It could be argued it is long overdue, but the oil and gas industry is more engaged than ever in addressing Diversity & Inclusion (D&I) parity within the sector.
A recent Oil and Gas UK (OGUK) survey will hasten progress by establishing a baseline for the UK industry and an index by which to measure and improve performance and drive forward further change.
The creation of a new UKCS D&I Index – which comprises the average D&I score from around 50 core questions – provides a clear indication of where the sector currently stands in key D&I areas, including belonging, openness, respect, career, opportunities, organisation, culture, leadership, impact and flexibility.
But crucial to how the sector catches up with other industries is how individual businesses respond, as they will play a key role in advancing D&I issues. To succeed, businesses have to gather data within their organisation, otherwise it is impossible to obtain a true picture of where the business is positioned, goals can’t be set and progress can’t be measured. If a business genuinely wants to effect change, it needs to establish what works and what doesn’t, so data gathering is fundamental.
To get the most from data gathering, employee “buy-in” is key and for that a clear communication plan is required. Employees need to understand why the business is gathering data, what is being achieved by doing it, and why it is important. Getting the message across to its workforce as to why diversity is so important to their business, and the industry as a whole, will assist in overcoming the hurdles/barriers to participation in the data gathering process.
Potential blockers to staff participation could include general suspicions at the motives, employees having a “lack of time” to complete the survey, and the mindset that if it doesn’t directly impact on staff, why should they support the exercise?
Given the make-up of the industry’s workforce (particularly across certain job profiles), improving D&I in oil and gas is arguably a tougher challenge than in other sectors. With a significantly large percentage of the workforce offshore and many miles away from the office/desk environment, this can present additional challenges with getting everyone onboard and getting the message across. This was evidenced in the OGUK report which showed the D&I index for offshore workers was lower than those working onshore.
Influencers or ambassadors can be appointed to help with offshore buy-in by being on the ground and explaining to reluctant peers why it is important to participate in data gathering. Also internal D&I groups, and connections with similar networks, reinforces to employees that D&I is high on the agenda, and this will help drive up response rates both onshore and offshore.
With regards to gathering data, there are cross-border considerations too – not only from a legal data protection perspective (if conducting the exercise on an international scale) where the law will differ across jurisdictions – but organisations also need to be aware of differing societal views, depending on an employee’s nationality, when it comes to providing sensitive data to their employer.
Cultural change in an organisation starts at the top and employers have a greater chance of getting the D&I message across if senior executives and board members are involved. The C-suite should be as engaged as those tasked with driving the D&I agenda (in fact they should be driving it). This will show employees that the message is coming from the top and it is a business critical issue, which also demonstrates to employees, prospective employees, clients and customers, that D&I is being taken seriously.
The OGUK report made clear reference to the evidence which demonstrates that diverse and inclusive businesses are more competitive and profitable. Also customers who place a high value on D&I will want to do business with like-minded people, and will prefer to have the best and most diverse talent working on their issues or problems.
In an industry which has suffered a brain-drain in recent years as a result of the oil price crash, there is a real risk of losing more people because they do not see diversity and inclusion highly ranked in businesses. These are the future leaders of the sector but if they don’t feel their values are well represented, or they do not see themselves reflected in leadership positions within the business/industry, they will look elsewhere for a position which fits better with their ideals, or where they can “see what they can be” – further reducing the talent pool.
D&I, or rather a lack of it, can also impact on the sector’s energy transition ambitions as many companies aim for a net zero carbon end-point. Energy transition needs to be supported with continual advancement in technology, which relies on diverse thinking and ideas. If the best talent and most innovate thinkers gravitate towards others D&I friendly sectors, it will take longer to reach a net zero carbon landscape.