You like to think of your company as a well-oiled machine—or even a big happy family. But the reality is, even small companies have a hard time keeping all of their employees on the same page, and as companies expand, that challenge becomes even greater.
This can leave management thinking that things are going smoothly while various divisions of the company are heading in different directions or missing important business opportunities.
This is no minor problem. A company that has poor alignment can more easily fall behind the competition or develop an undesirable work atmosphere, which, in turn, can cost the company in both earnings and investors and lead to an in-house downward trend of poorer work performance and higher employee turnover.
However, a company that makes the most of its employees and opportunities can grow and thrive, even during a lackluster economy.
Drilling Down to Solve Alignment Problems
Oil & gas companies face unique challenges when it comes to keeping every division coordinated and working in the same direction. The high risks and rewards in drilling inherently give every investment or missed opportunity greater potential for gain or loss.
Compared to other industries, oil & gas employees generally have more autonomy and are responsible for larger financial transactions and risks. That means keeping everyone in alignment and working in cooperation with the broader objectives of the company are far more important than in other industries.
Just like a facility manager needs to know the details of the site like the land-use terms and current drill status or production, managers often need to have access to the bigger picture at the company to make better decisions.
Most companies have manager meetings or other notifications to keep upper management well-informed. What some companies forget is that sharing information is important across the entire company, not just with the management team.
For example, land agents need to understand the ongoing market rates for mineral rights, but having more knowledge can improve their ability to negotiate deals and manage current properties. Which competitors are expanding into the region? Are changing economic forces outside the oil & gas industry likely to impact the willingness of local farmers and ranchers to sell their mineral rights? Do new environmental concerns need to be addressed to alleviate landowner concerns?
These insights might determine the best tactics for negotiating out in the field. Even if agents are given specific directions with little negotiation latitude, a lack of understanding of the company’s direction could mean opportunities aren’t communicated to senior management, much less capitalized on quickly enough to edge out competitors.
One challenge is sharing information without releasing proprietary data to the public. Fortunately, I.T. offers many solutions to make sharing information practical without overburdening employees.
Remember that opportunities and information can come from unexpected sources. A smart company makes it easier for every employee to contribute more effectively.
Technology has made communication easier, but frequently that just means that unread photocopied memos on desks have been replaced by unread emails in inboxes. Too often, company efforts to keep employees informed leads to workers being overwhelmed.
Yes, email is an invaluable tool, but it needs to be used strategically.
First, your I.T. provider’s network management and support team can set up email distribution lists and maintain them so they remain up-to-date with personnel changes and company reorganizations. Beyond lists for each department or management group, they can create lists so that supervisors can relay information to specific teams within their departments and to employees from different areas who need to share specific types of information.
For example, mechanical engineers in different divisions might all need some of the same information, or the drilling and reclamation groups might discuss and coordinate changing regulations and ways to minimize expenses. These types of established groups can save supervisors time while keeping workers from receiving emails they don’t need.
These lists can encourage everyone to share important information, knowing that the correct people will see it. Working with your MSP to set up protocols for managing and updating these lists will keep the distribution groups relevant even as your company expands and evolves.
Keep It Simple
Email is not a one-way tool. Rather than only sending emails from management down to employees, important information should flow up to where it’s needed.
Your employees on the ground can be sources for some of the best industry information. Is a competing firm starting to drill from an adjacent property into your newly discovered reservoir? Your field crews might be the first to know.The problem is facilitating the communication in a way that doesn’t create undue work. Employees might have trouble tracking down the correct person who needs specific pieces of information.
Use I.T. to your advantage with a special email account for employees or even contractors to use to convey key information. Personnel within your office could field these emails and forward the information where it’s needed. Encouraging employees to contribute what they know can make workers feel more valued while giving your company an important industry edge.
The same email address could be used by employees to report potential problems they’ve noticed that are outside their areas but which might need attention. Having a single email for incoming employee reports will create a little extra work inside your offices, but making the process fast and simple for your employees across the company will increase participation.
Rather than requiring employees to all gather at a central location, it is often more cost-effective and efficient to have remote meetings.
Video conferences are one way to reach out to employees, and important announcements can be recorded and viewed by off-shift employees at their convenience. Your MSP can set up networks capable of streaming team video conferences and ensure meeting rooms have the right equipment to eliminate common problems like poor sound quality or buffering delays.
The popularity of video in everyday life has caused many people to think of that first when planning remote team meetings or conferences. But don’t neglect to make the most of a good telecommunications system. Conference calls are easier to set up and offer some benefits over video meetings.
If visuals aren’t required for a presentation, they can become a distraction. Teleconferencing can make it easier for employees to pay attention to the discussion while referring to the relevant spreadsheets or other information on their computers. A modern phone system can provide options to make in-house teleconferences easier by allowing employees to set up team groups so they can contact their team by pressing a single button rather than having to dial each employee’s number for every call.
Make It Accessible
The most commonly needed information could be put front and center for employees by incorporating it into simple daily briefs or a webpage. For example, you could post current NYMEX petroleum futures prices and the average reported spot prices by basin, along with a few sentences summarizing individual industry news items and weather forecasts for key geographic areas.New technologies such as Workplace by Facebook can offer the most user-friendly approach for your employees to keep vital information at their fingertips without overwhelming them with notifications. With communication solutions like Workplace, your company has a dedicated webpage that can be made to load upon startup by employees. An accompanying mobile app can also relay updates directly onto employee phones.
