On March 11, the World Health Organization (WHO) characterized the virus that causes COVID-19 a pandemic. Since then, it seems everything has come to a drastic halt in order to ‘flatten the curve’ — bars and restaurants are empty; tourist towns are now ghost towns and people are adjusting to a new ‘work from home’ situation. But, for vital services, the show must go on.
The energy sector is one of the most important industries there is during times of crisis. It supplies fuel to the transportation industry, electricity to households and businesses, and other sources of energy that are integral to growth and production across the Nation. However, continued operations will likely become increasingly difficult due to workforce shortages as employees are infected by the coronavirus and the practical difficulties in many cases of social distancing.
The industry faces a unique challenge that many others don’t. While some functions can be done remotely or outsourced, others simply can’t. A large portion of the workforce is mission-essential to the continued operation of the business and the safe, reliable delivery of power, gas and water.
Take nuclear plants for instance. Licensed control room operators and designated supervision; radiation protection technicians; fire brigade members; maintenance personnel and armed responders are all critical roles that can’t be done remotely. If any one of these positions goes unstaffed on a shift, a plant is at significant risk of triggering multiple Nuclear Regulatory Commission violations and a mandatory shutdown order from the federal government.
Other mission-essential areas in the oil & gas segment include,
These specialized workers typically have a limited pool of people with the right qualifications and cannot be shifted easily or trained in a short time.
‘You can’t control everything that happens to you, but you CAN control the way you respond. And in your response is your greatest power.’
The quote above is a great way to reposition your thoughts during these unpredictable times. So, what do we know?- The energy sector workforce has been reduced because of COVID-19
While an LMS can’t solve every problem, it most definitely can help quickly see who is in the pipeline that is qualified or near qualified to fill a position, get new hires onboarded and maintain a high level of compliance while juggling a remote workforce.
The quickest and easiest way to fill a gap in critical positions is to pull from the current workforce. This is not always easy to do because the energy industry is complicated and dispersed across various countries, regions, factories and offices.
Without an LMS, compiling the data would be next to impossible.
Using real-time reporting and dashboards, a company can quickly find out what employee is certified and/or qualified to fill a position or seamlessly moved to another position. The LMS gives you the agility and flexibility to cross check business needs versus the experience of employees and immediately address the issue with new content, mentoring, on-the-job training and the like.
Also, another thing to think about is doing skills checks out in the field. This is very important and will help expedite the process. The ability to do on-the-job training, instructor-led training and eLearning, and have it all captured within the LMS is very beneficial.
Once all options have been exhausted, the next resort is to hire new workers. But the onboarding process can be slow, especially with specialized positions. A good LMS can speed up the process using automation, personalized learning, easy accessibility and powerful content.
And, because of the dispersed nature of facilities, the LMS should also have flexible permissions that enables various business units to conduct onboarding and training for their specific needs in a timely fashion without interfering with the main LMS.
Of course, during crisis situations the need to be agile is imperative. An LMS must incorporate things like mobile and micro learning for onboarding to happen on-demand, no matter where employees are.
There are many industries that have a good portion of their workforce categorized as ‘essential’ and therefore aren’t eligible to work remotely. The energy industry is a perfect example. However, if essential employees are unable to work, it’s difficult to find qualified replacements in a timely manner. However, by using a comprehensive LMS, it alleviates this issue by quickly identifying within the pipeline who can jump in on short notice as well as speed up the onboarding process. So, before panicking, don’t forget to lean into an important ally that can lessen the impact of a reduced workforce...the learning management system.