In our last article, we covered some of the key recruitment and retention challenges of the renewable energy sector. You can see that article here covering recruitment and retention challenges. Today, we’ve taken a deep dive into some of the more practical hiring challenges faced by HR leaders in the sector like you, including finding the right expertise, how to minimise the cost of hiring, and the importance of talent communications. There’s no silver bullet when it comes workforce challenges in the renewable sector. But there are key strategic initiatives you can undertake, to fill talent gaps and ensure projects stay on track. Let’s get into it.
Practical Challenges in Renewable Energy Hiring
There are key practical challenges faced by HR leaders in the renewables sector. From finding contract workers with the right expertise, to ensuring public and talent perception of your brand and business is upstanding. And overcoming these practical challenges is complex.
Project Based Hiring Dynamics
Given the project-based nature of much of the industry’s activity, renewable energy jobs tend to open up for an individual organisation, en masse.
Faced with the need to fill these jobs, HR business leaders in the sector often find themselves with a daunting hiring scenario: filling roles which aren’t permanent.
There are key factors which make project hiring hard work. We’ve outlined these below as well as their recommended solutions:
Workers with industry expertise are in high demand. Skills sought by employers – which we covered in our first article of this series – are common across the industry. Short-term contract workers in renewables are snapped up quickly, and pipelining this talent can be incredibly difficult, especially when workers can shop around to find the best contract that suits them. In this situation, the right contingent workers that tick all the boxes for your projects, and that fit your company culture, are typically scarce.
- Build relationships with contingent talent in the renewables industry. Stay in touch with them, let them know about upcoming projects in your business, share industry knowledge and trends. Host networking events for your contingent workers, past and present. Maintain an interest in them, and pay attention to their career, as this will pay handsome dividends.
- Be skilful with your workforce planning. Building a contingent talent pipeline across key industry-specific skills will allow your projects to proceed with the right skills at the right time.
- Incentivise contingent workers to recommend your business to other contingent workers in their network. Propagate your talent pipeline with talent referred by trusted sources.
An abundance of contingent workers can have an impact on the engagement and motivation of your employees. The come-and-go nature of contract workers can disrupt culture, employee satisfaction and make your employees feel a sense of instability.
- Company culture is very important in this scenario. Making sure your full-time employees are engaged, prioritised and communicated with consistently and purposefully will keep them assured of their position in the business (as long as they’re performing to expectations).
- Make sure your permanent workers are aware of upcoming projects and the organisation’s need for short-term talent. Give them context and a clear framework so they can better understand the role of contingent talent in the business.
Candidate expectations need to be managed carefully. When a worker’s expectations and the actual role don’t match, negative consequences may arise, including dissatisfaction, low performance, and high turnover rates. This can have an adverse impact on your organisation’s reputation, as disillusioned contractors may spread negative feedback or fail to recommend your business to others in their network. Also, the impact on project delivery can be devastating.
- Transparency is key when it comes to contract positions. Be upfront about important details such as the contract length, job duties, pay rates, other benefits and possibility of extension.
- Be clear about the project they’re being hired for. Give them context around the project’s purpose, expected outcome, number of workers involved, and the expected contribution of their role.
- Regularly check in with your contingent workers. Gain an understanding of any challenges they may be experiencing, or changes to their expectations.
Public Perception and Renewable Brand Image
The public perception of the renewables industry is important to factor in when hiring renewable energy jobs.
Currently in Australia, there is strong support for the transition to renewable energy, despite the current pressures around cost of living. Data from the Australia Institute from April this year, tells us:
- Approximately two thirds (65%) of Australians feel positive about the transition to renewables vs 15% negative, with young people, and those in South Australia, being most positive about it.
- There is also strong support for the Federal Government’s plan to reach net zero by 2050 with 53% positive and 19% negative about this.
Source: Australia Institute
And with the Australian government having made a firm commitment to drive Australia’s transition to net zero, there is broad awareness of Australia’s role as a global renewables’ player. Especially given our historic position in the global fossil fuels industry.
With largely positive attitudes to the transition to renewables, filling renewable energy jobs should seem fairly straightforward. Right? Unfortunately, it’s not that simple.
There are key factors to be considered when going to market for new talent to fill renewable energy jobs, especially when it comes to public perception. These include:
- Education. There is still low-level awareness of the details surrounding transition to renewables. And with uncertainty comes confusion. When hiring for renewable energy jobs, your business needs to make a very clear case around your role in the industry, your carbon footprint, and your high-level plan, for transition to renewables. This will allay any doubts or fears about the jobs you’re seeking to fill, and your position in the industry. Transparency will build trust.
- Industry involvement. If your organisation can get involved at all stages of talent pipeline development, you’ll build a trusted, reputable brand in the industry, which will be sought after by potential candidates. Involvement with education institutions, government bodies and industry stakeholders will raise your profile, and build positive perceptions of your brand as an employer.
- Diversity. With a low representation of women, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples, and disability workers, the industry needs to become more equitable in its diversity hiring. As an employer in the sector, taking an active position on diversity hiring for renewable energy jobs, will boost your reputation in the industry, and tap into a broader talent pool. And you’ll be helping to dispel the notion that the industry is a ‘boys club’.
