BP oil spill could damage its employer brand

BP’s HR department could have a hefty task on its hands to fix some of the potential damage caused to its employer brand as oil continues to spew out of a sunken oil rig in the Gulf of Mexico, leading brand experts have warned.

The oil giant has accepted it is “absolutely responsible” for cleaning up the spill caused by a blast on a drilling rig on 22 April, but insists faulty equipment at the rig’s contractor, Transocean, is ultimately to blame.

Tsz Wu, director of digital creative agency Pink Squid, told Personnel Today that blaming suppliers will always look like a company is ‘passing the buck’, and warned that future employees may be deterred from working for the firm.

He said: “BP are coming out of it really badly at the moment. They’ve got to be seen to be doing the right thing and throwing all their resources into it [the rescue operation].

“At the moment, it looks like they are blaming people and still drilling for fossil fuels. Does it help with their Beyond Petroleum strap? Probably not. And does it help them keep the talent?”

Alex Couzins, brand consultant at consultancy Brand Finance, added: “A crisis will always reveal how true the organisation is to its brand values so it is vital that its leaders stick to them and lead by example. It is essential to keep employees informed and updated during times of organisational uncertainty.”

A spokesman for BP, which is still investigating the incident, said: “We want to attract people with ideas to prevent this [sort of] incident happening. From a personal ambition point of view of anyone thinking of career in the industry, these are the challenges that we want people to be able to prevent and deal with.”

However, professor Andrew Kakabadse, professor of international management development at Cranfield School of Management, dismissed the suggestion BP may struggle to recruit staff in the wake of the spill.

“There’s lots of press and media attention now, but it will blow over,” he said. “There’s thousands of people queuing up in the streets to get jobs. People will be concerned about their career, level of remuneration, prospects, development and training and whether they are going to get a job that is satisfactory.”

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