Industry view: Engineering staff retention

By Ryan Menzies, operations director, Apollo

Engineers working in the North Sea sector are considered the best in the business. Their skills are in demand around the world. But companies working in the North Sea province are facing a further challenge that goes beyond talent shortages. Holding on to the industry’s brightest sparks is now tougher than ever.

Employers in the oil and gas industry have to compete with the lure of sunny climates associated with other energy hubs, employee poaching and higher salaries from competitors. But employers should remember that effective staff retention begins with a welcoming company culture. A business that embraces transparency, knowledge sharing and individual learning and development will undoubtedly achieve vastly improved employee retention rates.

The old adage says that “knowledge is power”. Mentoring is key to passing on the wisdom gathered by more experienced members of the engineering community. As people move on, retire or change position within a company, knowledge must be shared to ensure their expertise isn’t lost forever. In the bustling and fluid oil and gas industry, this has never been more prevalent.

The 2012 Department for Business Innovation and Skills Small Business Survey indicated that only eight percent of all SME employers used a mentor in the previous 12 months. By taking a pro-active approach to mentorship, training and coaching, employers are in turn providing key resources that encourage staff to remain loyal.

Some senior leaders see mentoring as a tick box exercise. For those in directorship roles, they may not feel their busy diaries allow for taking the time out to personally develop staff. At Apollo, our managing director ensures he spends a significant amount of time mentoring his team. We feel it works, as our employee retention sits at almost 100% since the company was created in 2010.

Our mentoring programme is available to all staff. Individuals are matched up with a mentor that could even be from a different department. We always ensure that the mentor and mentee are a good fit. Mentoring sessions are very much a two-way learning process and we believe we can learn something new from each other.

Creating a transparent culture and sharing knowledge is essential. The ability to share best practice is invaluable and makes a marked difference to how involved staff feel. If employees can see that their work is making a valued contribution to their company’s success, they feel engaged and are part of business strategy. Putting people before profits helps generate a culture that staff want to work in.

It was Benjamin Franklin, one of the Founding Fathers of the United States, who said: “Tell me and I forget, teach me and I may remember, involve me and I learn.” We even have this quote on our employee handbooks.

The industry owes it to the younger generation to adopt this attitude to employee learning to ensure staff are empowered to better themselves in the workplace.

Retaining staff takes more than a chunky pay packet, fun Christmas parties and a monthly gym membership. In order to retain the talent in your business you have to empower people to make business decisions. When employees feel like they are valued, they quickly become your biggest asset.

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