Apache’s Clem Discusses How to Develop Top Talent in Your Company


Finding the right employee is like finding a new home. While building a home can be hard and frustrating at times, it’s usually worth it in the long run. On the flip side, if you buy a home that is already built that seems to have all the features you want and realize much later that the home is in a flood zone and floods heavily with every hard rain, you may realize that home wasn’t the best investment.

Such is the case with employees, Jo Clem, worldwide advisor for employee development at Apache Corporation, told attendees of the 6th Annual People in Energy Summit. Completing the analogy, Clem said if a company is looking to hire for a specific position and has a) a new potential employee with a stellar resume who will cost the company a lot to attain and b) an internal employee who may lack some of the skills for the position, but has a stellar track record within the company and organization, which candidate should the company select?

“While the internal candidate may not have all the skills of the person with the standout resume, part of what you know about this person is their skills, attitude and how they can adapt to the company culture,” said Clem. “The stellar resume candidate is like buying a house in the flood zone. You never really know what you’re going to get. You’re going to be better off to build from the strength of that good internal candidate – not all the time, but when you can – because you will greatly impact that candidate with a promotion, which will result in more motivation and a higher level of engagement.”

Clem said it can be a crap shoot finding the right employee these days, with so many people having other people write their resumes and being prepped on how to answer behavior-based questions.

“That’s the danger. We’re always looking for that Holy Grail to come in from the outside when we may already have incredible talent internally,” she said.

With the current industry downturn, companies are being forced to look at what they’re doing, why they’re doing things the way they are and asking how to do things better, faster, more economically … or not at all, said Clem.

“If we do not do a good job of building our talent, we’ll lose our best performers first,” she said. “They have options and they are loyal to their future.”

Apache wanted to build talent from within, so the company looked at its past mistakes to build for the future.

“Apache used to hire from outside – people with 14 years of experience – bring them in and they either sink or swim,” said Clem. “The problem is with this downturn, there’s not a lot of people out there with that amount of experience per se, and if there are, they’re very expensive. We realized about four years ago that we had to implement an internal training program because if we had any training, it was technical and outsourced.”

Apache now has 17 internal programs.

“Your technical skills get you the job, but if you can’t manage yourself, work well with others, etc., you’re going to be one of those people that holds us back,” she said.  

However, training for the sake of training is a waste of time and money. Apache employees who go through a training class are required to send an email to their boss and copy Clem stating what they learned in the training class and what they plan to do about what they learned.

According to a fall 2014 survey from the American Society of Training and Development, 93 percent of employees said they would stay with a company if the company was committed to their development.

“Our mentors are trained to grow the employees up – not tell them what to do. This is so they become dependent and can go do the things that need to be done,” said Clem. “A mentor’s job is not to tell their story, but to help the mentee write their own story.”

Clem stressed that companies need to get to their “sweet spot” – where it’s clear to leaders what their role is and it’s clear to employees what their role is. And that all begins with a strong relationship.

“An employee has to care enough to develop his or her, but it also has to be a partnership between the employee and leader in the company,” Clem said. “As a leader, if you are not positively influencing that employee, doing nothing is not doing nothing. It’s sending a very powerful message.”








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