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Refinery worker

Oil nomads

Repsol professionals with an international profile are now key employees for the company due to its worldwide growth, especially in its Exploration and Production business. One of the growing numbers of Spanish companies branching out internationally, Repsol is the company with the most expatriates, with close to 700. Among them is the Repsol Exploration Advanced Services (REAS) collective, who are constantly on the move and prepared to travel wherever necessary, considered the elite of this global industry.
More than 15 years have passed since the first Repsol expatriations to international destinations. Today the energy firm is present in more than 30 countries and its experience is invaluable as expatriation becomes increasingly more frequent among Spanish companies. Repsol has presided over the Spanish Forum for Expatriates (FEEX) since its creation as an association of large companies which share best practices in this field. This is an example of the “leading role that our company has had in the management of international personnel”, says Julia Jiménez García, Director of Remuneration and International Assignment for Repsol.

The number of international employees of Repsol has increased significantly in recent years, especially in Exploration and Production (E&P) projects where six out of every seven expatriates work. This tendency was borne out of “the conviction that in order to grow, the company had to focus on that sector, especially on the international field”, continues Jiménez.

Travel to wherever the oil is

This deployment was initially in Latin America, where 31% of Repsol expatriates are posted, but has extended more and more throughout the world, with 19% in North America, 9% in Europe and 21% in Africa. Some moves have been welcomed among the professionals: “there have always been candidates even to a priori less attractive destinations, such as Iraq or Algeria, and the rate of voluntary redundancies among our staff is very low”.

The expatriation policy is concentrated on the technical area and goes hand in hand with Repsol’s commitment to always favour local employment in the countries where the company operates. Only in very specific operations are the expatriated workers in the majority, in a company which has over 24,000 workers around the world. International Repsol personnel are responsible for taking “the values of the company, our expertise and the handling of our technology” to their destinations, assures the Assistant Director of International Assignment and Hiring Strategy for Repsol, Jorge Urribarri.

International specialists in E&P, such as reservoir engineers geophysicists or drilling experts are far and few between and are very much in demand. The industry continues growing and “National Oil Corporations (NOCs) in particular, which often do not have professionals with technical profiles in their own countries, are tough bidders and we are all competing for the same talent”, explains Jiménez. Repsol is also forming their own reserve of young talent and each year between 40 and 50 young people from all over the world are trained in their Masters in the Exploration and Production of Hydrocarbons. Willingness to travel is also a requirement in the selection of personnel for the more international areas of the company, which is increasingly spreading to more areas.
Each year between 40 and 50 young people from all over the world are trained in Repsol’s Masters in the Exploration and Production of Hydrocarbons

Personalised expatriation

To attract and retain talent “we have opted for a very competitive policy because we understand that expatriates are fundamental for company development”. Repsol’s international employees receive a financial supplement depending on the country they are travelling to, which is greater for more complex destinations, and a series of common benefits for them and their families, such as a house, car, school for children and support for their partners. In addition, “the experience of working in another environment is increasingly more highly valued in the professional promotion mechanisms of the company”.

Repsol’s offices abroad are authentic towers of Babel, with English as the lingua franca, a language which must be mastered for an international career. There are destinations in Repsol where there are no more than two people from the same country. This diversity “both of nationalities and of gender which is promoted is something that has enriched the international Repsol career”, says Urribarri.

Each expatriation case is dealt with individually and the company’s services take on the task of supporting the expatriate and their family in the new social environment. For the last two years a support and cultural integration unit has been running which assesses the international personnel before they travel. As well as the professional and technical profile, awareness of differences has become a requirement “since international employees must have a series of basic competences to work in a difficult environment, with people from other cultures and under pressure”, explains Jiménez.

Another key factor is the employees’ partners, who in the majority of cases must put their work on hold to accompany their spouse. Repsol has a program called dual careers for spouses to train or seek employment in their new home and partially compensate for the salary that they no longer receive. Provided the conditions allow it, the company does all it can for expatriated workers to travel with their spouses. In a world that until now has been very male-oriented, something is changing: “When I started they told me, oil workers’ partners have to be trailing wives. Now there are more and more trailing husbands”, relates International Hiring Manager for Repsol, Inés Prieto.

Repsol’s ‘A-team’

Being an international employee at Repsol can mean working in an office in Houston or Río de Janeiro, but it can also mean drilling an exploratory well in Kurdistan. To ensure that the more difficult destinations can be covered by a brief stay and by those with a high technical profile the REAS collective was formed in 2007. The collective is made up of 160 Repsol professionals, a team with 20 different nationalities spread throughout the world, in Libya, Canada or aboard the drilling vessel Rowan, now stationed offshore West Africa.

They are experts in the oil and gas business who are on permanent international assignment, unlike the rest of Repsol’s expatriates, who after what is normally a three-year-stay abroad return to their country of origin. “The REAS team are citizens of the world. For them there is always a new destination and they also see it as a positive challenge in their professional career”, says Prieto, in charge of managing this collective.

With an average age of between 40 and 60, they have extensive international experience and always travel, as far as it is possible, with their families, but they are committed to accepting any destination. A decision on who has the last word is the Corporate Security department of Repsol, recently awarded a prize by the Civil Guard for the security of company operations abroad. Protection of international employees is placed above everything: “a prime example was the evacuation of our personnel in Libya in 2011. I can safely say that the Senior Management of the company provided all the necessary means with the sole objective of getting people out”, concludes Jiménez.
REAS collective are experts in the oil and gas business who are on permanent international assignment
Last updated: March 2015