Talent & Technology

The oil and gas industry is facing a progressively more complex work environment that is ever-shifting, less predictable, challenging, multidisciplinary, and increasingly global, with more complicated technical problems to be solved. There is also more public awareness and interest in what we do, how we do what we do, and who we are. Combined with our industry’s rapidly changing demographics, these developments stress the need for development of competencies within a spectrum ranging from emotional intelligence/soft skills to technical skills. In the new work environment, new attributes are rewarded and, although developing technical literacy is highly regarded, the necessity of acquiring soft skills is gaining recognition and is considered equally critical for success.

In an article published in the August 2012 issue of JPT, the SPE Soft Skills Council discussed the critical need for technical professionals in the future to learn and refine a number of important nontechnical (soft) competencies that have a great impact on the bottom line. With the increasing role of technology and the mixture of social, environmental, political, and economic construct across our industry, the essence of the council’s message was that there is a requirement for finer attunement and shedding of parochial paradigms. This follow-up article introduces a proposed competency matrix as a tool to identify soft skills gaps at various stages of one’s career.

Gaining Importance

Soft skills are about broadening our views and perspectives to enable us to perceive the interdependent nature of our work within our respective organizations and, even more importantly, within a larger social, political, ecological context. By remembering our humanity, we are provided with the possibility to develop sustainable technical and business strategies that consider both the intended and unintended consequences of our solutions. Recognizing the critical importance of soft competencies, Albert Einstein said, “It has become appallingly obvious that our technology has exceeded our humanity.”

A century later, the dominant paradigm about what may be the key for technical professionals’ career success is shifting from technical know-how to an equally or more important soft competencies. Obviously, technical attributes are core to our industry. However, for some years, the quality and strength of human interactions have been increasingly presented as at least equally important in sustaining business success for individuals and their organizations. J.W. Marriott, chairman and chief executive officer of Marriott International, said, “To succeed in today’s workplace, young people need more than basic reading and math skills. They need math skills. They need substantial content knowledge and information technology skills; advanced thinking skills, flexibility to adapt to change; and interpersonal skills to succeed in multicultural, cross-functional teams.”

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