How can the energy industry attract and retain younger workers?

Man standing in front of oil refinery

Already an ageing industry, the energy sector has been further impacted by the ‘great resignation’ of the past year, as an elevated number of younger workers are choosing to quit their jobs and change career paths. Drawing insights from a recent global survey of 17,000 energy industry professionals around the globe, we look at why young people are leaving the energy industry and ways to push back against this trend.

The stats

The Energy Outlook 2022 Report found that 43 per cent of workers want to leave the energy industry altogether within the next five years. Breaking these statistics down by age, young workers aged between 25 and 29 were found to be 25 per cent more likely than older workers to want to leave the energy industry. As a reflection of this trend, 31 per cent of recruiters across the globe say the biggest challenge the energy industry is facing is an ageing workforce and the associated skills shortage. This global trend is reflected locally, with 40 per cent of recruiters in Australasia agreeing that the energy industry’s biggest challenge moving forward is an ageing workforce.

Frustrated oil and gas industry worker on oil field near pump

Why are young people leaving?

So, why are young people leaving the energy industry? The Energy Outlook 2022 Report recorded the top reasons given by younger workers for leaving: personal lifestyle changes (24 per cent), low salary (21 per cent) and a lack of good benefits (20 per cent). In reality, the labour market is complex and ever changing, and a great challenge for companies within the energy industry is understanding what the next generation of working professionals value. Old rule books need to be thrown out and new messaging and ways of operating need to be adopted to properly connect with – and attract – the young talent the industry urgently needs.

Sad oil refinery worker sitting with mask

Three ways the industry can attract and retain younger workers:

1. Align messaging to the personal values of young people

While there is obvious variance from one individual to the next, what young people value today in general is quite different to what young people valued 30 plus years ago. Young professionals seeking a career today face a different world to that of a few decades ago. Environmental concerns, economics, technological advancements, greater diversity, and – more recently – a global pandemic, are some key factors that have reshaped younger workers’ priorities and preferences. The energy industry – especially the more traditional areas such as oil and gas and mining that have been around for decades – cannot afford to cling to old methods and values. They must adapt and update their messaging to reflect that change, or risk becoming increasingly out of touch with a new generation of talent.

Energy industry companies are currently facing an enormous challenge to position themselves as an attractive employer in an industry which is often seen as a negative contributor to the future of the planet. To be successful in attracting the next generation of talented specialists, a focus on innovation, new technology and digitalisation will be key to educate and inspire young minds. Timing is also important, as is connecting with young people and delivering the right messages before they select their future studies to ensure more professionals enter the industry.

— Nicole Kirleis, Global Head Marketing & Communication, Brunel

2. Show me the money – and benefits

While it’s not the first thing you should mention in a job interview, remuneration is nevertheless a key factor influencing whether professionals start and stay on in a job or not. Twenty-one per cent of young workers cite low salary as a reason for leaving the energy industry, making it the second biggest reason to jump ship – something companies would be wise not to overlook. Understandably, you can’t expect to start your career on top dollars, but adopting a structured salary scheme is a powerful way employers can inspire younger workers to stay on, allowing them to see a clear path of progression ahead. Within the energy industry itself, higher salaries offered by renewables and mining are causing workers to migrate away from oil and gas – all the more reason for the traditional energy sectors to think outside the box when it comes to salaries. With the lack of good benefits cited as the third main reason to leave the energy industry, forward-thinking companies should focus on creating attractive benefits packages to support pay checks – incentives such as a health plan, bonus schemes, housing, transport, and overtime compensation have all proven enticing to younger professionals in a competitive labour market.

Happy petrochemical worker using tablet at dusk work life balance

3. Embrace technology to enable flexible work

The COVID-19 pandemic has turned our standard model of working on its head. Across countless industries and roles, technology has allowed the wheels to keep on turning through a global crisis, via remote and flexible work. Out of necessity, the world has relaxed its grip on the rigid nine to five in-person working model in offices around the globe, while technological advancements allow more and more field work to be done remotely. All of this leads to a new working paradigm, especially amongst younger workers: they expect greater flexibility and they want to work for companies that embrace the latest technology to enable this new way of working. As Brunel Australasia’s Managing Director Tania Sinibaldi notes: “To echo the current buzz in the industry - it’s not all hi-vis; it’s high-tech.” It’s less about boots on the ground and more about data in the cloud these days. The more companies can modernise their systems and processes and offer their employees flexible working opportunities, the more they will appeal to younger workers.

Global lockdowns have enabled many workers and employers to experience a new way of working, whether it be through hybrid working, the way we engage, recognise and communicate with our teams. For most organisations it has “fast tracked” the voice of the employee around flexible working and employers now realise they need to remain agile to ensure the balance between employee engagement and driving organisational performance. As we continue to evolve through COVID, attracting and retaining talent will mean companies need to continue to adjust their employee value proposition to remain competitive and more connected to their workforce.

— Christine Anderson, Head of Global HR, Brunel

Want to know all the trends transforming the Energy industry in 2022?

Download the report for free and learn key insights from over 17,000 energy industry professionals.