In 2015, the focus was on jobsite innovations that would make the job easier and safer. The next step, and the 2016 focus, is that people are the most important component of a great company. The latest technology and best practices will not work without the right people. Scaling up requires a good balance of experienced employees and new talent. What does it take for a 21st-century drilling company to keep talent and acquire new? It requires good leaders, mentors and the ability to understand a new hire’s mindset. According to Forbes, by 2020, millennials will make up 50 percent of the United States workforce and by 2030, 75 percent of the global workforce. The workforce is always changing and evolving, and it is up to your business to adapt and embrace the next generation of employees. Regardless of the age or generation, all new hires require safety, proper knowledge, mentors and great leadership. 

“Safety is a Condition of Employment”

A great leader, Chip Miller of Halliburton, implemented the statement “Safety is a condition of employment.” The statement is simple and powerful: Unsafe actions will not be tolerated. The frequent movement of drilling rigs prevents OSHA inspectors from making jobsite visits. Old and new employees alike have to adopt a safety mindset. New employees have to be taught safe jobsite practices from the start. Regardless of the size of your company, it is important to appoint a safety manager and follow their directions for health, safety and environmental regulation. Start reporting near misses. A near miss can be defined as any close call or minor accident that could have caused property damage or injury. Record near misses to better understand what job tasks have the potential to cause damage, injury or both. If you reflect back on one catastrophic incident on your jobsite, I am sure you can think of three to four unrecorded near miss incidents. Recently, a driller told me a story about a worn out breakout wrench that was like playing Russian roulette. The wrench eventually broke, and he showed me a surgical scar on his right forearm. A safe job is not only a condition of employment, but a matter of life and death. 

Breaking the Tribal Knowledge 

Drilling methods and techniques take years to master and require a perfect balance of skill and luck to be successful. Most skills needed to be a successful driller are based on tribal knowledge. New hires and new drillers need guidance to become competent employees. They should be encouraged to attend local and regional industry training sessions. The classroom sessions are always a great resource, but being able to interact with experienced drillers from around the country is invaluable. I also suggest purchasing a copy of Johnson’s “Groundwater and Wells,” 3rd edition. This book, along with professional development through NGWA and National Driller, can help overcome the harsh tribal knowledge mentality developed in our industry.

Develop a Mentor Culture

Training sessions and books are a great first step, but, more importantly, your company needs an appointed mentor. There is a difference between a guide and a mentor. A guide shows the subject how to do the steps required to finish a job. Often, this training takes place on a site where time is money. It is hard to expect the new hire to perfect a step their first time. A mentor understands the learning curve required, and coaches a new hire through the steps until he is confident that the new hire can do it efficiently and effectively. I know many good drillers, mud engineers and pump installers that are excellent guides but poor mentors. The drilling industry no longer has the luxury of time. Our workforce is aging, and the age gap between new hires and experienced employees is increasing. A good rule is one year into a new hire’s employment he or she should be able to do 90 percent of all tasks on the jobsite. Sure, they will not be able to complete a well, but that does not mean they could not step up on the driller platform and trip rods out of the hole.

The qualities of a good mentor include patience and excellent communication skills, and he should be good at reading employees emotions. Empathy is crucial for a great mentor. It is OK that your best driller or employee of your company does not have what it takes to mentor. It is not OK to allow them to guide new employees on jobsites. More often than not, it will result in the loss of your new hire. Look out for the negative statements like, “these millennials act like they are entitled,” or, “I do not understand why they cannot work a 16-hour day.” The “rock star” does not have to be the trainer. Everyone has a significant role: management steers the company, the rock star brings in the working capital and mentors develop the future employees of the company.

Millennials, or the 800-Pound Gorilla in the Room

By 2030, 75 percent of the workforce will be millennials but, more importantly, they also will be our customers. Every generation has that moment when they freeze and say, “I cannot work with these young people!” Next, we end up working together for the common goal of success. It is important to understand that the learning curve in many industries for millennials is short. They are highly educated with technology, and have utilized that resource for most of their life. Author Richard Guthrie stated in “Publishing: Principles and Practices”: “It took 38 years to reach 50 million people by radio, 13 years for television, four years for the Internet and three months for social media.” The true millennial has always known the world with Internet and cell phones. Instead of asking general questions, often they search the answer on the Internet. The disconnect for the drilling industry is tribal knowledge. There’s not much on the Internet on how to drill cobbles. The workforce will always evolve and will include several generations of employees working together. The evolution this time is that we have more ways to communicate. With email, texting and cell phones, it should be easier than ever to work together, resolve issues and overcome any obstacle. The next time a colleague or coworker is having a hard time working with an employee or new hire, you should ask, “Have you talked directly with them?” Remember that outside of work, millennials are your children, grandchildren and family. A great workforce is also your family.

Great Leaders

A great leader will continue to develop professionally. The following books have helped me and can help you and your team raise the bar:

  • “Good Boss, Bad Boss” by Robert I. Sutton
  • “The Five Dysfunctions of a Team” by Patrick Lencioni
  • “Winning” by Jack and Suzy Welch
  • And “The Way of the Shepherd” by Dr. Kevin Leman and William Pentak

These books will help uncover great insight into dealing with all types of issues. All four books can be found on Audible, which makes it easy to improve your leadership while driving.

Success lies within the people that make up your team. I have worked for some awesome leaders and a few that didn’t get it. It is up to you to decide if you are going to lead or manage, if you are going to recruit young blood or become a curmudgeon and fight against the next generation. Great leaders are brilliant mentors. They have figured out the balance between coaching and letting their employees figure it out for themselves. A good leader protects their people and at the same time keeps them informed. All employees, not just millennials, like recognition for a job well done. My wife is a millennial. My father-in-law, Greg Boisseau, raised all four of his millennial daughters with three rules to live by:

  1. Do your best.
  2. Do the right thing.
  3. Treat others as you would like to be treated.

All four of these millennials are rock stars in their careers, and any drilling company would kill to have them. The great leaders I have worked for used the same rules, and they range from the generation of the baby boomers to generation X.

Happy New Year!