Tailwinds Are Powering Renewable Firms: Industry Trends to Attract Top Talent & Beat the Competition

The high-flying renewable sector is set to soar even higher after the Senate passed legislation this week earmarking $369 billion (about $1,100 per person in the US) for U.S. energy security and combatting climate change.

The Inflation Reduction Act, passed on Sunday, “is a historic step toward the clean energy future the American people want and scientists say we desperately need,” noted the American Council on Renewable Energy to CNBC.

“The legislation’s landmark investment… will help deploy thousands of megawatts of renewable power, create hundreds of thousands of good-paying American jobs, reduce the cost of electric power, and finally put the country on track toward achievement of our climate goals.”

Indeed, the bill includes a host of incentives to power the sector, including production tax credits to accelerate U.S. manufacturing of solar panels, wind turbines and batteries – estimated to be a $30 billion (about $92 per person in the US) investment – along with another $30 billion in grant and loan programs for states and electric utilities to boost the transition to green electricity.

The bill follows an already established worldwide trend of phenomenal growth in the sector. Globally, “as countries funnel billions of dollars into developing renewable power, policymakers are banking on the sector to create new jobs,” according to clean energy research group BloombergNEF, adding that  “Solar generation capacity is expected to triple by the end of the decade, while wind capacity is expected to more than double over the same period.”

The green transition and renewable expansion fuels important considerations for leaders about how to recruit and retain top talent and stand out from the competition. In this article, we explore the sectors hottest trends and offer tangible advice on how to propel renewable companies and their people forward.

Flexibility is all the rage… keep it powered up

The renewable sector is one of the most innovative and disruptive sectors in the U.S. economy. Therefore, it isn’t surprising that people working to fundamentally transform the way we heat our homes, power our devices, and set up the electricity grid are at the forefront of fresh ideas, modern technology, and innovation with respect to workplace flexibility.

While some sectors are scaling back flexibility for employees, renewable companies have been keen to embrace flexible work cultures and we advise them to continue on this smart path. Arm executives and team members with the digital tools they need to advance virtually, such as the option of being digital nomads, plugging in a laptop, and communicating with colleagues using Slack at a café in Denver or at home in Columbus when the head office is based in Los Angeles, for example. Be open to non-traditional hours and workweeks that cater to employee needs to balance personal responsibilities with work duties, like dashing off to pick up the kids from school.

PwC’s recent Remote Working Survey found that 79% of employees highlight the importance of flexibility to manage family matters alongside work, and many employees are eager to keep up remote working practices as a result.

For those operating in-office, layouts, designs, and aesthetics all play into creativity, convenience, and collaboration. We see our renewable clients with garden-filled rooftop offices – powered by solar panels, of course – and inside, such goodies as full-service dry cleaning pick up and drop off, ping pong and crossword tables, exercise ball chairs, and various elements of design that foster collaborative workspaces and promote an engaging environment that brings nature indoors.

Money matters and that trend is not going to change

While Covid triggered a widespread reflection for people about ‘what really matters in life’ and that included less emphasis on money, salaries are precipitously rising in the renewable space. The combination of proliferation in private equity and fund capital, wage increases due to inflation and government investment, is lining the pockets of many firms with substantial cash. Candidates are keenly aware of this, along with the sector’s need for specialized green skills and knowledge, digital savvy, and unique ways of thinking and doing. As a result, top talent is commanding higher pay to play. And companies are obliging.

According to the Global Energy Talent Index (GETI) report, “The Renewable energy sector is seeing a post-pandemic salary bounce, with 40 per cent of professionals reporting a pay rise in 2021 and 61 per cent expect a pay rise this year. A clear and strong offer is important and can make the difference in attracting the right talent.”

If your organization is concerned you are overpaying, you can refer to such sources as the Radford Global Compensation Database and the Mercer Total Compensation Survey as reference points for industry data on compensation. We urge you to carefully consider the value and output that executives bring to your organization.

For example, if a prospective Vice-President of Sales is asking for $100,000 more than your previous person in the role, but they have a proven track record of increasing sales’ teams performance by millions, is it not worth it to pay more to reap the rewards of a much bigger bottom line and attracting/retaining the right people? We believe the answer to that question is a clear yes.

The marketplace is driven by talent; you need to compete to get the very best

The U.S. labor market in general has been grappling with an ongoing talent shortage following the Great Resignation. This trend is especially acute in the booming renewable space, where a prevailing view is that the biggest challenge is finding and keeping human capital.

“The convergence of renewables, power, and technology around clean smart grids means that skills are increasingly transferrable between these three sectors,” notes Janette Marx, CEO of Airswift which was one of the firms that commissioned the GETI survey.

“The cross-sector war for green energy talent means this is now an employee’s market and we found employees are increasingly empowered to pick employers based on personal values, as well as promotion opportunities.”

Talent won’t come to you or stick around if they see a competitor or a related industry offering more, be it compensation, company values, culture, or flexibility. Research shows 75% of workers in this space are considering leaving it over the next three years, with most drawn to the technology industry. And this talent war spans all levels of the organization. Bloomberg reports that candidates with the right skills are sometimes hired while they are still in school, or as soon as they graduate.

In addition to the various attraction factors mentioned thus far, to win over stellar talent, your organization must:

  • Have a credible and meaningful people strategy
  • Brand how your organization and its renewable energy solutions are making a transformative difference in society
  • Differentiate your culture, highlighting inclusivity, agility, creativity, authenticity, and a people-first ethos
  • Provide a bounty of career development opportunities

Final thoughts

Sunny, green days are here and getting brighter and lusher for the renewable sector. There is also a high-powered talent war that is getting crowded with more firms competing for the best leaders. To win that talent war and attract top talent, focus on embracing flexible work options, providing career progression opportunities, ensuring your organization is branded as a place where people want to work, and implementing savvy recruiting practices. Heeding these strategies will supercharge your company and people’s potential for long-term growth.

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