Service companies of every sort are scattered throughout the oil, gas and utilities industries. Mosaic is a Washington state-based business that moves its offerings one step further: by using its industry experience and analytical insight to develop strategy and consulting, training and technology services that are specifically designed for each customer.
Clint Morse is the executive vice president and co-founder of Mosaic and in an interview with P&GJ recalled how Mosaic started out with a small staff and leveraged technology to help a variety of industries. Today, Mosaic consults exclusively in the utility and oil and gas industry, employing over 200 people throughout the United States, and has offices in Washington, California, Texas, Georgia and Vancouver, Canada.
P&GJ: How did you start your career after college?
Morse: I graduated from college with a degree in accounting and began my career as a CPA with KPMG, an audit, tax and advisory firm. After working in the private industry for a few years I decided to start a business of my own where I could focus my energies on helping companies solve complex business challenges.
I discovered that a lot of inherent value already exists in organizations and my strength is working side-by-side to help clients unlock that value. Mosaic’s solutions are driven by proven methodologies based on the assumption that our clients can respond effectively to critical business challenges, including emerging technologies, major process changes in the industry and evolving regulatory and compliance requirements.
P&GJ: How did you end up consulting in the utility and oil and gas industries?
Morse: In 2010, we decided to focus exclusively on utilities and oil and gas companies. Mosaic was serving a number of diverse industries and we were doing a good job. But we wanted to be the best. Over time, our focus became increasingly centered on utilities and oil and gas companies in an effort to deepen our expertise and experience.
Since that change, we’ve developed a very strong core set of capabilities. The impact has been profound as we are able to apply lessons-learned forward from each engagement and are now industry leaders with deep expertise. We compete against much larger companies, but we are nimble and flexible and offer the type of specialization that the large firms don’t.
P&GJ: What makes your company different from other firms?
Morse: We’re not a one-size-fits-all company. Many large consulting firms offer process expertise – here is your set of solutions, then it’s up to the client to make it work. We help people and organizations capture and sustain key knowledge and tools to obtain the highest levels of workforce competency, quality, safety and efficiency. Our customers understand that one major key to their success is their people. Every organization’s most valuable asset is its people, and I am convinced that by aligning development programs to strategic and other business objectives, we dramatically increase our clients’ success. Mosaic’s programs are practical and hard-hitting, and they deliver measurable business results. I honestly think it’s why we’re asked to come back to past customers.
P&GJ: What do you see as a major workforce issue today in the gas industry?
Morse: The biggest challenge I see is the complexity of each and every job, from the entry-level field worker to senior executives. Regulations are more comprehensive, technology is embedded in virtually everything each of us does and the workforce continues to age as a whole. As a result, integrated training and support programs are more important than ever to ensure public and employee safety, compliance and customer service, as well as the need to continually improve workforce efficiency to drive business results.
The workforce entering the gas industry today is radically different than the workforce that is retiring. For the last 30-plus years, the standard model for employee development has been intensive training programs followed by long periods of unstructured on-the-job training. However, this model is no longer effective in supporting the rapid development required of new employees entering the workforce in record numbers.
With the Department of Labor predicting that over 50% of the energy workforce will retire in the next five to 10 years, companies are scrambling to capture the knowledge of the aging workforce before the bulk of their experience and expertise walks out the door.
P&GJ: Do you believe training in the industry is shortchanged at the end of the fiscal year, when companies are looking to shave their budgets?
Morse: In times of tight budgets, nearly every company is faced with tough decisions about where to save money, and often these savings come from cutting back on the training budget or postponing training initiatives. It’s an attractive target, especially for non-technical, non-mandatory training. The dollars are considered “soft” and easy to postpone for another time. But in today’s regulatory environment, companies are required to train employees to compliance. The stakes are high for safety and competence because lives are literally on the line. As a result, training is being viewed more and more as a critical investment.
In fact, three years ago, PG&E sponsored the first Gas & Pipeline Industry Training Roundtable, a conference designed to share best practices in training and to foster a dialogue among the top training leaders in the industry. The conference was the idea of Nick Stavropoulos, executive vice president of gas operations at PG&E, who said at the recent gas roundtable that bringing together the nation’s gas industry training leadership to learn from one another is vital to our sector’s ability to operate safely, reliably and efficiently. He said that through sharing best-in-class operational strategies, safety-first cultural practices and a sharpened focus on our customers, we’ll lay the foundation for a better pipeline infrastructure for the 21st century.
P&GJ: With over 125,000 layoffs announced since last summer due to the falling oil prices, how might this affect the industry in general?
Morse: I understand the effort to make the numbers work at the end of the day, including layoffs. But I can tell you from experience that mass layoffs always take a long time to recover from. We have new employees coming in the pipeline, but there is a shortage of mid-career professionals in the 35-46 age bracket. As the 50-somethings get ready to retire and the recent graduates are still years away from being ready to assume leadership positions, these layoffs could deeply affect that mid-level pool and accentuate the gaps in the workforce for years to come.
We see associations like the American Gas Association putting together plans to attract young people to the industry and pull in veterans after their service. We’re also working with the industry to help with training and knowledge transfer. Right now we’ve got an uneven age profile and sweeping layoffs could find oil and gas companies in a situation where skilled workers are hard to pull back into the workforce or replace.
P&GJ: How would you describe your leadership style and how has it evolved through the years?
Morse: As an entrepreneur my leadership style has been to provide the vision and the long-term goals for Mosaic. I am passionate about the work we do, and I have tried to build a team of like-minded people who are equally passionate about their work. I respect and value those who work for me, so over the years, I’ve learned to listen better and be more patient. I’ve also learned to trust my instincts, but to be flexible if someone wants to challenge those instincts. I don’t think I have all the answers, but I hire people who have a variety of experiences so that, as a team, we can offer many alternative ways of solving workforce challenges. I learn as much from them as they learn from me.
As a leader, I acknowledge that people make mistakes – we’ve all made mistakes. I have come to believe that we all need grace in our jobs. Many, if not most of us, don’t see a lot of grace in the workplace. If your employees feel safe in their role, they are free to do their very best. If we feel safe with each other, we are free to focus all of our energy on satisfying our customers in the best way possible.
Providing grace in the workforce is not the same thing as having low expectations and this is where it gets tricky. We set high expectations for our staff and challenge them to be their best. An environment that is defined by grace and not by fear inspires employees to constantly improve and be their very best. Your clients will also notice this.