FINANCIAL TIMES: Shell staff unhappy with leaders: “Those that are in charge of change are themselves tied to the old culture." A person close to the company said: "Without exception, every Shell person I have met recently has asked me if I am able to help them find something else. Others are leaving without even waiting to find another job.” (ShellNews.net) 2 Feb 05
By Ian Bickerton in Amsterdam
Published: February 2 2005
A year on from the reserves crisis that shattered confidence in Royal Dutch/Shell, less than half the Anglo-Dutch energy company's workforce believes it is well led, according to an internal study.
The result is bad news for Jeroen van der Veer, appointed chief executive in the wake of the crisis, and who tomorrow is scheduled to present the company's full-year results and finalise its reserves restatement.
Responding to the survey findings in a recent e-mail to staff, Mr Van der Veer said: "I am not proud of these results. The strongest message is that you think Shell leadership at all levels can work harder to ensure that 'enterprise first' [part of the company's bid to instil a spirit of teamwork] is a reality."
When the "people survey" was last conducted in 2002, 67 per cent of respondents said they felt the company was well led. Asked the same question now, 47 per cent answered in the affirmative. Mr van der Veer told staff senior management would battle to "win back your confidence".
In all, 81 questions were put to staff and not all reactions were negative, said a person familiar with the report. "You are looking at a maximum 20 per cent fall, but in a number of cases the response is more or less flat [compared with 2002]. It is disappointing but not a disaster."
Morale problems are acute in the exploration and production division, which is responsible for finding oil and managing reserves. Malcolm Brinded, head of the division, is to make a presentation for tomorrow's results to convince investors the reserves scandal is behind Shell and it can rebuild its asset base. A person close to that process described it as a "challenge".
That Mr Van der Veer dwells on the assessment of leadership underscores his view that Royal Dutch/Shell's problems run deeper than its reserves crisis. His reaction echoes remarks he made in December when he conceded that middle management had lost faith in the leadership and said his head and that of Mr Brinded's were on the block.
Separately, internal correspondence seen by the Financial Times is further evidence of frustration within the company. One employee wrote: "I am worried that far too little has visibly changed or happened. Those that are in charge of change are themselves tied to the old culture."
A person close to the company said: "Without exception, every Shell person I have met recently has asked me if I am able to help them find something else. Others are leaving without even waiting to find another job.
"The people who are leaving are those who have the skills and knowledge to get Shell out of its current hole. This is undoubtedly a very serious issue."
However, the person familiar with the survey findings said there were just as many people who saw the company finally changing and were happy to stay.