5 HR challenges in the renewable energy industry, and how to overcome them

January 7, 2020

The renewable energy industry is rapidly evolving, with solar, wind and hydropower projects being rolled out at their fastest rate in four years.

According to the International Energy Agency, renewable power capacity is expected to expand by 50% between 2019 and 2024, by which time the world’s solar capacity could grow by 600GW.

Renewable energy is forecast to grow by 1200GW in the next five years; that’s equal to the total electricity capacity of the United States.

HR plays an essential role in supporting this growth, especially talent management and workforce planning. Recruiting the best talent to fill positions in this rapidly expanding industry is crucial in sustaining that development.

In this article, we’ll highlight some of the biggest challenges faced by HR departments in the renewable energy sector and explain how you can overcome them to contribute to your company’s growth.


5-Talent-Pool

Attracting the right talent

It can be difficult to attract perfect candidates to fill your roles, which is why it’s important to put significant time and effort into the recruitment process. As it's primarily a field-based industry, jobs in the energy sector requires a wide range of qualifications and skills, as well as the ability to think holistically when identifying sustainable solutions.

During the recruitment stage, make sure you highlight the benefits that will appeal to candidates, and avoid exclusion by focusing on those that will be of particular interest to all genders and ethnicities. Examples include:

  • Transparent pay structures
  • Maternity / paternity leave
  • Holiday allowance
  • Flexible working opportunities

In addition to industry-specific skills, renewable energy companies also need to widen their nets to recruit tech talent, too. IT plays an integral role in the energy industry, and its ascendancy over recent years has created many new and essential job roles, such as automation engineers and data analysts.

However, attracting tech candidates is a challenging task, particularly when competing against dominant brands in other industries. The tech talent shortage isn’t limited to the energy sector, with businesses all over the world requiring IT skills. This creates enormous competition, making it more important than ever for energy companies to stand out to tech candidates.

Some ways to overcome this challenge include:

  • Improve your employer branding to establish your value proposition outside of the energy sector, so that your company is seen as a positive business that employers enjoy working for.
  • Focus on industry strengths; one factor that works in the renewable energy industry’s favour is that many people want to work for a company that benefits the environment. In job applications and mission statements, make it clear how the work your business does contributes towards saving the planet to sell the story of why candidates will want to work on your projects.

10-Retrain-Existing-Employees

Retaining your workforce

Of course, the hard work doesn’t stop when you’ve attracted the right candidates for your roles. Once you’ve got a talented, motivated workforce, the next HR challenge lies in retaining it.

The 2019 GETI report revealed that 77% of renewable energy professionals are open to moving to a different industry. This has increased from 43% in the previous year.

This is a surprisingly high percentage given that pay has increased and workers are generally happy within the industry. According to Hannah Peet, Managing Director at Energy Jobline, this could reflect workers’ unease over issues like skills shortages and their implications for the sector’s long-term prospects.

For example, the report states that problem solving, leadership, strategic planning and process management are among the disciplines most affected by talent shortages. If these shortages remain as they are, companies will risk reductions in productivity and efficiency, which in turn can lead to loss of business.

But by introducing apprenticeship schemes to train and upskill existing staff will help to plug that gap and create a more robust workforce. It will also help with difficulties in attracting staff, as candidates might be missing skills when they initially join your workforce. Having the capacity to help them develop these skills is crucial, which is where training and apprenticeship schemes can really help.

What’s more, having more skills to offer also opens doors for employees to advance in their careers, which can improve retention rates as it means they’ll be more inclined to stay.

Visit the GETI site to download the report


2-research

Capacity building for new projects

Work in the renewable energy industry is largely project-based, which puts pressure on HR teams to build capacity quickly. It also increases their reliance on contract workers and staff willing to relocate to areas they may not be familiar with.

You can keep a list of available contractors and employees by looking after your talent pipeline. Keeping in touch with candidates throughout the application process means you can keep them on hand for future possibilities, so when you’re hiring for new projects, you won’t need to completely start from scratch.

As with recruiting for new talent, it’s also a good idea to widen your search to other parts of the world. This provides you with a much wider talent pool than you would if you simply focused on the area the project is based in.

Working with a global workforce solutions provider can help you identify talent in any part of the world, whilst relieving you of complex HR requirements like immigration, drug screening and more.

Find out more about our relocation services


5MobilityHelping expatriates settle into their new location

Workers often relocate from other countries to work on renewable energy projects, sometimes in remote or isolated locations. It’s important to help them adapt to the local culture, as working away from family members can impact their wellbeing and motivation levels.

A huge challenge for HR teams is ensuring that expatriates settle into their new surroundings and make sure they’re feeling content in their working life.

Using relocation services removes this burden by taking care of important HR tasks such as policy administration and counselling and essential services (for example, property management, inter-cultural training and family support services).


14-Airswift-Employee-Web-Page-Icons_diversity-150x150Maintaining a diverse workforce

In order for the energy sector to thrive, diversity is essential. Thanks to advances in technology, the industry anticipates vast changes that are set to expand the skills gap, which is why it’s important for companies to make themselves attractive to all candidates.

A recent study by BCG found that companies with above-average diversity scores within their leadership teams reported higher innovation revenue (45%) than those with below-average diversity scores (26%).

In addition, research by McKinsey found that companies in the top quartile for gender diversity on their executive teams were 15% more likely to experience above-average profitability than companies in the fourth quartile.

These figures reinforce the importance of maintaining diversity within the workforce.

HR teams can only achieve diversity if they create a culture and working environment that is inclusive. According to Energy Voice, the energy industry currently performs badly for diversity in terms of gender and ethnicity. In oil and gas, for example, women only account for one fifth of the workforce. While the outlook may not be as negative in the renewables sector, many companies will still be able to make positive changes, such as:

  • Making sure job descriptions use language that appeals to both genders and are free of unintentional bias
  • Regularly gathering feedback from employees on their career advancement to ensure nobody feels overlooked for promotion (research by McKinsey shows that women are almost three times more likely than men to feel as though they have missed out on promotions or pay rises).
  • Tracking and reviewing promotion trends to eliminate unconscious bias and ensure the process is fair to all employees
  • Making sure that training opportunities are available for all workers, regardless of their background or gender

If you’re an HR executive or manager in the renewable energy industry and are struggling with any of the above challenges, Airswift have a number of solutions that can help. For more information, take a look at our services page.

Learn more about our services

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This post was written by: Rhys Morgan, Regional Manager - Recruitment & Consultancy - APAC