While rivals such as Shell and BP have begun hedging their oil and gas bets with investments in renewable energy, Exxon has remained largely committed to fossil fuels.
In the 1960s, Exxon created an in-house venture-capital division that helped develop some of the first commercially viable solar cells before selling the unit in the 1980s, determining oil and gas were more profitable. Several employees said the company has chosen to primarily innovate on oil- and gas-related technology.
"ExxonMobil is a world leader in carbon capture," the company said.
Mr. Woods has said Exxon is investing in groundbreaking technology, including algae biofuels and capturing carbon. He has also emphasized company traditions, including its employee-ranking system, that he believes have made Exxon successful.
In early 2018, around the time he laid out his growth plan, Mr. Woods visited the company's flagship Houston-area campus for a town hall meeting. He spoke to more than 1,000 employees in the campus' main building, which features a 10,000-ton "floating cube" that appears to hover over a plaza below.
When the meeting shifted to a question-and-answer session, some employees asked about the ranking system and whether Exxon would ever get rid of it, said six people who attended. Many large companies have abandoned such rankings, including Microsoft Corp. and General Electric Co., which pioneered the system in the 1980s.
Mr. Woods appeared annoyed by the question and said Exxon would never get rid of the rankings, according to the people.
"We need to win in the marketplace," Mr. Woods said, according to the people.
Write to Christopher M. Matthews at firstname.lastname@example.org