Oil workers with two to three years in the field are seeing management opportunities as oil production sets records, according to Kari Cutting, vice president of the North Dakota Petroleum Council.
“Around a couple years you’re considered experienced, and now you have all these new hires you’re in charge of,” Cutting said.
North Dakota oil production hit a record 1.39 million barrels per day in October, a 2.4 percent increase over the previous month, reported Lynn Helms, director of the Department of Mineral Resources. As of Jan. 4, 63 rigs were operating in the state, compared to 54 on the same day last year.
As a service to its members, NDPC hired a company to offer training for emerging leaders and managers. The program led by Envision Group International teaches communication skills and the things “we all need when we’re new into supervision,” Cutting said.
“One of the challenges you have in a situation with a lot of hiring and promoting … someone who is really good at what they do is inevitably being promoted from the front line level to manager,” said Pat Lipovski, founder of Envision Group. “Now you’re asking them to supervise five to 10 people and that thing they were good at doesn’t necessarily translate to being able to manage and oversee people.”
The first training NDPC hosted in November was so popular that Envision Group was hired to conduct at least six more sessions in 2019, with the first ones scheduled for February, according to Cutting.
Fifty people attended the first session. Upcoming training will limit attendance to about 30 people, so by the end of February, the group will have offered training to about 110 people.
NDPC and Envision Group were connected through the Petroleum Equipment & Services Association. It was the first time Envision Group had done a training in North Dakota.
Lipovski said he’s been a leadership coach for 21 years and has international corporate customers that range from professional sports organizations to telecom and banking to pharmaceuticals. Next week, he heads to London to do work for an airline.
“We’re bringing an international perspective,” he said.
Envision Group developed its training with insight from leaders, ranging from CEOs to the head man on the deck of the oil rig, and what has worked best for them, Lipovski said.
Trainees are given a process they can follow when it comes to getting employees excited about a project. There’s also a process for active listening and giving professional feedback, as well as relating to employees from different generations as millennials populate the workforce.
The NDPC, trying to retain employees in the state, knew preparing employees for management was key, according to Cutting.
“They recognized they were having problems hiring and retaining employees and the challenges new leaders are having,” said Scott Donald, a partner with Envision Group.
“You don’t quit your company, you quit your leader,” Lipovski said, pointing out that strong leadership is important to retention.
Bismarck-Mandan Chamber EDC President Brian Ritter said he supports what NDPC is trying to do, especially with 2,200 open jobs in Burleigh and Morton counties and about 2 percent unemployment in December.
“Our employers are really trying to position themselves as employers of choice,” Ritter said. “We’re really seeing them stepping up and that’s making the talent pool even deeper.”
Locally, Ritter said Bismarck State College also offers a course for first-time managers. He attended the class three or four years ago with 10 to 15 other students enrolled.