With reserves becoming more difficult to find and produce, oil and gas companies face a growing challenge to keep staff technically current. As industry loses massive technical knowledge over the next 5-8 years due to retirement, younger staff will need to develop more quickly. Graduates from Russian universities in particular will need a variety of training, development, and motivational programs to enable them to develop globally competitive competencies. Traditional Russian culture and educational methods can hinder establishment of necessary developmental programs. Realizing that its technical capabilities were insufficient to deliver aggressive business goals, one large Russian company set out to change its approach. The Comprehensive Staff Development System (CSDS) it implemented differed greatly from Soviet-style efforts, which tend to be largely theoretical. Targeting more than 15,000 technical specialists and managers organized in 16 disciplines, the CSDS blended the efforts of Functional, Human Resource, and Operating Departments.

The CSDS covers technical specialists from the day they join the company until they retire or leave. Graduates from University can enter a Young Specialist program for three years, participate in a Pathways program for another seven, and then spend their professional career in the Technical Excellence program. Each program addresses different development needs.

Overall, the CSDS aims to accelerate the creation of fully independent specialists, while spreading knowledge and competence internally. Experts advance a technical career ladder, with appropriate reward and recognition paralleling that of management. A custom-designed Technical Team Leader program provides support for those who branched out into technical management.

Designed primarily to keep technical competencies up-to-date, the CSDS also guides access to leadership, HSE, and regulatory training. The system outlines competency requirements for various positions, competency assessment methods, formal training expectations, informal training and distance learning options, available Knowledge Management Systems, Communities of Practice options, mentoring and coaching opportunities, discipline career atlases, and the Personal Development Plan tool. The system is jointly owned by Discipline Leaders and Human Resources. Discipline Leaders and their Staff Development Networks ensure that programs target business needs, and contain high quality and pertinent content. Human Resources administer much of the process and bring professionalism in education methodology. Both parties work to make sure that the discipline as a whole is able to satisfy the professional challenges of the company.

Western concepts influenced the design of the system, which was developed at relatively low cost using largely in-house expertise. Among the impediments to implementation, cultural resistance at many levels was the most difficult to overcome. Strong management support and a long term view were critical to successful change.

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