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Industry Insights | 16 minute read

2022 energy and utilities market update

November 9, 2022

Summary: In a market of displaced tech talent and ramping solar and renewables, the energy and utilities sector is undergoing massive, real-time change. The COVID-19 pandemic caused a large majority of the sector’s top, most skilled talent to retire early. This industry, riddled with limited talent acquisition (TA) functions and bandwidth to mentor incoming workers, must prioritize early careers and transferring talent, establish training programs and upskill employees in order to evolve and meet the spike in global demand.


The energy and utilities sector has had its fair share of roadblocks and growth accelerators this year. Between green energy initiatives, rapid digital transformation, spiked energy usage and increased prices, all present unique challenges toward furthering progress. The Paris Agreement treaty is working to decarbonize the utilities industry globally. However, in the US, for example, more than 60% of US electricity is still generated by carbon-emitting sources according to Deloitte.  

Clean energy has brought on a tech revolution, while the COVID-19 pandemic boosted remote jobs and digitizing daily operations in the sector. This requires evolving skills — with not enough talent to fill the need. This blog will help talent leaders overcome some of the many challenges that employers in the sector face.


Energy and utilities talent challenges: Reevaluating job requirements 

With the constant priority switches between oil and renewables over the last few years, the challenges in this sector are around attracting talent who view this as an appealing career path. To futureproof your talent strategy, embracing transferable skills to support the technology innovation needed for progress is going to be key.


Challenge #1: Skills shortages 

Like many industries, the energy and utilities sector struggles with major skill gaps, especially for onsite workers. Organizations in the traditional oil and gas sector typically have more mature workforces and many senior employees retired from the industry during the last downturn. This means an exacerbated skills gap; training the next generation is critical, but it's becoming increasingly difficult. Employees with skills in engineering for oil and gas, mechanical engineering rotation, process engineers and even project and program management largely migrated to other sectors that didn’t experience as much of a downturn during the COVID-19 pandemic, leaving quite a gap behind. 

Meanwhile, environmental, social and governance (ESG) has been placed in the spotlight and gained momentum as the economy recovers. This emphasis has led to renewables growth, especially solar, as a growing percentage of the population has pressing concerns about climate change policies. Yet despite these concerns, finding talent with the necessary battery, storage and carbon capture experience is difficult since renewables has proven to be insecure during economic downturns. This means companies are all competing for a limited pool of talent with the necessary experience to work in this booming industry. Additionally, candidates considering operations-based roles — such as project engineers, project engineers and designers — are demanding 100% remote positions (when those were previously in office). This misalignment is causing dissonance between candidates and hiring managers. 


Solution: Upskill and reskill your workforce continually

Prioritizing career development through upskilling and comprehensive learning and development (L&D) programs is mission critical in this sector. 

Traditional oil and gas workers are looking to move to renewables as they no longer see a long-term future in oil and gas. This widens the talent pool for companies in renewables, but upskilling will be key. 

According to GETI’s 2022 global energy talent index report on renewables, 63% of respondents “believe in-house learning and development can provide the skills to adapt to the changing energy landscape.” It’s important to look internally at your existing talent and ways you can upskill them rather than deciding immediately to hire externally. 


Challenge #2: Location-based hiring 

The convergence of industries has added complexity to the need for talent across multiple locations. While more mobilized talent, certain industries within energy and utilities have local factories, plants and power grids that prevent remote work as a possibility. This means employers are having to think outside the box in order to retain workers and prevent a migration to other industries. Appealing to what workers want in a long-term career — including advancement and flexibility — helps maintain healthy retention rates and minimizes attrition and turnover.  

The importance of digital transformation cannot be understated here either, as modernizing your tech will provide more flexible hybrid and remote roles for those that can be offsite. This will make you a more desirable employer, especially to the gen z workforce, who both prioritize and demand flexibility.  


Solution: Establish early careers programs and internships 

Having robust early careers programs and internships ensures a steady pipeline of incoming talent to your organization. Investing in the next generation of the workforce is one of the most effective things to implement in the long term to overcome skills shortages. This total talent approach is more strategic and profitable in the long run. It also means you can explore opportunities with local universities and institutions to teach the skills needed for future roles. This appeals to jobseekers, as they want employers with strong cultures that are willing to invest in ongoing learning and care about employees on both a personal and professional level. 

