Lube Industry Facing Talent Shortage


Lube Industry Facing Talent Shortage

As the greying workforce hangs up its spurs, hiring managers have an urgent need to find the next generation of lubricant technicians. Part of the challenge is the industrys invisibility to younger job seekers. Recruitment professionals talk to Nick Augusteijn about how the problem can be fixed.

Those in the lubricants industry often talk about being at the heart of innovation and technical development, yet it is often the reverse when it comes to attracting talent and recruitment, said James Moorhouse, director of recruitment company ABN Resource. According to Moorhouse, companies have a hard task ahead in preparing for the wave of retirements on the horizon.

When the Union of the European Lubricants Industry, or UEIL, announced that it would be setting up a sustainability task force to develop a framework to measure lubricant companies sustainability, the task forces chairman Apu Gosalia was quick to point out that the move in part was driven by the need to attract young talent.

Many stakeholders in our industry still think of it as black, dirty and ugly. This is not the case. We reduce more CO2 with our products in their use phase than we actually produce in making them, Gosalia, who is also vice-president for sustainability and global intelligence at independent German lubricant company Fuchs Petrolub, told LubesnGreases.

According to Gosalia, this message needs to reach the next generation of budding scientists, engineers and technicians. Younger people expect different things from their employers than their baby boomer colleagues.

It is no longer only about money, the career or job security. It is working for a good and sustainable company that they want.

This is something that Moorhouse knows all too well. His company specializes in recruitment across several sectors of the energy industry.

Its good to hear people calling for talent attraction and addressing it. The awareness and, in my opinion, the availability of the next generation of talent does seem to be at its most challenging right now, in the 16 years I have recruited the market. But talk is cheap and we actually need some action along with effective strategies to address it, Moorhouse told LubesnGreases.

Old Manpower

According to Joanna Stephenson, the founder and managing director of marketing and communications agency PHD Marketing and Strategy, the energy industry is facing twin pressures of an accelerating pace of innovation and an aging workforce.

Speaking at the UEIL conference in France in October, Stephenson pointed out that 42 percent of companies in Europe and 39 percent of companies in North America say the talent crisis is already here. According to a survey by Global Energy Talent Index, 20 percent of the workforce in the energy industry are aged 55 and older, with only 4 percent aged between 18 and 24.

These are valid observations. I would add people are aging but also working longer so that helps stave off the issue, but ultimately doesnt fix it, and if we arent careful all that knowledge and experience goes when the experienced heads retire, said Moorhouse.

Its nice to have the time required to pass the baton to the next generation and that time is there now, if we act now. The numbers of 18 to 24 year olds and millennials are out there, and educated in science, technology, engineering and mathematics, but we just arent attracting them because I think we are largely unknown and dont put ourselves in the shop window effectively, he added.

Attractive Prospect

James Moorhouse suggests strengthening the following areas to attract and retain young people looking at the lubricants industry.

Increasing attraction

Encourage early contact, for example, build connections with universities and schools to get into learning programs. Engagement at industry events is another way to accomplish this.

Leverage social media to show corporate social responsibility practices and give insight to what it is like working at your company and the things you do for customers.

Provide purpose, autonomy and mastery of tasks in the job. This keeps people engaged and motivated.

Improve perception. Show how your business makes a positive impact on employees, the markets and customers.

Candidate experience

Use advanced behavioral assessment technology to provide a reliable and consistent assessment.

Implement a standardized interview process to ensure a level playing field.

Keep up momentum. Deliver recruitment within agreed timespans backed with consistent communication.


Provide career progression planning, setting out a clear career path and schedule with goals that lead to particular roles in a defined time period.

Facilitate networking and educational opportunities.

Offer creative freedom and greater responsibility to bring in new ideas and strengthen critical thinking skills.

Main threats to talent retention

Poor management and leadership.

Lack of internal frameworks for career paths.

Zero or limited training opportunities.

Poor company culture.

No Corporate Social Responsibility in place.

Negative public perception.

Lack of flexibility.

This is an excerpt from the2020 LubesnGreases | ABN Resource Workplace Trends Report

Sell Me Why

One commonly held belief that explains the lubricants industry being an unattractive career prospect is its reputation, or lack thereof. Moorhouse said that too many key people in the industry do the sector a disservice by not talking about it more positively, which in turn affects companies ability to attract talent.

They need to be able to sell the industry better. It is not actually that hard if they look at what their products are doing and the important role they serve in society. It is really important and we should be proud of what we do – it keeps the world moving. Without it, there would be pretty dire consequences.

There are some companies that are doing a decent job of messaging, Moorhouse conceded. Take a company such as Neste. They communicate to an external audience so well. They have a very clear mission and a clear sustainable green agenda, combined with a vision for looking after the next generation. It shows how this industry can be a force for good, he said.

But that message does not seem to resonate beyond the majors, though. In the United States and the European Union, there are still many family-owned business with fewer than 500 employees that do not market themselves effectively as a viable employment option, which is a shame, Moorhouse said.

Every business has a story to tell, and that will appeal to people. You dont have to be a large multinational organization to appeal to someone. Not everyone wants to work at those companies. By being you, and simply telling your story that can communicate effectively to the right talent.

After the Gold Watch

How those small entities are supposed to go about marketing themselves is simple, Stephenson thinks, and it involves technology.

Embrace digital, because this will allow you to present a contemporary image to the outside world, she said. This means greater engagement with customer-facing and internal social media, as well as keeping websites updated and modern.

While Moorhouse agreed that this would certainly help, he said would be surprised to see people in the industry step up to the plate and implement the kind of outward-facing changes to talent attraction that Stephenson suggests.

They probably dont see the value in it, but they ought to take this more seriously.

Unfortunately, these are going to be the companies that will find out about a talent crisis the hard way, Moorhouse said.

These businesses have known about the challenges for a long time, and theyve had solutions presented to them. They have a lot of older employees sitting there, but what have they done to train and upskill their workforce for the future and to take on the more senior roles? What have they done to publicize what it is like to work there to attract talent?

For these very reasons, Moorhouse remains convinced of the opportunities for young talent in the lubricants sector, especially considering the relatively large number of people nearing retirement age and the succession planning that is slowly underway in the industry. The message is that companies have a job to do in preparing for that and to make sure their people have the right skills to take on those roles.

If I was a candidate, wondering what my future would look like, I would be excited seeing the retirements coming up. It gives some excellent fast-tracked career opportunities, he said.

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