During the pandemic, education and training became less of a focus as organizations responded to the immediate crisis. As personnel adjusted to working from home and feeling disconnected from their peers, they began to reevaluate their priorities, redefine what success really means, reassess the type of employer they work for and reimagine their career paths. This in turn means employers need to find ways of holding on to and attracting their experts, and are finding that continued development is highly motivating.
“Since the start of the pandemic, 20% of workers have changed careers, according to a survey from Prudential,” with the majority of them being millennials with 5 or more years of work experience and more than half taking a pay cut to do so. 
|Generation||Percentage who have changed career paths since March 2020|
Data source: The Motley Fool survey of 2,000 Americans conducted October 11, 2021
Organizations facing a talent crush can typically fill their vacancies with recent college graduates. Unfortunately, that is a challenge for oil and gas operators. “Many Millennials believe the sector is lacking innovation, agility and creativity, as well as opportunities to engage in meaningful work. In fact, only 2% of US college graduates consider the oil and gas industry their top choice for employment.” 
On average, it takes an organization 42 days to fill an open position, according to a report by the Society for Human Resource Management, with an average replacement cost equaling one-fifth of the employee’s salary. 
The cost to an organization is more than financial; there is the loss of institutional knowledge, commonly phrased as “brain drain,” which alludes to the loss of human capital from 1 industry to another. In addition to the loss of millennials, the pandemic accelerated the “sliver tsunami,” with nearly 30 million baby boomers retiring by the 3rd quarter of 2020.  This exodus left a void in the pipeline industry. The unprecedented talent loss is draining the industry of its ability to train and retain the next generation of pipeline engineers, leaving them ill-equipped to deal with the vital projects and challenges of the future.
So… the key question is now, “How do we acquire, maintain and improve our human capital?”
ACQUIRING AND RETAINING HIGH-CALIBER TALENT
The ability to acquire and keep high-caliber talent is linked to an organization’s understanding of the motivating factors driving these individuals.
At the forefront of individuals’ decision to join or stay with an organization are better learning and career development opportunities. Eighty percent of those responding to the Oracle and Workplace Intelligence surveys  said they consider professional development and training offerings when accepting a job offer. This sentiment is echoed in other surveys ...
- “92% of employees think having access to professional development is very important or important” – Better Buys 
- 94% of employees said they would stay at a company longer if it invested in their development – LinkedIn Workforce Learning Report 
- 91% want more training opportunities – Talent LMS report 
Additionally, employees are willing to make significant sacrifices for more career development opportunities: 
- 52% would sacrifice vacation time
- 51% would forego a monetary bonus
- 43% would relinquish part of their salary
Data Source: Fortune.com 
It is apparent that in order for organizations to attract and retain talent, they need to provide training and development opportunities beyond the onboarding phase. It is important to distinguish between onboarding and training; they are 2 different things. Onboarding is a short-term process with the purpose of acclimating new employees to the organization, while training is an ongoing process aimed at developing skills and proficiencies.
TRAINING PERSONNEL IMPROVES YOUR BOTTOM LINE
In the corporate world, we regularly hear that people are our most important or most valuable asset, and, in most industries, human capital is indeed our greatest asset and the key to achieving our business goals. Additionally, human capital determines the quality and future of the organization.
Organizations who have embraced this concept and focus on training and competency development have reported an increase in their profit anywhere between 14% and 29%.  Why? Because they have created an atmosphere of employee engagement. An engaged employee
- is dedicated to the company’s goals and values
- has higher productivity rates
- has lower absenteeism rates
- stays longer with the organization
In a 3-year study of 575 U.S.-based publicly traded companies, the American Society for Training and Development set out to measure and value a company’s investments in education and training. They found that
- “an increase of $680 in a firm’s training expenditures per employee generates, on average, a six-percentage point improvement in a company’s total shareholder return (TSR) in the following year” 
- “organizations that where in the top 25% in regard to their spending on average per employee enjoyed 24% higher profit margins, higher income per employee (218%) and a 26% price to book ratio on average than organizations in the bottom 25%” 
LEARNING IN THE POST-COVID ERA
The Covid-19 pandemic disrupted and significantly impacted how people connect and learn. Training and education departments looked for more cost-effective classes; time was, and still is, of the essence. There is huge demand for less travel, more flexibility and solutions to play catch-up in order to recover from the consequences of 2 years of uncertainty and furlough. While the always-connected millennials and Gen Z expect on-demand training, the challenge is enabling them to learn in a way that is optimal for them – at a time, pace and place of their choosing.