Using people analytics (PA) to discover what other things jobseekers are truly wanting in a career will bring considerable value to your programs as well. Those real-time analytics — which can be gathered by analysts through a recruitment process outsourcing (RPO) partner — can give you actionable data on how to continuously improve the skills needed for early career programs. 


Challenge #3: Inconsistent messaging and investment in sector creates insecurity 

The constant flip of energy prioritization between oil and gas to renewables has created confusion for potential candidates in the energy sector. Oil and gas made a comeback during the COVID-19 pandemic, but more recently, renewables has returned as a major employer. Inconsistent messaging from governments — in one moment supporting carbon-cutting initiatives and then taking away tax incentives for renewables the next — has brought instability. More than anything, jobseekers are looking for safe industries that have a more defined future. 

Despite that, with many decarbonization priorities sprouting from governments and companies, it’s important your messaging speaks to your larger corporate social responsibility (CSR) and ESG goals. Seeking candidates who feel strongly and align with your ESG policies are essential right now, as in-demand roles are centered around solar and wind to help offset oil usage and costs. Anything less means you’re not preparing yourself to compete with companies that have policies against harsh climate and electricity delivery. 


Solution: Prioritize ESG in your employment branding 

61% of respondents say their employers’ actions on ESG are a major factor in their decision to join or remain with a business.
Source: GETI’s 2022 global energy talent index report 

Emphasizing your company values and the impact you’re making to help combat climate change has become a focal point for jobseekers (especially those entering the workforce). This is especially relevant in the energy and utilities industry. Today’s candidates want to be part of something fulfilling and bigger than themselves — so make your stance known. Sharing the positive impacts you’re making will be a talent attractor.  

Regarding your brand identity, ask yourself: 

  • How are you improving the planet?  
  • What ways do you give back to local communities?  
  • What charities are you donating to? 
  • Do you provide employees with volunteer days to give back in ways that fulfill them? 
  • Have you made clearly defined commitments for minimizing environmental impact on your website? 

These are important elements of your employment branding that you must highlight on your careers page if you want to find talent with similar values and passions. 


Challenge #4: Digital transformation  

In a digital-first world, consumer demand for easy online experiences is now the norm. This has required many utilities companies to expand their operations to accommodate digital services. For example, 5G technology is making it easier to communicate seamlessly across smart meters and other data sensors to get real-time data that’s accessible and controllable. To take full advantage of that, you need tech talent with the right skills to innovate.  

 Tech talent has always been in short supply, and utilities companies and the energy sector are competing for that small pool of tech talent against all sectors more than ever before. To attract and retain this talent, you may need to offer perks you haven’t had in the past.  


Solution: Improve your employee value proposition (EVP)  

Take advantage of the recent over-hiring and layoffs from tech companies and scoop up talent with transferable skills who can elevate your cybersecurity and integrate operational workloads.  

Demand for energy and utilities will always exist; now, however, it has huge growth potential. To implement solutions, talent leaders must attract the next generation of workers — who have, in the past, been drawn to tech — with an effective EVP in renewables and other related verticals.  

Attract tech talent with a total rewards EVP that features: 

  • An efficient hiring and onboarding process 
  • Continual upskilling through learning and development (L&D) programs 
  • A welcoming and inclusive culture 
  • ESG actions and commitments 
  • A comprehensive total rewards program 
  • Work-life balance 
  • Competitive salary 
  • Flexibility

Attract and retain talent in the energy and utilities sector 

Attracting talent from other industries or those who have never considered a career in energy and utilities requires a solid TA strategy and targeted approach to get them interested in the prospect. Taking steps now will help to futureproof the sector and ensure a healthy pipeline of candidates who are interested in pursuing a career in energy and utilities.  

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About Craig Sweeney

As executive vice president, global strategic talent solutions, Craig leads WilsonHCG's growth strategy and new partnership cultivation across the globe. Alongside the trusted consultants at WilsonHCG, he builds market-leading, scalable and customisable RPO solutions. Craig's relationships span all industry verticals and geographies with expertise in technology, business services, financial services, engineering, manufacturing, retail, and media.