As we all start to look ahead to the challenges and opportunities of 2022, I’d like to share some thoughts on a few of the key issues and trends that will affect you in 2022, whether you are looking for talent for growth, or you are that talent looking for a place to grow. I have over 30 years’ experience in headhunting and recruitment, and 14 years in cleantech, and we truly are going through a period of great disruption, in talent and work as much as in the energy and mobility transitions. Of course, WFH/remote working is in here, but trust me, that is a very complex issue in itself, if you don’t think so, think again. It is in the background of all talent attraction, retention and development conversations, or should be.

Hiring, retention and company culture

I was surprised in a conversation with a VC this week to hear they didn’t think culture was a reason people left a business, but that it was just often used as an excuse. As a head-hunter of over 30 years, I know why candidates look for new jobs, or are open to being approached, and why they reject any advances. Money is not in the top of that list, but that IS often given as an excuse. It’s easier to tell your boss you’re leaving for more money than to say your leadership sucks and you have no company vison, strategy or culture of recognition!

Culture isn’t about bean bags, dress down days or cool coffee machines (though they can play a part). What any human (and therefore any employee) with any ambition wants is trust, autonomy, challenge, reward, growth/development, and recognition. If you don’t have a company culture which supports or enables these things, then you can expect to not hire the A-players, and to lose any you might have. No matter how much you are paying them! This blog isn’t a pitch, but we do at Hyperion have an offering to help analyse, assess, refine and communicate your culture in way that helps both retention and attraction of great candidates.

Diversity and Inclusion

Another complex area which is often looked at way too simply. We are often challenged by clients to ‘get me female candidates, we want to improve our diversity’. That in itself is a good thing. We embrace the challenge of diverse shortlists. But diversity and inclusion isn’t just about gender, or even just about ethnicity. Both critical pieces yes, but the well-researched and known benefits of having diversity in leadership and in the workforce is around diversity of thought, experiences, life views and cultures. You may look around your board or leadership team and just see a bunch of white guys, and think, if we added a female, or someone of colour, we’ll look more diverse, be more diverse. Yes, and it’s a good start as long as it’s not just tokenism. But there is a fair chance your team of white guys have similar educational and socio-economic backgrounds and age, similar lived experiences, and world views, and therefore lack the diversity of thought and experience needed in today’s business world. Yes, we need more females, more people of colour, more people with diverse sexual identities and preferences, more religious diversity, a range of ages, but who talks about disability or neurodiversity, or socio-economic diversity? All are important if you want to be an inclusive employer and we want to be an inclusive industry. This opens up challenges (we’re back to culture), how do you attract such a range of diversity? What systems, processes, culture, communication style do we need? (Yes, Hyperion can help here too). Maybe you’ll certainly need to look for talent in different places (if you always do what you always did, you’ll always get what you always got!), you’ll need to change the language in your job descriptions and postings. Saying ‘we’re an open opportunities employer’ doesn’t even get you to the starting block. You’ll also probably have to look outside of our industry at times. You can’t keep looking in an un-diverse talent pool looking for diverse talent!

The Great Resignation

A term probably most used in the US, but a reality everywhere. The pandemic has given people an opportunity to step back and review their lives, their priorities, and indeed their mortality. Many are finding that they have been unhappy with many aspects of their lives for a long time, and often that is employment related. And that could be the commute, the working hours, the leadership style, but it could and often is, the industry, or the sector in which they work. Increasingly people are seeking careers and jobs of impact. Recognising they have to work, so they may as work doing something they enjoy, or an impact or a purpose they believe in. And increasingly, something they can tell their kids and grandkids without being embarrassed. Who wants to tell their increasingly aware kids your work everyday contributes to the destruction of the environment!!

The good news is that we, the cleantech industry, are very well placed to embrace and bring so much of that talent into our sector. As long as we have the right company cultures, and are open to that diversity of backgrounds and experiences!

Working from home/remote working

Clearly this is a topic I could write a book on, and many people already have. Let’s bin the phrases ‘New Normal’ and ‘Hybrid Working’. Hybrid working, like hybrid cars is a short-term compromise to a long term issue. It’s neither one thing or the other and suffers accordingly.

We are entering a new era, a new paradigm of work. There is no easy answer, and the answers of today, won’t be the answers of tomorrow. We are literally making it up as we go along. But the critical thing, in my opinion, is that we have to change our terms of reference. We WILL NOT go back to how things were whenever this pandemic is over, much as owners of commercial office space may hope, or pay lots of money to BIG PR and lobbying companies and governments to convince us. As mentioned, Hybrid working, part remote, part office, is as good a solution as we have right now. We’re still in the middle of this thing, but don’t assume that is the future, or that is what is best. The future is not ‘one size fits all’. We have to start with a fresh piece of paper. Just as shoehorning a battery into an ICE chasis worked for a bit, but it’s the pureplay EV’s that are dominating the market now. It will be those who think about what is right for my business, and my employees without reference to ‘how things used to be’ that will have the advantage. This to my mind is a true period of human evolution. How humans interact, work, travel, create, consume and produce energy, food, relationships is all being disrupted. No more so than the world of work.

I hope that gives food for thought? One thing is for sure, no matter how good your product, or how much investment you have had in your business, without the right people your growth and execution are at best sub-optimal, and at worst impossible.

If you are an employer or leader of a business, please share any thoughts. Equally, if you are reading from the perspective of an employee, I’d love to hear if you agree, disagree, or have further comments to make.

Best regards

David Hunt