So What Do We Do Now?

There is no question that the list of companies engaging in layoffs within the oil and gas industry is significant. Indeed, the list of people who have been laid off is long and daunting – and all indications are that it is going to continue for a while.

We have a tradition in our office of keeping names of people who are looking for work up on a white board in our hallway. The idea is that as our folks meet with dozens of customers every day, they can connect prospective geoscientists with companies that are looking to hire. It never has the names of everyone who is looking for a job, but usually that board has anywhere from 4 to 10 geoscientists’ names on it. As of November 16th, 2015 it has 110.

It’s easy to feel like everything is stacked against us right now:

  1. It looks like we are way closer to the ‘end of the beginning’ than we are the ‘beginning of the end’ when it comes to low commodity prices
  2. The government seems to be shifting from an approach of careful neutrality towards slight antagonism
  3. We are riding a wave of negative public sentiment towards our industry.

My geophysicist father told me there would be days like this…

So what do we do now?

Spoiler alert: This isn’t one of those posts saying that we have always been able to deal with commodity swings and we just have to hunker down and ride it out. This may be true, but I don’t think that’s the answer this time. In fact, the way we have done it before – focusing internally, laying people off, cutting costs, culling from the service sector and therefore incrementally cut costs from existing and future production – has contributed to some of the problems we see in the industry today.

This Oil and Gas business is filled with highly intelligent, innovative people. They, and collectively we, have built an industry that runs on insightful and artful interpretation and exploration, science and mathematics that rivals space exploration, entrepreneurial deal making and business practices, and engineering drilling and manufacturing processes that are truly awe inspiring.

Despite that, I would argue that one thing we lack is a true culture of innovation. One where we look for disruptive changes to the status quo. One with an environment where people are encouraged to suggest change (not afraid to as is often the case now). One where leaders communicate vision and strategy and let their employees figure out the best way to get there. I am afraid that in many ways we are the opposite of that culture now.

In order to change that, we need to work together to alleviate the pain felt by the thousands of people who are out of work right now. We need to create networks for training, networking and job hunting. The CSEG should and will be central in these efforts but we all need to also do our part.

And you can do yours. Put up your hand. Challenge the leaders at your company to do things differently. Let’s work together to move the industry forward.