Shale’s Radically Changing Workforce

If shale operators are to maintain their competitive advantage in a changing policy, technology and price environment, they will need a more skilled and flexible workforce.

The shifts in shale production growth over the course of the post-2014 oil price “swoon” and subsequent recovery have demonstrated that operators can respond quickly to price alterations. Companies have relied on remote drilling and other digitally enabled technologies to increase worker productivity.

As they plan for a future where costs will need to be kept lower for longer, shale companies will increasingly turn to technological solutions to achieve this, while keeping productivity high. Digitalization also will allow companies to maintain headcount numbers below the level seen during the oil price peak even as the industry recovers. In a bid to become leaner, many shale operators shed employees in noncore areas and squeezed asset teams during the price downturn. However, the workers they employ in the future will need to be techsavvy and open to new ways of working.