Retention of Geoscience Talent: The Role of Leadership.
Frank Wantland, PhD.
Wantland & Associates, Tulsa, OK
Retention of geoscientists is now a strategic issue in the oil and gas industry according to leading business analysts. Retention of geoscientists is a long-term, complex problem requiring leadership dedicated to overcoming the costs of attrition (both tangible and hidden) and fostering exceptional individual performance. Upper management can set goals, issue directives and model best leadership practices; but, the execution that counts most is in the relationship between professional geoscientists and their immediate supervisors. These leaders manage the local climate and culture, match talent and skills with challenging work assignments, assess performance, and convey the hope and vision of the future. These are the key factors contributing to the retention of talent over which they have significant influence. To manage for retention, leaders must first take inventory of their human assets. What defines them as individuals? What drives them? What is their creative domain? How are they positioned? How big is their network? What are their alternative futures? Broad, stereotypical generalizations about motivation from popular literature or multiple choice questionnaires (e.g. D.I.S.C., et al) are useful but not specific enough. Each individual is unique. The only way to gain the information required is to engage people in essential conversations over a period of time and build an individualized career profile for each person. This process is the pathway to better leadership decisions about developing people. And it is quite different and more in-depth than routine annual performance appraisals geared to compensation. Leaders need to weigh the effort to do this against the consequences of conversations not held. The results are worth the effort. The discovery of “motivational drivers” is the key to best possible fit between skills and challenge, resulting in higher, more satisfying individual performance. The creation of alternative futures through scenario planning overcomes uncertainty about the future. This process of individual engagement resulted in zero unwanted turnover in an applied geoscience technology group for ten years. The immediate need is to give leaders the tools to manage retention. This is a problem that will not go away soon if the analysis of workforce demographics is correct. In addition it is not a problem that can be deferred to someone else. It is an opportunity for geoscience leaders to have significant impact on the future of their organization and gain a creative advantage over those who fail to meet this challenge. Success is an image and reputation of an organization that everyone wants to join and no one wants to leave.
AAPG Search and Discovery Article #90152©2012 AAPG Southwest Section Meeting, Fort Worth, Texas, 19-22 May 2012