Oil and Gas Industry Trends: Generational Turnover

Oil field workers at a well site

One trend many oil and gas companies are navigating is generational turnover.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, in November of 1983 there were 263,500 jobs Americans working in oil and gas.

In November 2003, that number hit a 40-year low of 118,600 before trending back up to 163,800 in November of 2019.

oil and gas industry trends

Due to the boom and bust cycles of our industry, many energy companies are at a place where they have men and women in their 60s and 70s with retirement on the horizon working alongside men and women in their 20s and 30s still figuring out what’s what and what the future of the industry looks like.

A key to success for these companies will be managing this transition from the so-called Boomer generation to the so-called Millennial generation.

What’s Lost

When an experienced person walks out the door for the last time, the company takes a hit.

The knowledge of how to deal with countless troubleshooting scenarios and situations that don’t go “by the book” typically leaves with them.

Unless the company has provided the time and environment for that person to invest in and train his or her younger colleagues, it’s tough to compensate for that experience.

They must now lean on newer, less experienced team members and the bumps that come along with learning on the job.

Encouraging Signs

That said, there are some very encouraging signs about the generational dynamics within companies. For example:

  • Younger workers are eager to learn.
    There is an overstated stereotype that younger generations think they know it all and don’t want to hear from “their elders.” In our experience that hasn’t been the case. The team members and partners we interact with are always hungry for more knowledge, especially from those who have put their years in. A recent workforce study found that 77% of people value having colleagues older than them because of the opportunities to learn.
  • Experienced workers are generous with their knowledge.
    There is a wonderful Greek proverb that goes like this: “A society grows great when old men plant trees under whose shade they know they shall never sit.” The industry partners we talk with care about what happens to their younger colleagues. A recent survey of Human Resources professionals found that 63% of workers 55 and older are good mentors for younger workers.
  • Younger workers are bringing technology to bear.
    The digital advances that are taking place in the oilfield are bringing real benefits to producers. Younger generations have grown up with this tech, and they are putting what they know of remote communication and digital technologies to work in the industry to create safer environments and advance efficiency in ways we’re just recognizing.

How Kimray is Managing Generational Turnover

Recognizing this dynamic at Kimray, we have employed some key strategic initiatives to prepare for this transition:

  • Using Technology to Capture Knowledge
    We are using technology to capture the knowledge of our experienced team members. In addition to internal training systems, we sharing much of our knowledge online via our growing library of training videos and informative blog. We are dedicated to expanding those resources over the next year.
  • Formally Identifying and Training Emerging Leaders 
    Our Front-line Leader Academy identifies future leaders in the company and trains them on core leadership skills we value like approachability, flexibility, and vision casting.
  • Career Planning  
    We are interviewing our teams to understand what their career goals and working to connect them with opportunities and clear paths to get where they would like to be.

These are a few ideas of how to create environments where generations can work together for mutual flourishing, both now and into the future.


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