Oxy’s Investment In Fresh Talent Boosts Omanisation

Muscat – How did American oil company Occidental Oman become the top employer of Omani graduates? It’s an answer years in the making.
Before it took over the Mukhaizna oil field ten years ago, Oxy was a company with 300 employees. Since then, staff has grown to more than 3,000 as production at the field rose from 7,000 barrels per day to the current 130,000.
At the same time, nationals have become the company’s driving force. The overall Omanisation rate has increased from 70 per cent in 2005 to 87 per cent now. Up to 85 per cent of the operations at Mukhaizna are run by Omanis and the Oman North field is all but entirely managed by nationals.
In an interview to Muscat Daily at the company’s Oman headquarters, Saif Khalfan al Busaidi, vice president for human resources and administration explained how Oxy has taken a path of directly tying its success to the capability of its Omani staff.
“That was not just done by chance, but by a lot of structured efforts and commitments from Oxy to develop Omanis. Oxy has proven that Omanis can be similar or even better than others in managing oil fields.”
The company’s strategy starts with its policy of hiring fresh graduates rather than seasoned employees – who then require extensive training and development.
“Oxy looks from the wider perspective – instead of taking experienced Omanis from different companies, we want to increase the skill pool in the country by taking fresh graduates.”
Oxy was named top employer of graduates based on a Ministry of Higher Education survey of 12,551 graduates from the years 2009-10 and 2012-13. From 2012-14, 70 per cent of Oxy’s recruits were fresh graduates.
The company averages around 150-200 recruits a year. Many of these begin with a two-month internship, are assigned with a mentor and given a specific project to accomplish.
Once hired, they undergo an intricate five-year development programme called a ‘competency map’. Here, they are again given a direct supervisor who provides on-the-job coaching and assesses employee skills. When needed, employees are granted short courses on specific skills.
“All graduates should be aware what their development path would be for the coming five years. This way they know what they will need to be, and focus on that area by learning new things,” Busaidi said.
“Through these development programmes, we will later on be able to move them to a higher-experience job, or to replace expats.”
Additionally, the company offers cross-posting, where select employees are sent to Oxy’s external operations in other countries in the Gulf as well as to Colombia and the US for two years. On this stint, they benefit from the company’s worldwide expertise in various production techniques. The company also sponsors some employees for their Master’s in engineering abroad.
Much of the design of these programmes comes from Oxy’s US headquarters where, Busaidi said, employee development is already a core company value. “They have experts who have been specialists in that kind of job for 20 to 30 years. They already have structured programmes, so we don’t have to reinvent the wheel or start from scratch in Oman. We can use the programmes, the tools, the curriculum, here.”
Oxy’s investment in human resources also reflects its pragmatic attitude towards Omanisation.
“It’s a big task for the government, and Oxy has been taking this very seriously and is committed to hiring as many graduates as it can. Oxy doesn’t look only at the short term. It works side by side with the government.”
Much of Oxy’s success in Omanisation is a product of the resources, expertise and investment from its headquarters in Houston.
“Oxy in Houston plays a key role in Omanis’ development. Senior management at the US headquarters is the one that drives and makes sure that the company in Oman creates and delivers the best value for the sultanate,” Busaidi said.

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