plans for Houston's three airports. Diaz will also address the important role the Houston Airports plays in bolstering Houston's position as an international air gateway.

The event is Wednesday, October 5, 10:30 am to 1:30 pm, at the Marriott Marquis. Click here to register.

October 11 — State of Space

Earlier this month, Space City celebrated the 60th anniversary of President John F. Kennedy’s proclamation delivered at Rice Stadium, "We choose to go to the moon." Many decades ago, these words showed the world that Houston holds a place as the epicenter for the world's biggest space endeavors and while space exploration has changed tremendously since those famous words, Houston's reputation in aviation and aerospace only grows stronger.

Join the Greater Houston Partnership for State of Space on Tuesday, October 11, to hear from some of the sharpest minds in aerospace and aviation technology who continue to chart a vibrant future for Houston centered around NASA's Johnson Space Center and one of the world’s only truly urban commercial spaceports.

Speakers include:

  • Featured speaker and panelist: Vanessa Wyche, Director, NASA’s Johnson Space Center
  • Stephen Altemus, President & CEO, Intuitive Machines
  • Peggy Guirges, General Manager of Space Systems, Collins Aerospace
  • Panel Moderator: Arturo Machuca, Director, Houston Spaceport and Ellington Airport

The event is Tuesday, October 11, 10:30 am to 1:30 pm, at Impact Hub Houston (1801 Main street 10th Floor). Click here to register.

October 12 —  Making an Impact in the Houston Tech Ecosystem

You may have heard that Jay Steinfeld was the founder and CEO of Global Custom Commerce, which operates the world’s top online window coverings retailer Blinds.com. Boot-strapped in 1996 for just $3,000 from his Bellaire garage, Global Custom Commerce was acquired by The Home Depot in 2014. Jay remained its CEO and later joined The Home Depot Online Leadership Team. After stepping away from these roles in early 2020, he has increased his involvement on numerous private company boards and serves as a director of the public company Masonite (NYSE: DOOR). He also teaches entrepreneurship at Rice University’s Jones Graduate School of Business and supports numerous charities. Jay is an Ernst & Young Entrepreneur of the Year and has earned a Lifetime Achievement Award from the Houston Technology Center. Active as an industry speaker on corporate culture, core values, how to scale a start-up, and disruption, he has more than 100 published articles.

But did you know that many of Jay’s former employees have started businesses of their own, formed angel investment funds, developed and led some of Houston’s best technology teams, and grown into pillars of the HouTech community?

Come hear what’s sure to be an intriguing panel discussion with Jay and several ex-Blinds.com’ers as they discuss company culture, core values, lessons learned, and thoughts on the HouTech ecosystem and take questions from the audience.

The event is Wednesday, October 12, at 6 pm, at the Ion. Click here to register.

October 13 — October Transitions on Tap

Transition On Tap is Greentown Labs' monthly networking event devoted to fostering conversations and connections among the climate and energy transition ecosystem in Houston and beyond. Entrepreneurs, investors, students, and friends of climatetech are invited to attend, meet colleagues, discuss solutions, and engage with our growing community. If you’re looking for a job in climatetech or energy, trying to expand your network, or perhaps thinking about starting your own energy-related company, this is the event for you.

The event is Thursday, October 13, 5 to 7 pm, at Greentown Houston. Click here to register.

October 14 — Tech, Tools and Tips: Digital Training Day at Impact Hub Houston

Struggling with a process in your business? There's probably a tech tool for that. Impact Hub Houston invites YOU to attend an extended edition of its Tech, Tools, and Tips Series hosted in partnership with Frost Bank.

The goal for this session is to provide small business owners with an overview of various digital tools that can help your day to day operations. By attending this event, you will learn about various digital tools and also have an opportunity to network with other small business owners.

The event is Friday, October 14, 8:30 am to 12:30 pm, at the Omni Riverway. Click here to register.

October 14-16 — Incubate Galveston + the Ion Hackathon 2022

A hackathon is a social design sprint that brings together the community to work in teams creating innovative solutions. Basically, it’s a party, and a 48-hour race between teams competing to develop solutions to problem-sets for cash prizes. Participants will work in small teams that have a collection of experts, entrepreneurs, students, and community members to tackle the below identified challenges:

  • Increase food access in urban core neighborhoods
  • Create opportunities for green initiatives, including environmental education, coastal resilience, and conservation
  • Propose home refurbishment programs and housing
  • Develop capacity for education and workforce skills development
  • Solve the plastic pollution issue in Galveston: Plastic trash in the water supply, on the beaches, and in the waterways of Galveston and surround areas affects the community in many ways (e.g., beaches look dirty, the plastic has chemicals harmful to health, and microplastics get into the environment and remain there for long periods of time. How can we solve this problem, removing and reducing waste and its downstream impacts, and make our community safer and cleaner? The plastic pollution problem can be address in the way of innovative preventive steps, innovation treatments, and public education, etc.
  • Offer creative solutions to other challenges

The event is Friday, October 14, to Sunday, October 16, at the Marmo Plaza. Click here to register.

October 19 — How to Build an App without Code, Part 1: Info Session (In-Person & Online)

Join Heather Wilson, a UX Researcher, Service Designer and Google Design Sprint Facilitator, as she teaches you how to build an app without code!

Benefits of building an app without code:

  • building a custom app could take months to a year to develop
  • coding could present problems when your mobile strategy is pivoting
  • allows for customization and the ability to make changes as needed
  • high costs can be associated with building am app
The event is Wednesday, October 19, at 6 pm, online. Click here to register.

October 20 — 2022-2023 UH Energy Symposium Series

Rising electricity prices, increasing concerns about grid reliability, and achieving carbon-free electricity in the U.S. by 2035 have refocused attention on the role of nuclear in the energy transition. This comes after a decade of low investments, accumulating nuclear waste, an aging fleet of reactors, public opposition, and regulatory mandates that stalled nuclear’s growth and led to declines in production. Meanwhile, the nuclear industry has maintained its safety record, made remarkable progress in fusion and advanced nuclear reactors, and improved operating safety and efficiency.

The first topic of the 2022-2023 Energy Symposium Series, The Future of Nuclear in the Energy Transition, will address if and how headways in advanced nuclear reactors, fusion, and waste management can overcome the challenges of economic feasibility, efficient and safe waste disposal, and build public and regulatory support for the increased deployment of nuclear energy in the U.S. We are excited to bring our panel discussion of Critical Issues in Energy back on campus this year.

The event is Thursday, October 20, at 6 pm, at Hilton University of Houston - Conrad N. Hilton Ballroom . Click here to register.

October 26-27 — Fuze

Fuze is bringing together the builders and innovators in energy tech. Shutting down 5 blocks in downtown Houston for two days and covering three content tracks, the event is focused on discovering breakthroughs in energy technology.

The event is Wednesday, October 26, to Thursday, October 27, at 8th Wonder Brewery. Click here to register.

October 27 — Aerospace Investment & Engagement

Join the Houston Angel Network as they discuss the current and future state of aerospace innovation and investment, followed by pitches.

The event is Thursday, October 27, at 8 am to 1 pm at the Ion. Click here to register.

October 27 — Space-Related Technology Development and the Houston Innovation Community

In these presentations, Mr. Montgomery Goforth and other aerospace subject matter experts will discuss the technology development challenges faced by NASA’s Johnson Space Center and the surrounding Aerospace community in our ongoing efforts as the hub of human spaceflight. Presentations will focus on the ways in which these challenges, and the associated opportunities, can be leveraged by Houston’s innovation community.

The event is Thursday, October 27, at 4 pm at the Ion. Click here to register.

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