A Vicious Salary Circle

A Vicious Salary Circle


Chris Smith, Consultant

I have worked for a number of years as an Executive Search Consultant in the Energy sector, initially focusing on upstream oil & gas but naturally ‘diversifying’ (#buzzword) into the wider energy space across utilities, power and – particularly – renewable energy in recent years.

Offshore Wind and Energy Storage are two big passions of mine; I genuinely enjoy learning about the new technologies, progression in engineering (and costs) and the synergies between the mature Oil & Gas sector and how this transfers into new industries.

However, one big challenge I face as a consultant in the Energy sector is helping companies to attract individuals who have developed world-renowned skills in the Oil & Gas industry into the renewables space.

I cover all technical and non-technical disciplines – from corporate leadership through to mid-level management in engineering, operations, finance, project management, supply chain, commercial and business development – and every time I conduct a search assignment in the renewables sphere, regardless of level or job title, I always approach the market with diversity in mind, aiming to identify ambitious and hungry individuals who are potentially open to transferring their skills into a new, fresh industry.

Unsurprisingly there is always a huge amount of interest, however, when it comes to salary levels it seems like we always hit a brick wall…

It isn’t uncommon for someone in the Oil & Gas industry to be used to be accustomed to a salary which could be 50-100% higher than the equivalent role in, for instance, offshore wind power. So the only occasions I can remember placing an Oil & Gas candidate into a renewables company is if they are willing to take a considerable pay cut.

This significantly impacts the capacity for attracting top talent and it’s a really vicious circle. Renewables companies struggle with investment and are constantly forced to reduce costs and, as a result, struggle to compete with the wages in other established sectors. But without attracting the top global talent, how can they develop their businesses and progress quickly to satisfy demand?

I’d love to hear the opinions of Oil & Gas and renewables professionals and their own thoughts on this predicament to identify whether they feel there is a way to attract people into the renewables sector without the obvious financial incentive?

It could be suggested that renewables businesses should plan for the long-term in regard to the skills that they want to develop and, every once in a while, they might have to make a strategic decision to invest a little more than they usually would to attract an experienced oil & gas or power ‘boffin’ into the business. In return, the experienced and seasoned professionals can shower their colleagues in the latest, fancy processes and ways of working that can improve efficiency, manage risk more effectively and accelerate advancements in technologies for the good of the business as a whole (well, that’s my theory anyway!).

This also requires effective management in order to gain maximum benefit from those strategic hires. A company has to know what they really want and need in advance. This means understanding what the candidate’s ideal competencies need to be, gaining current knowledge of the various market sectors (e.g. available skills and salary levels), proactively attracting and retaining the best talent, and helping them to quickly onboard into the business with a clear plan of action and understanding of what needs to be achieved.

Now, you might be thinking, “that’s a lot of work and I wouldn’t know where to start”, or, “I’ve tried an approach like this before and it didn’t work.”

Well, if either of those thoughts have crossed your mind, get in touch and I’ll discuss how we can help you.

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