Talent Challenges Turning Up the Heat on the Energy Industry

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The following comes from Bright Horizons Client Services Director Jack Walsh.

What are the energy industry’s biggest technology challenges?

If you said customer service, you’re half right. 

Technological advancement in energy is booming. But the march toward digitization is challenging the energy industry on two fronts -- both the new technical requirements needed to meet customer demand, and the workforce requirements needed to operate the new technology.  Both will require data about workforce needs to address. 

That’s one of the takeaways of the recently wrapped WorkforceNEXT Energy Summit, where HR, IT, engineering, and operations leaders from more than 200 energy industry employers met to discuss the challenges ahead.  

And the challenges are significant – particularly where talent is concerned. No surprise there. The current talent market is testing everyone. And in single-digit unemployment, energy employers have their work cut out for them. 

A few of the key discussions around the summit:  

Get out in front: Keynote speaker Steven Urban reminded us we’re all at risk in a market that’s at once volatile, uncertain, complex, and ambiguous. The key to surviving will be an agile workforce prepared with the tools to pivot at the pace of technology. 

Highly skilled employees are in demand: Talent is expected to come up nearly 20-million short on skilled labor by 2020. And employees are feeling their value. That should scare employers, with more than three quarters of employees telling one survey they believe they can easily walk out the door and find another job.

Retention hinges on development: Employees are bullish on skills, with more than half willing to leave if they’re not being developed.  “Workers want to know ‘what can I learn from working with you?’” said one speaker. It means the same learning cultures and development opportunities that will help you keep up with technology will also help you hang on to your workforce. 

Think like a tech company: Energy may not technically be what we think of as the tech sector.  But global digitization means satisfying opportunities for those who might otherwise gravitate to Silicon Valley (there’s a reason energy IT has so much swagger these days). Success, however, will require expanding searches beyond  engineering students, and packaging opportunities to appeal to your target audience. As one speaker put it, "We have to ask 'where does Google go to recruit talent?' And we have to go there." 

Last but not least, employers need to understand their workforces. Filling critical roles requires understanding exactly what skills you have, which ones you need, and then targeting accordingly. Unfortunately, such organizational introspection often gets short shrift, which is a shame. 

As the group behind the Summit wrote recently, “even with limited resources, having a system to collect and analyze workforce data is more vital than ever if organizations want to move forward.” 

We couldn’t agree more.

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