With help from your I.T. team, you can set up automatic retrieval of useful information from various sources, reducing the amount of work required by your in-house team. More substantial information could be organized and made accessible through a customized cloud computing structure.
Your employees might not be working together as efficiently as they should. One way to improve teamwork is to facilitate coordination using I.T.
Even employees sitting in close proximity might not be synchronizing well, but when employees are working in different departments or facilities, the problem becomes even worse. Add in other variables like different work schedules, and it is understandable that coordination can truly begin to suffer.
The right software systems can be one way to keep everyone informed and on track without unnecessary meetings. Project management software can be used to share information and can be particularly helpful in projects that are longer-term and/or more complex. Each member of the team can document the status of their portion of the project and the completion of milestones. That allows employees and supervisors to remain updated and on track.
Even scheduled maintenance projects and other routine work can benefit from better coordination. For some work, a spreadsheet posted on the cloud and updated by employees could be the best solution. For more complex updates, tracking might be improved by having employees scan barcodes after completing maintenance or system checks.
This approach can create clear records with less risk of human error while having the information online will help supervisors or downstream groups stay informed. An experienced I.T. provider can work with your company to develop the most effective digital solutions to make coordination seamless and eliminate the time employees need to spend on tedious data entry or written updates.
It might seem strange to include celebration as a key factor in keeping your company in alignment, but this is actually a very important step.
As humans, we constantly tend to strive toward the next milestone. Unfortunately, we don’t always take the time to appreciate our accomplishments once we get there. Companies have the same problem. Record highs in share prices might cause a boardroom celebration, but the company’s ongoing successes might be overlooked under the onslaught of daily work.
That’s a mistake since taking a moment to see how far your company has come will help to keep employees advancing in the right direction. Taking time to celebrate provides motivation to your employees to continue putting in the hard work necessary to make each success possible.Celebrations don’t have to be grand, and the accomplishments you’re honoring shouldn’t always be the most obvious. Senior managers may already receive recognition for high profile projects, but other employees might not. The contract team that negotiated pricing amendments with your suppliers deserve credit for wrangling signatures from various stakeholders, as does your maintenance team that enabled a facility to go a record number of days without an outage. Completing a big pipeline integrity project might not seem as exciting as a well completion, but by avoiding a potential ruptured pipeline, your integrity team provides tremendous gains in their own way.
Don’t forget that each team’s success is due to more than the efforts of the team leaders. From the administrative staff managing paperwork to an accounting team updating pricing calculations, everyone involved in your company’s victories deserves to feel appreciated.
Face-to-face celebrations aren’t always possible or even desirable. A good I.T. system can provide great teambuilding experiences without the time and cost of employees traveling to meet together. These could take the form of formal video announcements by the senior management team, but casual meetings of a few employees are more common. Employees can do these at their desks or from their smartphones, laptops, or tablets in field.
While gatherings can be the right approach to celebrating the company or individual teams reaching major milestones, more routine celebrations can be done in less formal ways. A daily or weekly company email could include a shout-out to select teams or individual employees along with market data, weather, and industry updates.
Company intranets remain a popular way for companies to share private information with and between employees. This can be a great place to celebrate company and team accomplishments. A few words of appreciation to employees can go a long way toward motivating them and creating a good work environment.
By sharing this sort of information alongside general company and industry updates, companies can increase the number of employees paying attention to key updates while providing a venue for company celebrations. Your MSP’s outsourced I.T. management and support team can make sure your company has the framework for providing this company information to employees in an efficient, reliable manner.
Celebrations should also include promotions and service anniversary milestones. Honoring every employee’s promotion will make everyone feel more appreciated. Add announcements of new employees or transfers so that they feel welcomed and your existing employees know who they’ll be working with in the coming days. Depending on the size of your company, you might even want to offer birthday greetings as part of your daily updates.
Another reason for celebrating successes is that it is one more way to keep employees updated. Perhaps it will help engineers working in different departments or offices realize they are facing a similar challenge that they could work together on or share equipment. Celebrations could effectively share technical information on equipment, drilling, or processing to spur other employees to more success. This could speed problem-solving or spur the development of new technologies.
Building a System
As part of JMARK’s security management and support, JMARK can help you create secure systems to improve company alignment. By designing an integrated communication, coordination, and celebration plan, JMARK’s team can provide the right framework to help you improve employee satisfaction while keeping access secure. By making this part of your company’s policy and compliance management procedures, JMARK can give you ways to keep supervisors and employees informed about the resources available to them and the correct ways to use them.
Don’t waiting until a problem develops or you realize your company is lagging behind before making the necessary changes to keep your company on the road to success.
For more than thirty years, JMARK has been helping businesses and leaders in oil & gas to maximize their returns on I.T. solutions throughout all operations. With offices in Tulsa, OK; Springfield, MO; and Fayetteville, AR, and clients of all sizes in numerous verticals, JMARK is in the ideal position to help your company take its success to new heights.