Over the past decade, buoyed by high oil prices we have witnessed exploration and production companies expanding their operations into ever more remote and harsh locations. Often these locations have limited infrastructure and lack the necessary local skilled workforce. This has created a substantial demand for foreign oil and gas workers, whilst incentives such as the ‘hazardous danger pay’ continue to attract employees from around the world.
According to the Hays Oil & Gas Global Salary Guide 2016, 91% of oil and gas workers would consider an international move, a figure replicated in no other industry. The interest of workers to relocate is high, but are candidates fully prepared for the difficulties and challenges that they are likely to encounter?
HR can only do so much
Human Resources teams have an important role to play in the security of their employees, making sure all the correct policies and procedures are in place to minimize risk, but HR can’t guarantee safety. Risk management policies and behavioral safety coaching are essential and help prepare workers. However, workers can react differently once actually on-site, so therefore it is important to have the right match of attitude and temperament to be successful.
The right fit
Some challenges cannot be averted by security management. In these instances the worker relies on both training and ‘gut’ instinct. Here are some of the qualities that will equip the worker to be successful in a hazardous environment:
The Houston team helped a candidate secure a new role in Korea. The biggest challenge he had when he first arrived was understanding and adjusting to the nuances of the local culture. What really helped him was learning a few key Korean phrases, as well as exercising patience when trying to get his point across.
Fluency in the local language is not always realistic, so being an effective and patient communicator will help you break the language barrier.
Employers tell us that the ideal candidate is someone who understands the importance of staying calm and resolve problems efficiently under intense pressure.
"Being able to work well in a team is an absolute priority"
I’m reminded of another oil and gas professional who faced a difficult situation outside an oil site in Iraq. His security detail had driven to the wrong extraction site, leaving him exposed in a potentially dangerous area. By keeping a cool head and maintaining constant contact with security he was able to facilitate an effective rescue operation.
Being able to work well in a team is an absolute priority for achieving the best outcome on projects that are taking place in unfamiliar locations, with people from a range of backgrounds.
The icy conditions of rigs in the North Sea or the searing heat of the Middle East can be testing and add pressure to the working environment. The ability to integrate yourself into a team quickly and build good team relations is valuable to an employer.
"Not everyone is suited to these environments"
Taking on assignments in challenging locations as an oil and gas worker often means long hours as part of a close team working in harsh environments. Therefore those who get on well with others and who know when to follow and when to lead are highly sought after.
A final thought
The benefits of working abroad for oil and gas workers are attractive and multiple; traveling the world and career progression are just two of the things that appeal to a great deal of people. However, it should be understood that not everyone is suited to these environments.