Finding talent for renewable energy

The former President and CEO of Maxus Energy Corporation and Sr. VP of Development and Operations of Duke Energy International sits down with us to discuss all things ‘talent’ in the Energy sector.

​John Enloe is an accomplished Senior Executive, President, CEO, Board Member, Entrepreneur and Consultant. He has more than 25 years of experience in oil and gas exploration and production, renewable and fossil fired electric power generation and natural gas transportation and distribution.

He is currently leading efforts for several large-scale renewable and non-renewable energy projects in the US, Central and South America.

For some time now, the aging workforce has been a big concern across the energy sector. What are Renewable Energy companies doing now to futureproof their talent pipeline?

In many cases, companies are happy to let more experienced (and therefore more expensive) talent leave the company in favour of younger less expensive employees. Some companies have addressed the problem of insufficient supply of young talent by hiring the retiree’s back as consults on a project by project basis. If we are honest with ourselves, there are many people that have built careers in the large regulated utilities, and although they may be technically sound enough for the new renewable business model, they may not be prepared for the highly competitive nature and profile of deregulated renewables, such as solar and wind.

Another issue related to retaining more experienced employees revolves around motivation to keep working hard. If you have had a career where you are moving up the ladder and heavily involved with management and strategic direction, it is easy to stay motivated. If the employee finds him or herself in an individual contributor role it can be harder to stay motivated. Studies (such as this one from the IES and Centre for Ageing Better) have shown that older, more experienced employees, need to be recognized and appreciated for their contributions. This becomes more important to them than money and promotions. However, most organizations are focused on their rising stars and not those who have been there day in and day out providing a firm foundation to the company. A lesson that all managers can learn is to show appreciation to all your employees for their contributions, especially the older ones.

And what's being done to improve diversity?

It’s no secret that historically, the energy sector has been dominated by men. For many years now, industries including the energy sector, have been trying to create more diversity in the workforce. Not just bringing in more women, but minorities also. When I was at Duke Energy in the early 2000’s, Duke hired an external firm to study the makeup of the company and help it get more diverse. Duke, like many energy companies, require a great number of employees with very technical skills. What we found in the US was that most highly technical degrees were pursued by men. If you need an engineer, a chemist, a geologist, or someone to do complex business models you need someone with the proper education in those areas. Women, in the past, pursued degrees in accounting, law, human resources, marketing and other softer skills. Obviously, I am speaking in generalities. I have worked with many women who have pursued technical degrees. However, even more recent research suggests that women in the US are less likely to choose math and science professions.

To encourage more diversity in the workforce, more women and minorities need to be exposed at an earlier age to and gain interest in career paths that will put them into these types of technical roles. They can then get the appropriate training, either through university studies or trade schools, to prepare them for the paths they choose. Today’s modern company understands the benefits of having diversity, but to be successful they must have large diverse pools of talent to choose from.

Do you think energy companies are doing enough to inspire diverse groups of people to want to pursure a career in this industry?

Many companies are making big efforts to make women and minorities aware of these opportunities through career days and recruiting efforts. Large corporations have policies promoting diversity and spend a great deal of time, effort and money looking to satisfy their diversity needs internally or through external hires. However, many smaller corporations do not have the budget to go out and proactively promote diversity, nor the training budget to help change perceptions around diversity internally. In many cases, I’ve seen that they instead recruit talent from the larger companies as a way to improve their diversity.

As you mentioned, many of the roles we recruit for in this industry are very technical, but how important are 'soft skills'?

Let’s face it, it is often the soft skills that determines whether-or-not you get the job. Usually, technical competence can be determined very quickly through the interview process. However, emotional intelligence is much harder to determine in just a couple of interviews. For more senior levels jobs, where emotional intelligence is perhaps more of a necessity, then personality testing can be performed.

Additionally, soft skills are usually what sets apart one employee from his or her peers at promotion and raise time. Both individuals and companies should realize that soft skills are extremely important in helping one perform their job. How you communicate with and react to others is a critical skill. Employees, as well as companies, should focus on improving soft skills, especially “self-awareness.” Know yourself, then you will have a better idea of how others perceive you. Work on your weaknesses and don’t be complacent about it.

The pace of innovation is remarkable right now! With this in mind, what are you most excited about when it comes to renewables and reusable energy?

Posted about 5 years ago
About the author:
Gareth Whitla

Our blogs and insights help keep you up to date with market developments and regional news