An interview with Ekaterina Matskevich, Head of HR Department at Gazprom Neft
Gazprom Neft is actively seeking specialists for its foreign projects.
Human resources remain one of the most burning issues in the global oil and gas industry. The lack of skilled personnel is one of the main reasons for delay in implementing many major international projects and postponing their start-up. Neft Rossii Magazine spoke in an interview with Ekaterina Matskevich, Head of HR Department at JSC Gazprom Neft.
— What is your appraisal of the labour market in the oil and gas industry in Russia and abroad?
— The lack of skilled personnel for oil and gas projects, of course, is a problem for all oil and gas producing countries, and Russia is no exception. But we have a big advantage: Russia historically leads the way in world oil production and it has considerable resource potential for the long-term period. It is for this reason that the Russian market is so attractive to major international production and service corporations. Today professionals from all over the world are coming to Russia; and the oil and gas industry is becoming truly international, enabling Russian specialists to master new technologies and foreign best practices. Both Russian and foreign large companies invest in the training and development of their personnel. Among the foreign companies that have played a significant role in training Russian specialists, Schlumberger and Halliburton should be singled out, and the contribution of BP, Shell and ConocoPhillips is also worthy of mention.
In the past ten years the portrait of a typical Russian oilman has changed. Today oilmen are professionals, well grounded in technologies, with knowledge of the English language and new approaches to exploration, engineering and production. Additionally, in contrast to world practice, according to which oilmen relocate easily from the Angolan off shore into the Gulf of Mexico, from the Norwegian Stavanger into the deserts of Saudi Arabia, the Russian specialists are more “careful” in relation to such movements. Personnel outflow does take place but its percentage is so low that it is barely perceptible. And those that do go often end up coming back again.
The situation in Russian oil refining is more complicated. This field is not developing with such intensity because staff exchange is limited.
— How are skilled personnel for international projects recruited at Gazprom Neft? Is that possible to find appropriate specialists in Russia?
— Gazprom Neft’s development strategy supposes an increase in oil output up to 100 million tons oil equivalent per year by 2020. That is why the Company increases its resource base in both Russia and abroad. There is no doubt that to implement new projects we will need a considerable number of qualified specialists. And now we plan our work based both on current and prospective needs.
Our experience in implementing the first major international projects in Serbia and Iraq shows that the search for fully and properly trained managers for key positions in Russian and local markets is a time-consuming and risky business. And it is not so much a matter of the experience and skills of particular individuals as in the specific nature of project management, where success depends not on the individual achievements of certain persons but on the results of the whole team. That is why at Gazprom Neft we decided to focus first on the training and development of existing employees.
We implement a program called Mobile Personnel, which takes into account both the skills and competencies of our employees and the psychological and economic aspects of their moving to new places of work. Practice shows that for working overseas, a lack of knowledge of foreign languages is the least and, in the overwhelming majority of cases, a surmountable difficulty. And a person’s ability to adapt to new conditions and to be able to work effectively outside their habitual environment is the key to success. To this end, we are currently actively implementing a project-based approach to business processes management at different levels.
In April, 2011 the Gazprom Neft launched its Project Academy. This is a joint project, implemented in collaboration with the SKOLKOVO Moscow School of Management. Employees of Gazprom Neft Group enterprises are involved in this project and we have also brought in specialists from Shell as partners. Three modules of the program have already been realized, and we can see how a new understanding of project management and new project teams are being formed.
— What is the percentage of Russian and foreign specialists involved in the Company’s international projects?
— It depends on the specific nature of the project. If it is to be implemented from scratch, the proportion of Russian specialists may be as high as 90% at the initial stages. Most of Gazprom Neft’s international projects are precisely of this type. And if the asset is at a high enough development stage of infrastructure and business processes, as it was, for example, in Serbia, Russian specialists are required less than local ones. Russian specialists tend to fill only those positions that require skills lacking in the local market. In the course of time, when the project switches from the start-up stage to the stage of stable development, the ratio changes gradually in favor of local specialists.
— How do you organize your work in the search of personnel abroad? Do you use the services of international recruitment agencies?
— The working principles are exactly the same as those in Russia. As the development dynamic of our projects is high, we cooperate with local recruitment agencies and maintain a balance between global and local players specializing in oil and gas.
— What specialists are the most in-demand and the hardest to find?
— Today it is difficult to find an industry with sufficient provision or a surplus of skilled personnel. For example, take the metallurgy or the raw materials sectors. In oil and gas it is hard to find managers at all levels and specialists within the entire value chain: from production to refining and sales. The traditional problem concerns geologists with experience of diverse deposits, seismologists, drill men, mine surveyors, specialists in geological and technical work and in increasing production performance. Labor protection in the oil and gas industry is an interesting and promising field in which, due to a change of approaches to the organization of safe production, there is an acute lack of professionals.
The key feature of an in-demand specialist, however, is his/her success and focus on professional growth rather than education and experience. It is such specialists who are sought by the majority of employers, and it is such specialists for whom companies seek to provide opportunities for professional and career growth.
— How is personnel safety provided for in the “hot spots”, in Iraq, for example?
— Of course, the approach to this issue is the most serious. We cooperate with reliable, professional organizations in host countries. However, participation in such projects requires certain discipline on the part of the employees themselves. The multilevel safety system includes specific instructions and rules which must be obeyed by anyone, from driver to chief executive.
— Are the employees provided with special insurance programs?
— In the course of planning of our work within international projects we devoted special attention to this aspect. Insuring the employees and the members of their family is an unconditional element of the program. And it differs considerably from the usual package of optional health insurance. Depending on the given host country the specific risks should be stipulated and accounted for. Unfortunately, Russian insurance companies do not currently provide services in the scope that we require, and we work mainly with foreign partners.