Demand for a variety of new technical professionals clearly will increase as the energy industry moves further into transition and as energy companies broaden their scope.
What isn’t clear is: Who will fill those jobs?
Organizational consulting firm Korn Ferry has estimated that by 2030 the world will see a talent shortage of more than 85 million people. As one response, the company advocates education, training and upskilling for current employees.
It also has suggested that governments consider bolstering and redesigning education programs to generate the talent pipelines needed by industry.
This talent shortage is already showing up in energy businesses, which have the dual challenge of hiring and developing new technical professionals along with replacing longtime management leadership.
“There’s still a lot of technical expertise that’s needed in our existing business. And as well, we need technical people for the energy transition, and how that will unfold over the next 30 to 40 years,” said Bruce Peterson, senior client partner for Korn Ferry in Houston.
“There are a lot of roles being developed and companies are looking for people to apply new energy technologies. There’s quite a large funnel of people who will be needed for the transition,” he said.
Houston executive search and consulting company Heidrick & Struggles recently released a report in its Insight series titled, “The next energy crisis? Talent.” It noted that “consecutive oil and gas downturns have created a leadership deficit” and that baby boomers – many in upper management positions – continue to leave the industry.
“In renewables, companies are growing faster than the supply of leaders can keep up with, forcing them to be especially imaginative in competing for, recruiting, retaining, and developing talent,” the report observed.
“And, even though companies spend millions of dollars publishing annual sustainability reports and celebrating net-zero pledges, hardly any make disclosures about a sustainable strategy for talent,” it stated.
Peterson said oil and gas companies and other energy organizations generally have responded well to the current situation, despite the pandemic and other obstacles.
“Companies are doing a good job in spite of the past three years with what people have gone through with COVID. You need people in the offices to develop and learn, to grow professionally,” he said.
Looking back even further, after the major oil-price downturn “you’ve seen people leave the (energy) industry who will never come back,” he added.
Reporting on its research into mostly digital talent needs in the energy industry last year, professional services company Accenture noted that “creating an engaging internal experience is critical for organizations to attract and retain talent.”
“To meet shifting expectations, energy providers need to redefine their employee value propositions and fundamentally reimagine the employee experience,” it reported.
The company highlighted five best practices:
- Enable continuous learning.
- Listen to employees.
- Use technology to enable flexible working.
- Champion employee wellbeing and equality.
- Use people metrics to provide transparency on key issues.
“Individuals are striving for personal growth and professional growth within their organizations, and if they don’t see it, they leave,” said Peterson.
“Current industry employees will continue to have opportunities in other industries where technical skills are transferable,” even with many technologies not being proven yet, and development needing to happen, he noted.
The Great Resignation
This year the tech industry has announced a string of layoffs, including job cutbacks in major companies like Google, Microsoft, Amazon and Meta/Facebook.
Will that make more digital and computing talent available to the energy industry?
Peterson said “it can if they’re allowed to work remotely” – something that hasn’t been as common in energy-related jobs as in data and computing-related jobs.
Energy companies have been scrambling, and sometimes struggling, to adapt to a changing reality in hiring and employee retention, including what has been labeled “the Great Resignation.” Frequently cited reasons for the post-pandemic spate of resignations are poor on-site work environments, inflexible remote-work policies and limited opportunities for career advancement.
Today, employee development has emerged as a key concept. Bain & Company, a global management consultancy, included the section “Developing Talent Strategies for the Energy Transition” in its 2022 Energy and Natural Resources Report.
“Navigating the energy transition will be a generational challenge, requiring top-tier talent to solve incredibly complex problems. Meeting this challenge will require retaining and reskilling today’s workers, while integrating new people with varied backgrounds and capabilities,” it stated.
“Leaders will need to invest in creating inclusive organizations where everyone feels like a valued contributor with a shared purpose,” it observed.
While the energy industry needs a skilled workforce “doing many of the same things that have kept the industry running for decades -- and will remain important for years to come,” Bain noted that “even established roles are changing.”
“The challenge for these companies is retaining talent as well as moving people into different areas of the business to develop skills,” Peterson noted.
“The generations are all different, as we know. When you have four different generations in the same company all aspiring and wanting to achieve different things for their careers, it’s very difficult,” he added.
Energy may be in a period of transition and in need of professional talent, but the good news is that the energy industry is here for the long haul, making a meaningful and needed contribution “to improve the life of individuals worldwide,” Peterson observed.
“I feel like it is a very good, solid industry that will be part of our lives for a long time,” he said.