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EHS Recruitment: It’s Not Just About Filling the Seat

Sept. 20, 2012
Improve your recruitment practices for new EHS professionals by tapping the deepest talent pool, aligning company and employee culture, developing high-potential talent and creating a succession plan.

As the EHS occupation faces an increasing need for talent, the recruitment landscape for EHS professionals becomes increasingly challenging and complex. The following recruitment practices, as used by companies including Shell, Johnson & Johnson, BP and others, accomplish more than just filling the empty seat.

To improve your recruitment practices and hire the best EHS professional for the position, follow these four tips:

1. Tap the Small Pool of A-Player Talent

Most corporations maintain an internal team that provides regular dialogue and guidance for reporting managers. Providing this team with external resources to liaise and guide can result in improved hiring decisions.

A retained external search firm can help fill the executive seat and access available talent with great efficiency. External recruiters may pinpoint what the internal team cannot see objectively or inquire and challenge safety. The following recruitment strategies currently used in the energy industry may help solve the immediate talent crunch:

  • Halliburton purposefully is changing the gender representation of their in-house recruitment teams. They strive to move more women with 5-15 years of experience to higher levels and recognize that when female workers are considering a job, they want to see other women who have been successful in the role.
  • BP has found a way to bring in more women by volunteering female employees to include recruiting among their list of responsibilities – real women in the actual roles, stepping out to talk to other potential female employees, may bring more women on board.
  • Some companies are transitioning and training military and other complex instrumentation industry personnel into the oil and gas sector.

2. Include Culture Alignment in Your Search Processes

An important element in the in-house, out-source discussion is culture and community. Culture is the behavior of employees – how things get done – and community is people’s sense of belonging to and caring for something larger than themselves. A Harvard Business Review study reports that retiring Baby Boomers have much in common with the younger Generation Y work force. Both generations of employees value “flexible work arrangements and the opportunity to give back to society” over compensation. These elements are shaping company culture.  

A search process that produces candidates who align with the company’s culture and values is essential. Start by evaluating the character of candidates, their commitment to making a change and their potential contribution to the company. Hundreds of questions must be asked (both in the form of written self-reporting methods and through face-to-face interviewing), but additionally, consider both the culture of the client company and what the candidate is looking for. A careful process can mitigate failed searches. Take the time to define what your culture is and evaluate each candidate against it to find the best fit.

3. Develop High-Potential Talent

The data is optimistic: Harvard Business Review reports that 45 percent of our next round of leaders, who are Generation Y, expect to work for their current employer for their entire careers. In as few as 5 years, a small but measurable number of early-leadership-level engineering talent will represent the new generation with 15 years of experience.

A few best practices to retain and develop high-potential, but currently under-experienced talent, include:

  • Shell has career stewards who meet regularly with emerging leaders, assess their level of engagement, help them set realistic career expectations and ensure they receive appropriate development opportunities.
  • A large manufacturer in China gives its rising stars privileged access to online discussion boards, led by the CEO, that are dedicated to the company’s biggest challenges. Emerging leaders are encouraged to visit the boards daily to share ideas and opinions and to raise their hands for assignments.
  • Johnson & Johnson’s high-potential talent participates in a 9-month program called LeAD to receive external coaching and regular assessments. They develop a growth project – a new product, service or business model – intended to create value for their business unit. They also leave the program with a multiyear individual development plan.

4. Succession Planning

After developing talent, establish a written succession plan detailing these employees and their leadership activities to better continue to foster and retain that talent. Additionally, consider who has influence on the plan, identify when revisions and reviews are scheduled and determine actions to implement in the event of an emergency.

So what about fixing today’s immediate recruitment problem? Adjust your expectations for the number of talented candidates you will select from in the short term; push your recruiters to look globally; participate with your company’s top female talent in women focused energy associations like Women’s Energy Network; take time to assess culture and create a search process that includes a proper evaluation of fit; and identify and evaluate your potential succession talent quarterly.

Mary Campagnano has over 15 years of business and executive search experience. Based in Houston with Allen Austin Global Executive Search, she works in the senior leadership Industrial and Natural Resources practice. She may be reached at [email protected].


  • High Performance Human Capital Leadership by Rob Andrews.
  • “Rebuilding Companies as Communities.” Harvard Business Review. July-August 2009, pgs.140-143.
  • “How Gen Y & Boomers Will Reshape Your Agenda.” Harvard Business Review, July-August 2009, pgs. 71-76.
  • “How to Keep Your Top Talent.” Harvard Business Review. May 2010.
  • Sixel: ‘Next Level’ for Women in Energy.” LM Sixel.

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