Looking from the outside in, assessments can sometimes feel like a ‘box ticking’ exercise. However, when it comes to industries such as the energy sector, they can literally become a matter of life and death.
As with many sectors, energy companies have not been left untouched by the rapid evolution of technology post-pandemic, which continues to have significant implications on the skills required to keep pace with the changing working environment.
A fundamental part of this process has always been the assessment of skills. However, with skill gaps and shortages appearing across the energy sector, an important question is being posed to decision-makers: how do we keep pace with change while retaining and hiring the best talent?
Assessment in High-Stakes Industries
An assessment of skills and competencies plays a crucial role across a range of ‘high-stakes’ industries. It not only serves as a tool for ensuring health and safety, but also as a means of providing a reliable barometer of compliance with industry standards and the effectiveness of learning and development programs.
Energy companies, perhaps more than most, continue to face new regulations and increasing scrutiny. It can often feel as though regulators are looking over the shoulder of the industry at large. The oversight only heightens the requirement to maintain and comply with standards.
Failing to meet these standards can result in significant penalties, not to mention reputational damage. We only need to look at recent history and supposed ‘shortcuts’ that led to the BP oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico back in 2010 as a prime example. As a result, meeting and maintaining safety and compliance standards have become an increasingly important cause for concern.
A key strategy to achieving compliance, remaining safe and efficient while creating audit trails and measuring employee progress is the assessment process.
Invest in Robust Compliance Programs
The first step to remaining safe and compliant with assessments is to invest in a robust compliance program.
The model includes establishing clear policies and procedures for identifying and addressing potential risks, as well as developing a system for monitoring and reporting any compliance issues that arise.
To be effective, programs should also include regular training for employees on relevant laws, regulations, and safety procedures, as well as periodic audits and assessments to ensure that all policies and procedures are being followed as they should.
Through this, companies can minimize their exposure to risks and demonstrate their commitment to safety before regulators come looking.
Incorporate a Reliable Assessment Program
With the implementation of reliable assessment strategies, employers can not only demonstrate to regulators that employees are continually being trained and evaluated on their abilities to perform in their job role, but also ensure that the skills needed to operate and work with new technologies within their workforce are up to date.
The challenges can be particularly prevalent when managing an international workforce that might have to contend with language barriers, extended periods of travel or remote work (offshore, etc).
Assessments provide a much more reliable way of checking if an employee is competent than having them sign a form saying that they’ve read and understood the safety manual, for example.
While conventional assessments such as multiple choice or on-screen tests are important, it is also worthwhile considering additional methods that may be better suited to the energy sector and the changing landscape within which they operate.
Observational assessments, for example, test participants on a practical task while an instructor observes, typically via a tablet or smartphone, and rates the performance. This type of assessment works best when there are well-defined rubrics and a comprehensive checklist to ensure that the test-taker’s abilities are being measured accurately.
Rather than relying solely on written testing, observational assessments, which are similar to performance-based testing, measure the test-taker’s abilities in an authentic environment. As a result, the validity of results is increased and provides a more accurate picture of how they might perform in the real world.
The adoption of different methods of testing, such as observational assessments, provides an additional layer of security against test fraud – a key consideration with the rise of generative AI programs, such as ChatGPT, that can be used to cheat on written exams. Companies using a range of assessment methods can provide evidence to regulators that they are operating in line with, or even going beyond, regulations securely and reliably.
Maintain Accurate Records
Finally, maintaining accurate records of all compliance-related activities, including assessments, audits, and training is vital – and should be a given.
This documentation can be critical in demonstrating compliance with regulatory requirements, as well as identifying areas for improvement and tracking the progress of learning and devolvement programs over time.
By maintaining accurate records, you minimize the risk of penalties or reputational damage by identifying potential compliance issues early on and allowing for corrective action to be taken before problems escalate.