Maarten Van Hasselt, Senior Vice President and Energy Sector Leader for Celerant, says: “Energy is politics, it keeps everything moving so it’s very important and incredibly relevant.” After three decades in the oil and gas sector, earlier this month Van Hasselt joined Celerant where he will lead a team to drive operational and behavioral change for oil and gas companies. “Doing more with less requires unlocking everyone’s potential to implement strategy and obtain sustainable improvements,” he says. Van Hasselt sat down with Consulting One on One to discuss his new role, the sector’s challenges and how Celerant can help clients overcome them.
Consulting: As you take over as the energy sector lead for Celerant, what do you see as the current state of the sector?
Van Hasselt: Tight margins require executives to focus relentlessly on driving out costs while increasing utilization and preserving safe, environmentally responsible operations. The pressures are increasing while the industry experiences a decreasing talent pool. Doing more with less requires unlocking everyone’s potential to implement strategy and obtain sustainable improvements. I think Jeroen Van der Veer, the former CEO of Royal Dutch Shell, summed it up nicely. He always said the industry is driven by three hard truths: Demand will go up; easy oil and gas is gone. Second, it will become more and more difficult—and technically challenging—to find energy; and third, safety will continue to become more and more crucial to the industry. If you look over the long haul, that’s been true. The underlying trends of the industry have pretty much remained the same. What has changed is the pace; they have all accelerated.
Consulting: Do you think one of those trends takes precedence over the others?
Van Hasselt: I think what’s important to remember is that they are all linked together. I mentioned they have accelerated, but they are also becoming more visable. And adding to the challenge is the fact that we’re facing a talent gap in the sector. If you look around at industry conferences you’ll see a lot of gray hair. Just one example, one of our clients has 6,000 employees and wants to hire another 4,000 people over the next five years.
Consulting: Why is there such a dearth of talent in the sector?
Van Hasselt: There are many factors, but one reason is the serious dip the sector had in the 1980s. Many companies reduced personal, so we have this hole in the organizational structure. And it’s a very technical environment so it requires people with mathematics, engineering and science backgrounds, and there are many other industries where people with these skills can find employment. Firms like Microsoft, for instance, tend to be compete for the same people we are.
Consulting: After three decades in the oil and gas industry, why did you decide to join Celerant?
Van Hasselt: Most client companies know what needs to happen; they know they need to unlock their own people’s potential to help their business achieve its objectives. Celerant is focusing on that area—how do we use existing talent to unlock that potential. We work alongside our clients and help them clear those barriers that stand in the way to their improvement. From what I’ve seen, companies have had great difficulty in this sector actually making things happen. I’m not very interested in telling people what to do, but I’m interested in helping people make it happen for them. That’s why I joined Celerant.
Consulting: So now that you’re on the other side of the table, what are you finding that clients need specifically from Celerant?
Van Hasselt: As a client, I always felt the most effective consultants sat on the same side of the table with me, so I don’t look at it as being on the other side of the table.