Safety. Regulation. Compliance. Licensing.
All of these crucial aspects of the industry do their part to keep contractors up at night. But I want to talk about one thing that makes all of those things possible. I want to talk about one thing that makes all drilling contracts doable. Are you thinking about drill rigs? Yes, those too. But what’s on my mind is the drillers themselves.
I heard it at Bauma. I heard it at UCT earlier this year, and at last December’s Groundwater Expo. It’s mentioned in this month’s You Know the Drill feature. I hear it all the time from contractors.
It’s the age old aphorism: Good workers are hard to find and hard workers are good to find. Think about it. What’s the value of one employee who knows a rig forward and backward? What’s the value of one employee with experience in the type of rigs you run, whether that’s water wells or HDD or whatever?
The challenge starts with finding candidates with the right mix of skills and experience for the work you need done. But that’s just the start, particularly when it comes to demanding work like drilling.
Before you answer those questions, let’s put it in context. What’s the cost of bringing one untrained rig hand up to speed? What’s the risk of putting an undertrained hand in the field, when one accident can cost you future contracts (not to mention the effect on your workers comp premiums).
How do you recruit and retain good people? Ashley Foster of Austin, Texas-based Andrews & Foster, in our interview on page 22, calls it “one of my greatest challenges.” This comes from a woman who handles her small drilling company’s IT, health and safety, and compliance.
From the perspective of someone who’s hired people, I know it’s not easy. The challenge starts with finding candidates with the right mix of skills and experience for the work you need done. But that’s just the start, particularly when it comes to demanding work like drilling.
Professionalism and attitude play a huge role, too. Does the person cuss on the job? OK, having met lots of drillers, maybe that’s a bad example. But how a person talks and acts with coworkers and with clients speaks volumes about their integrity — how they’ll work when you’re not looking over their shoulder.
Is the candidate easily rattled when a project veers off course, or does he stay level-headed in uncharted waters? How an employee handles a minor emergency, like a stuck drill string, tells you a lot about how he’d behave during a major emergency. Think about the kind of person you’d want on your crew if someone catches a pipe wrench to the noggin and is unconscious and bleeding.
It’s a gruesome example, I know. But it’s a tough business and there’s a reason someone like Ashley Foster would spend so much time trying to get hiring right.
I hear it all the time. Drilling is tough work. Rightly or wrongly, Millennials have a reputation for not wanting to get their hands dirty. At the same time, the average age in this business creeps higher every year, creating a generation gap in the field. When contractors have a tough time getting and keeping new hands, regardless of age, it’s tempting to lower standards. A warm body at the controls of a rig beats nobody, they figure. But that opens up a contractor to risk, liability and shoddy work. In the long run, that means fewer clients.
We all know the relief of getting a new employee or coworker, and seeing that person is capable once they’re actually doing the work. So, I want to hear from you. Do you have this recruiting thing figured out? Are your ideas for keeping good workers working? Do you offer incentives to get good talent? Share your ideas to help other contractors and, ultimately, the industry. Email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Stay safe out there, drillers.