Workforce issues are top of mind at many power companies. As workers become harder and harder to find, it’s important for leaders to implement proven strategies for recruiting and inspiring qualified team members.
The energy sector is experiencing a disruptive, transitional, and transformational moment. From price fluctuations and supply constraints to renewable energy and sustainability initiatives innovating power generation, it’s clear that the industry’s future is being written in real-time. This is a pivotal moment for organizations across all essential industries as their leaders straddle the effects of the pandemic, strive to move forward past The Great Resignation, and find steady ground by mobilizing top talent in what is trending to become an uncertain economic year in 2023.
At the same time, the U.S.’s transition to renewable energy is powering job growth throughout the energy field. According to the United States Energy & Employment Report 2022, green jobs are increasing in every sector, requiring a variety of skilled personnel to support government investment, soaring consumer demand, and shifting regulatory standards. This trend is likely to continue as the Inflation Reduction Act of 2022 spurs investment and innovation, making attracting, onboarding, and retaining top talent more critical than ever for the power sector as leaders plan for the year ahead.
It’s also made more difficult by a constricted labor market and novel employee demands, including higher pay, increased flexibility, and, more frequently, employees seeking greater purpose. As companies look toward the future and plan for the year ahead, it is especially critical for companies in power generation to put strategic approaches in place to attract and retain top talent for the long term. Leaders will play a pivotal role in bridging this recruitment and retention divide, responding to employee demands to advance organizational outcomes.
Effective leadership in this new age means many things for power industry leaders: managers frequently play several roles in a given day, including team leaders, coaches, change agents, and many more. Now, more than ever, leaders need to add a new tool to their toolkit: how to build and share an inspiring vision (Figure 1). Mastering this will become a key component to building and powering their own teams with purpose and focusing teams during times of change.
1. To be effective in today’s work environment, leaders must create and communicate an inspiring vision for their staff. Source: Envato Elements
Build an Inspiring Vision for Your Team
After consecutive pandemic years, people are rethinking their work in light of bigger questions and shifting perspectives. According to a 2022 Gartner survey, 56% of people agree or strongly agree that the pandemic made them want to contribute more to society, while 52% said it made them question their job’s purpose. These are important questions with direct implications for people’s job decisions. That’s why, as a McKinsey & Company analysis unequivocally asserts, “help your employees find purpose—or watch them leave.”
Highly-effective leaders will help make the connection between purpose and work by intentionally sharing an inspiring vision for their staff. Simply put, a compelling vision for their staff is an image of the mission accomplished. It’s the ideal future state. An inspiring vision:
- ■ Reflects a high standard of performance.
- ■ Describes a unique attribute.
- ■ Represents future accomplishments.
- ■ Conjures up an image or picture.
- ■ Presents a unifying theme.
- ■ Appeals to shared values.
Sharing an inspiring vision helps team members make a deeper connection between their day-to-day deliverables and the larger aspirations of the team, department, and organization. It helps to set direction, motivate, and focus the team. Several foundational questions can help leaders build an inspiring vision, including:
- ■ What is the mission of this team?
- ■ What values do you want to see reflected in the team’s work?
- ■ What will it look like if your mission is accomplished?
Leaders don’t have to look far in the power sector to make this critical connection. Industry employees at every level facilitate a vital service that touches everyone’s life. With the Inflation Reduction Act of 2022 increasing investment across the power sector, employees will have even more opportunities to contribute to an industry that supports stability and well-being for their families, communities, and country. Ultimately, people will work with greater commitment when they have a compelling vision fueling their efforts, and it’s the leader’s job to create and communicate that vision.
Communicate the Vision to Your Staff
Motivating and focusing employees requires more than just building an inspiring vision. Leaders must communicate vision in a way that creates buy-in, fosters collaboration, and allows talent to develop within teams and organizations.
Leaders must make conscious choices about when and how to communicate their visions. Different employees will be enrolled in a vision in different ways. To enhance buy-in when sharing an inspiring vision, leaders should consider speaking their vision using the rhetorical triangle to build a better case for action. This means relying on:
- ■ Ethos by speaking to moral character, values, and/or ethics.
- ■ Pathos by touching feelings and moving people emotionally.
- ■ Logos by providing solid reasons for action, moving people intellectually.
Achieving buy-in and empowering workers is especially important as the power sector grapples with an aging workforce. Nearly half of the utility workforce is eligible for retirement within the next decade, making it increasingly important for the energy sector to develop and promote internal talent (Figure 2). A compelling vision can help achieve these outcomes, encouraging more people to remain committed to the company during times of change, while fostering a compelling culture marked by purpose and opportunity.
2. Developing talent requires commitment from leadership to provide the time needed for adequate training and knowledge sharing among team members. Source: Envato Elements
Articulate the Vision of a Changing Industry
While companies can’t always satisfy all employee demands, organizations can help employees find purpose and meaning at work, allowing them to best integrate, activate, and retain top talent. Sharing an inspiring vision helps to set direction, motivate, and focus the team, especially during times of change. As leaders in the power sector are chartered with growing and transforming the industry, they are best positioned to articulate a vision amongst their team, department, and organization to help drive purpose and focus for a shifting workforce looking for more than a stable paycheck.
The energy sector may be experiencing a transformational moment, but people looking for purpose and work opportunities are in the right place. It’s up to leaders to make the connection while inspiring and building next-generation leaders.
—Chris Williams is Chief Operating Officer for Interaction Associates (interactionassociates.com), a firm that promotes creative problem-solving, collaborative leadership, and group facilitation.