We’re experiencing a lengthy and prolonged downturn in the price of oil, which has significantly impacted Alberta’s economy. We’ve seen many layoffs – mostly of junior and mid-level employees. While there have been some senior management lay-offs, they have been few and far between.
The people who no longer have jobs will find new ones in other sectors, move out of province, retire, or change their employment status to part-time or consultant. Once leaving oil and gas, many are unlikely to return to it. The loss of knowledge capital leaving the sector is astronomical, and the impact of the loss of these jobs on human potential is significant.
Companies have also cut back on training and development activities. Training and development is considered by many as “soft stuff”. Companies are asking their people to do more with less, and step into leadership roles, but aren’t giving them the tools to be able to do it effectively.
So, what happens in 3 to 5 years, when oil (hopefully) has rebounded, and remaining senior executives retire?
Many talented people in the middle of organizations are no longer there. Those that are, are not well equipped or prepared to step into those senior shoes due to cutbacks in their professional development.
Some progressive companies have continued with development activities for their mid-level leaders. When the economy turns (and it will!) they will be well positioned with leaders who are ready, willing, and able to assume those senior roles.
Investment in the future is never wasted. If that investment results in people leaving to go elsewhere, so be it. If the company didn’t invest and people stayed, how would that serve the company?
Companies that address the leadership gap NOW will thrive in the future
The leadership gap in the oil and gas industry in Alberta will hit in the next 5 years. Most companies are not prepared for this. Perhaps they haven’t even thought about it as they are focused on surviving, not thriving. Companies that are thinking about the leadership gap and taking action will be far ahead of others in their industry and will be well positioned for superior leadership in the future.
Challenging times can be used as an excuse for not developing people.
Money is tight, the focus is on survival, and anxiety is high. We all get that. Focusing on the future, beyond the current downturn, will strengthen the company and will also provide motivation for those who are still leaders with that company. How you treat people in a downturn will impact their loyalty and their willingness to contribute at higher levels now and in the future.
So, let’s get beyond the excuses! Even in challenging times, there are ways to continue to develop your people.
Some ideas to think about:
- Group Coaching – The cost of one-on-one coaching can be high, however, group coaching is more cost-effective and provides different benefits. Participants in group coaching learn from each other, as well as from the coach/facilitator. Group coaching builds camaraderie and shared experience, as well as strong relationships across the company.
- Mentoring – Encouraging and establishing mentoring relationships is a no-cost way to ensure that knowledge transfer occurs, that up and coming leaders learn about organizational politics and are introduced to key people, and learn what is required to lead at a more senior level. Mentoring relationships are typically between a more senior leader and one more junior. However, it is worth considering other alternatives, such as peer mentoring or mentoring of a more senior person by a junior leader. In any case, the relationship should be two-way and provide benefits to both individuals involved in the relationship.
- Management Training – Continuing with management training can be a cost effective way to increase management skills. Utilizing programs that are available to subsidize training that otherwise would not occur is worth considering. There are government programs that subsidize the cost of management training that cover up to 67% of the training cost. If this is of interest and you’re a company doing business in Alberta, please contact me at Wilma@transcendmgt.com . Some of my clients have taken advantage of this program with excellent results.
- Shadow Leadership – Invite your high potential leaders to shadow another leader who is equally or more talented. Give them the opportunity to observe how that leader works with people, runs meetings, interacts with senior leaders, and creates an environment for team members to do their best. I can hear the objections already: “that takes time.” Yes, it does, but it doesn’t have to be a fulltime shadowing. A schedule can be set for the leaders to spend time together in meaningful ways that benefit each of them and the company.
- Projects – Assign your leaders to projects that will push them out of their comfort zones. Projects are an excellent way to learn how to work together in a team setting, get to know others from different parts of the business, and try new things. Being on a project provides the opportunity to learn different ways of thinking and see how others interact in a team and leadership environment.
- Researching and Giving Presentations – Many of my senior leader clients will assign research and presentation preparation to their junior leaders. This process provides the opportunity to become knowledgeable about a certain topic that is relevant to their part of the business, apply critical thinking skills, and make recommendations based on their research. This, of course, is not done without involvement of the senior leader who provides guidance to ensure success. This opportunity gives the more junior leader exposure to the executive leadership team, helps the junior leader understand what executives are looking for in this type of situation, and provides an opportunity to build relationships.
- Teaching Others – Everyone has an area of expertise and experience that is unique to that individual. When dollars are tight and training budgets have been slashed, is there an opportunity for individuals within the company to train others on their particular area of expertise or share information about their area of the company. For example, what that department does, who it serves, what it measures, what their results are and how they contribute to the company.
- Online Learning – Our traditional training methods have been in-person, classroom-based and there are many who believe that this is still the best, and ONLY way to train and develop people. As an individual who has both taught and taken part in online learning, it can be a viable and effective way to learn. Usually, but not always, it is more cost-effective than traditional methods and it can be completed at the individual’s own pace. Costs vary, however, some institutions, likeMIT, have made courses available online at no cost.
Your company does not have to fall prey to the upcoming leadership gap. Cost does not have to be an issue. There are ways to keep your employees engaged by providing growth opportunities so that you’re well positioned for the future.
I’d love to hear how your company is growing its leaders.