Ensuring Quality and Expertise in Renewable Energy Talent
As an industry experiencing unprecedented, exponential growth, the renewables sector is also experiencing the pains and stressors associated with such growth. Issues like finding the right technical expertise, streamlining processes for better workforce efficiency and keeping hiring costs down are ubiquitous. But they need not hinder your projects or your ability to fill renewable energy jobs.
Technical Expertise in Renewable Energy
Technical knowledge and expertise in the renewables industry is in high demand across key job families. These include:
- Civil, electrical, power systems, structural and grid connection engineers.
- Grid connection engineers.
- Mechanical, mechatronics and SCADA engineers.
- In hydropower, geomatics and hydropower engineers.
- In wind power, wind reliability engineers.
- Project managers.
- Lawyers with industry experience.
- Health and safety managers.
- Sales managers with industry experience.
- Environmental scientists.
- Stakeholder liaison managers.
- A broad host of tradespeople and technicians.
This is a mere snapshot of job categories in high demand. If we use the category of ‘engineer’ as an example, the typical industry experience of an engineer in the sector is eight years. And there is significant mobility of engineers across both employers and technologies, given their transferable skills.
Therefore, accessing talent with experience in renewable energy is highly regarded and much of the work is targeted at mid-career level workers. The problem with this though, is that new entrants to the sector are needed to support the anticipated continued growth of renewables. It’s a problem that is endemic to the industry.
Finding and assessing talent with the required technical expertise is a challenge. Often, re-skilling and up-skilling is required especially for talent transferring from fossil fuels industries.
The pathway to the industry is multi-faceted and helps to guide hiring and HR leaders in their quest to fill renewable energy jobs:
Efficiency in Renewable Workforce Management: Solutions
Operational efficiency in renewables is key to workforce engagement and retention, and technology is the linchpin here. The following technology ideas will enable your business to boost productivity and efficiency while ensuring your workforce are engaged and happy:
- Technology – prioritising data management: your long-term operational strategy will require the adoption of digital tools, which will likely increase the complexity of your operations. To optimise workforce efficiency and productivity, it’s necessary to have visibility across the entire value chain. This is because the decisions made by one stakeholder are often dependent on decisions made by others, so real-time data sharing is vital. Data must be made available to a broad range of workforce stakeholders and decision-makers without compromising its integrity or the operational safety of your projects.
- Technology – giving your data context: your data alone isn’t enough. The key to making data actionable is contextualisation. Visualisation tools are critical in providing decision-makers with accessible and actionable data that fosters teamwork and quick decision-making. For optimal operational efficiency, data contextualisation and visualisation must integrate engineering, operations, and data from across the organisation (including financial data) and third-party sources (such as weather) to provide comprehensive end-to-end visualisation. To ensure maximum efficiency, this platform needs to be both open and secure.
- Technology – automation: the evolving renewable energy model, add significant complexity to electricity supply, transmission and distribution. This calls for agile, and reliable operations. Automation technology will not only help to prevent human error but will also free operations workers to focus on failure prevention, or process disruption, while at the same time, increasing collaboration and guiding corrective actions. The use of cloud-based operational control systems can significantly improve situational awareness by offering real-time and precise data to facilitate informed decision-making. These systems provide comprehensive visibility customised to the user’s specific role, thus making the process of monitoring and managing operations more efficient.
Cost Efficiency in Renewable Talent Acquisition
Like any industry with a dearth of quality talent, there’s no simple cost-effective solution to candidate attraction in the renewable energy sector. But that doesn’t mean hiring need cost your business the earth. The key is to work on building a talent pipeline of prospective contract and FTE talent, using multiple strategic levers, consistently. That way, you won’t be caught out hiring reactively, and paying above the odds.
Here’s a strategic framework, that will allow you to keep your hiring costs down:
- Streamline your hiring processes: a streamlined hiring process will reduce your cost-per-hire and your time-to-hire. This includes mapping out each stage of the interview process, refining each step in the process for building greater efficiency, and ensuring all stakeholders and decision makers to the hiring process are adequately briefed. In renewables, it’s easy to lose a quality hire to a competitor, if your hiring process is drawn out and tedious. This is an extremely important step.
- Source talent from allied industries: allied industries in renewables are an excellent source of talent. As new sub-sections of the renewable and clean technology industries emerge, the ability to find skilled talent with industry experience is difficult. Especially at a leadership level. Therefore, broadening your search to industries including traditional energy sources, oil, gas, manufacturing and engineering is key when the competition for quality talent is fierce.
- Build a credible, appealing employer brand: most candidates today are passionate about climate change and building a greener future for the planet. This is especially true of younger generations. So, ingraining your green credentials into your employer brand is crucial. Also consider what your employees, past employees and contract workers would say about you. Is this relatable for future potential hires? What about your vision and values? And your culture? All these factors need to be accounted for when building a genuine, relatable, and authentic employer brand. Consider engaging a strategic creative agency if there’s a gap between your worker’s experience of your business, and your stated value proposition to workers. And finally, working with specialist recruitment professionals in the renewables industry will allow you to have an ambassadorial mouthpiece with the right prospective candidates.
