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Attracting Younger Generations to Careers in the Energy Industry

The energy industry’s talent landscape is changing as established workers reach retirement age. Generation Y (millennials) and Generation Z (zoomers) are some of the biggest proponents of sustainability. Yet, they’re not quick to jump on the energy industry career bandwagon. 

According to a Smart Energy International article, 25% of U.S. utility workers will retire by 2022 and 50% by 2027. The UK faces a similar situation, with 52% of electricity sector workers, 54% of water utility workers and 49% of gas utility workers over the age of 45. 

Shifts like these pose challenges to the energy industry, especially from a talent acquisition and management perspective. To survive, energy companies must make themselves attractive to younger generations, which comprise 46% of the full-time U.S. workforce, according to Gallup

What younger generations want in a company

Many younger workers view the oil and gas sector, for example, as archaic and on its way out. As a Deloitte utilities report acknowledged, “The industry maintains its static public image: old-fashioned, lacking innovation and slow to adapt.”

This image is in stark contrast to what attracts millennials and zoomers to a company: flexibility and adaptability and a purpose that relates to their values, according to the Deloitte Global 2021 Millennial and Gen Z Survey. Gallup adds millennials and zoomers are looking for organizations with: 

  • Care for their well-being
  • Ethical, open and transparent leadership
  • Diverse, inclusive culture 

Although turned off by the oil and gas sector, these younger generations see a bright future with renewable energy. In fact, according to an EY survey, 66% of zoomers find a green energy job appealing. 

So, what do renewable energy jobs offer over oil and gas occupations? It comes down to one word: flexibility. “Highly skilled younger workers are less attracted by rigid workplace structures, where early responsibility is hard to come by,” explains Deloitte in The energy industry and the “Future of Work.”

“The average solar energy scale-up … has fewer hierarchical structures in place and fewer obstacles for innovative millennials to overcome,” the article continues. “A more flexible structure allows teams to self-direct and respond quickly to new opportunities and adapt to a fast-changing market. And with fewer employees to replace, there is more room to innovate and to introduce new technologies.”

For young workers to find the energy industry just as appealing as other industries, it needs to reinvent itself. At the same time, the energy industry needs to revamp the way it recruits, hires and onboards talent in order to be more applicable and attractive to Gen Y and Gen Z. 

The importance of taking a stand

One of the best ways to reinvigorate the industry’s image is for companies to make clear what they stand for. Document the principles of the business, instill them in leaders and ensure leaders articulate them to their direct reports. 

Gallup stated in its Engaging and Retaining Your Millennial Employees article, “71% of millennials who strongly agree that they know what their organization stands for and what makes it different from its competitors plan to stay with their company for at least one year.”

It’s also important for energy companies to highlight their technology advancements. That’s what attracted young workers to some natural gas and oil companies. 

One millennial who participated in a roundtable discussion at the American Petroleum Institute’s (API’s) 2021 State of American Energy event explained “how she previously worked at a sustainability firm that introduced clean energy technology into the U.S. marketplace. Yet, she said she has done more to reduce greenhouse gas emissions in her current role at a natural gas pipeline operator than she ever did at the ‘green-tech’ startup.”

Identifying and articulating the company purpose and communicating the company’s technology advancements are only half the battle. You still need a good way to actively attract, hire, onboard and nurture young workers. 

Tackling talent challenges

Data lies at the heart of solving these talent issues. Every company has data about their candidates, but most companies use only a portion of that data. Shifting to a more data-focused strategy and leveraging the right tools, such as a talent data platform, and good integrations with your tool stack can put your organization in a better position to fill demographic holes. 

More than likely, you already have data about candidates’ age, interests, recent roles and more. The ability to quickly identify, filter and segment that data can be a boon to talent workers. It can enable them to create pools of younger candidates and then develop opportunities to engage them through personalization and tailored content.
Purdue University advises that employers get to know millennials personally. Personalization could be as simple as using the candidate’s name on an invitation to a mixer with current employees the same age. Or, it could involve sharing an employee case study or two about young workers who transitioned into leadership positions. 

The key is to offer resources that are meaningful to each particular candidate. Being able to look at and leverage all talent-related data about a candidate can equip talent teams with information about what each candidate is passionate about. 

Intelligent automation can further simplify recruiting efforts by eliminating unnecessary administrative and manual processes, freeing talent teams to focus on nurturing, developing and retaining talent. In this way, energy companies in all sectors can be empowered to keep the right skills in place to power the company’s mission in the face of an ever-shifting future of work. 

Learn how Beamery helps energy and resources companies attract, hire and retain younger generations.