The sudden rise in online interaction during the pandemic, prompted by the need to learn and collaborate remotely, exposed an opportunity to exploit social engagement to develop innovative approaches to competence development. Virtual communities grew as a social and business construct to effectively hold the space for knowledge sharing, personal development and connection. Individuals bought into them as a way to work and learn simultaneously, and organizations adopted them as a new business model. The networking effect within and between discrete communities has extensive benefits for industry success by ameliorating the intellectual burdens individuals and organizations face, e.g., the generation and use of shared resources, immortalizing and mobilizing experience, leveraging global expertise, and cultivating the next generation of pipeliners. In terms of retaining high-caliber talent and the value they contribute, virtual communities provide individuals with room to grow and apply themselves. Therefore, the way individuals personally invest themselves within a community can generate deep ties to the organization, its members and its mission, which can influence how long these individuals stay.
Virtual communities give people a stage to showcase and contribute their voice, talent and value as they engage in problem-solving and knowledge-sharing opportunities. The construct helps to catalyze a sense of belonging in an organization and feelings of fulfillment in work through acts of contribution and recognition. Moreover, it supports individuals’ learning and sense-making so that they can be more effective in their role. Organizations that establish communities have the chance to offer employees something else to support their training and development, something that ventures beyond corporate training to provide individuals with just-in-time learning and peer assistance to support competence development.
We as people are hardwired to self-organize into communities because we rely on each other for the division of cognitive and physical labor to survive and thrive. We do not learn (or achieve much) alone. Virtual communities offer an effective way to speed up connection and collaboration to optimize upskilling the workforce, and ROSEN is developing the space to do so.
DESIGNING A VIRTUAL COMMUNITY
Since 2016, ROSEN has become an agent of change for industry knowledge sharing and professional development in their flagship education initiative, the Competence Club, which started as a set of on-demand courses and has evolved into a worldwide virtual community.
The growing trend towards social learning, prompted by the onset of the Covid-19 pandemic, and the growing numbers of the Competence Club platform presented an opportunity to evolve the Competence Club to become a virtual community enabler. The ROSEN team launched a new platform supporting
- essential knowledge sharing through social networking and discussion forum strategies
- recognition of qualifications, badges and achievements to showcase members
- easier connectivity through events, meetups, etc. to support industry and member collaboration.
At the core of the community is the learning network, which supports members through courses, industry accredited certification, online resources and virtual meetups. The extended benefits of the community provide members with access to industry experts, formal and informal knowledge networks, and a place to belong and grow throughout their career.
In particular, the initiative has supported young pipeline professionals, engaged with and recruited industry experts, and addressed customers’ bespoke learning needs.
It is no longer an option for organizations to be apathetic towards workforce development or impede training and education departments by restricting funding, resources and innovation. Industry success depends on competent people, which in turn requires all-round investment in more effective and sustainable learning opportunities. Virtual communities provide a new way to support competence development.
As people continue to reflect on what truly matters to them in life, it is up to organizations to step up and offer the right tools to help their workforce thrive. Tools that do not create the risk of losing their greatest asset – their people.
As head of the Education, Systems and Services business line at ROSEN USA, Karen Collins is responsible for providing education and competency solutions in the U.S. and Mexico. With a long experience in pipeline integrity, Karen recognizes the direct correlation between pipeline integrity and competence. She is committed to promoting competency development, evaluation and standards in the oil and gas industry.
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