- Build a brand profile: building a profile of your employer brand through channels consumed by the industry, will boost awareness of your employee value proposition. Consider social media, industry events, online forums, industry journals, and mainstream media – a consistent presence in the market will build awareness and respect for your business as a prospective employer. Research those channels best suited to your candidate needs and build editorial relationships. Consider profiling your business with universities and vocational training institutions. Be clear and careful in your messaging and strategic in your timing.
- Assess your remuneration and benefits: benchmarking your benefits packages and remuneration against the industry and adjacent industries will keep your employment proposition attractive to new workers. Keep in mind, your direct remuneration and benefits must be competitive as well as the non-tangible benefits on offer like work/life balance, hybrid working, leave entitlements, family entitlements and wellbeing factors.
Communication and Compliance in Renewable Hiring
In the final chapter of practical solutions for filling renewable energy jobs, we delve into the importance of talent communications throughout the hiring process, as well as compliance and risk mitigation – both of these factors will allow you to achieve long-standing, low-stress hiring outcomes.
Transparent Communication in Renewables Hiring
Clear and transparent candidate communication throughout the hiring process will significantly boost your offer acceptance rates. By providing a positive candidate experience through regular, effective talent communications, you will leave a lasting impression with candidates and increase the likelihood of them accepting your job offer.
According to Career Plug, 58% of job seekers have declined an offer due to poor recruitment communications and hiring processes. By following these practical steps, your renewable energy jobs will be filled more efficiently and with more engaged talent.
There are nine critical stages of communication to the hiring process, more if the process or job is more complex. But at a minimum, make sure you’re communicating with candidates at each of the following stages:
- Acknowledgement of application received.
- Application status updates.
- First point of personal contact.
- Interview scheduling.
- Reminder of interview.
- Post-interview thank you.
- Application status updates.
The key is to ensure that vast swathes of time don’t disappear between each stage. If there’s a hold-up at your end, keep the candidate informed.
Compliance and Risk Management
The impact of the shortage of skilled workers in the renewable energy sector extends beyond local borders. As technology and applications continue to develop, the industry globally is experiencing a surge in job openings for skilled workers. With this comes potentially rushed hiring practices in an effort to fill renewable energy jobs.
And if your company runs afoul of local hiring laws, you could end up in hot water. Here are the broad rules to go by, when hiring for cross-border, renewable energy jobs:
1. Classify your workers correctly: the use of contingent workers to fill renewable energy jobs is common across the industry. When hiring contingent workers, properly classifying them according to local legislation is crucial. If a full-time employee is classified as a contractor, many countries will impose fines and tax penalties.
Researching local labour laws will help you to avoid misclassification. As will seeking the advice of legal experts in the jurisdiction in which you’re hiring.
2. Get familiar with international labour laws: Every country has a set of labor laws in place to ensure that business operations are aligned with the needs and rights of employees. The extent and nature of these labor laws differ from country to country and may range from providing extensive protection for employees to minimal worker rights. To ensure that the rights of international workers are upheld, it is essential to understand the complex variations in local labour laws. Be sure to familiarise yourself with these laws and implement proper onboarding, employment, and termination processes.
3. Obtain the necessary visas and work permits: A global mobility policy allows employees to work from anywhere in the world, which can lead to better talent retention and a deeper understanding of new markets. However, a major challenge of global compliance is obtaining work visas and permits. When companies relocate or transfer talent to international markets, they must secure the appropriate credentials that allow their employees to work within the country for more than six months. Failure to obtain the necessary visa or permit could result in costly fines and immigration penalties for both the employer and employee.
4. Pay workers accurately and on time: avoid penalties and reputational damage in foreign markets by outsourcing payroll services. Late payments or incorrect payroll contributions can result in fines and penalties, as well as harm a company’s reputation in foreign markets. Since most payroll providers located in a company’s home country do not cater to international employees, it’s best that your company outsources payroll services to third-party providers within the foreign markets (or engage a global provider like CXC).
5. Pay statutory benefits and entitlements: in most countries, employers are required to provide their employees with certain statutory benefits, such as mandatory paid holiday leave, sick leave, or paid maternity and paternity leave. It’s crucial for businesses hiring globally to comply with these labour laws and ensure all workers have equal access to these benefits. Failure to do so can result in penalties and lawsuits. So, it’s important to acknowledge these benefits while establishing accurate hiring, payroll, and termination processes to stay compliant and provide the proper benefits to all workers.
The talent shortage in the renewables sector is set to continue into the foreseeable future. But despite a high demand for key expertise to fill renewable energy jobs, if your company is willing to take a consistently strategic approach to workforce planning, hiring, retention and management, you’ll be a step ahead of your talent competitors. Building a solid, authentic employer brand, understanding where to source the right expertise and skills and – most importantly – maintaining a compliant position in all your workforce engagements, will allow you to overcome the industry’s unique workforce challenges.