Ed’s note: The battle for talent


Reports from PWC and Deloitte talk about utilities having to battle, win or compete for talent. There seems to be a common thread – utility companies are not considered sexy in the same way that working for Google or Microsoft or even NASA would be. Young, talented, ambitious graduates do not see a future for themselves in the utility sector, believing that opportunities for growth, active engagement and job satisfaction are limited.

Yet, as the sector undergoes increasing divergence and technological transformation, utilities need to be attracting a new generation of graduates – not just from the electrical engineering field, but from fields as diverse as computer programming, telecommunications and data sciences. So why aren’t they attracting them at the levels required?

Partly, I believe it’s a matter of perception. Often, when people ask what I do and I mention ‘energy’ as my primary focus, I can see their eyes glaze over and they anxiously scan the crowd for someone with a more ‘exciting’ job to talk to. Alternatively, they see it as an opportunity to bemoan the state of utility companies around the world/in their region, often exhibiting an astounding lack of knowledge about the industry, but with a perception clearly and firmly planted in their minds.

This is the perception problem. Anyone who has spent any time working in this sector will appreciate the opportunities for innovation, new technology and a job that is vitally important as it supports and enables economies around the world. However, in order to attract that great talent, utilities are competing with private sector companies that are considered cool, instead of boring.

Did you know that we are hosting a webinar tomorrow in which we will be exploring the subject of talent, re-skilling and the utility skills pipeline in more depth. Join us as we speak with our panel of experts, understanding how they are tackling this challenge.
Our speakers include: Marloes Wichink-Kruit | Human Capital Manager, InnoEnergy; Pirjo Jantunen – Business Development Manager, Helen; Michael Buijzen, Managing Director of Eco, Blue Planet GmbH; Sietske Jacobs, Director Initiate!, Clarion Energy; Dr. Tony Manninen | co-founder & CEO, LudoCraft

There are multiple approaches to the utility talent conundrum – but the one I want to focus on is the one around perception and how this could be addressed.

Brand perception cannot be underestimated as a vital component in the desire to attract talent. A recent Galup poll reveals that almost 33% of all those polled had a ’somewhat negative’ or ‘very negative’ perception of utilities. This can only be changed by a campaign to change these perceptions.

Utility companies need to change the perception that they are boring places to work, with poor remuneration and this can only be done by actively developing a strategy to recalibrate perceptions. This could involve working with local and national universities, offering scholarships and work placements and regular engagement with first and second-year students.

Very often, companies will focus in on the student that are nearing the end of their tenure, but this is too late in my estimation as by then, your ideal candidate sees themselves using their electrical engineering degree working for the cool startup down the road, or the big tech company where they feel they have a chance of progressing quickly.

For other sectors such as IT and data sciences, they will be dreaming of developing the next must-have app or offering their skills to Amazon, Google or any number of others.

Research has shown the Millennials are a generation of talent who want more than to just do a job or earn a salary – they want to do work that they feel has meaning, that contributes to something bigger than themselves – all the things that utilities do. Perhaps the opportunity is in highlighting the role that utilities play in their communities, or the opportunities to develop more efficient network structures, speeding up the integration and adoption of renewable energy.

As with so many things, we identify with where we see ourselves – the challenge now is for utilities to start adapting this messaging to attract a new generation of talent.

Wishing you a week full of talent!


European Utility Week will see a continuation of this and other talent related discussions during the Initiate! programme. Check here for more information