Energy providers are transitioning in two key areas: the effort to reach net-zero, and the shift to become digitally enabled, customer-centric businesses.
To succeed, talent is key. Energy providers need to develop talent strategies that focus on closing critical skills gaps; redefine the employee value proposition and experience; and support the shift to new ways of working that is essential to becoming truly customer-centric.
Unprecedented change has created a talent gap
Energy providers are confronting a diverse range of new challenges. They must manage changing patterns in electricity demand; develop the infrastructure to power the e-mobility revolution; transform customer experiences; and use new digital platforms.
“The skill sets needed now are just very different from what they were, traditionally,” says Julia Hamm, President and CEO of the Smart Electric Power Alliance (SEPA).
This is causing talent gaps across the industry, according to Accenture’s new global survey of 500 energy providers. These gaps are making it difficult for energy providers to transform the customer experience.
biggest barrier to improving the customer experience is attracting talent that helps the organization innovate as a digital business.
The skills that energy providers need to attract and develop reflect a convergence of business priorities: they must be digitally enabled and truly customer-centric. Data underpins both goals, so it follows that data skills are highly sought-after—and in short supply.
of energy providers say they have a talent gap in AI architecture and data science skills.
Digital skills are not just for the back office
Pressure to develop technology platforms fit for today’s changing markets has created demand for some very particular technology-led skills. Agile IT engineers and developers are needed to fill another of the most common talent gaps.
But digital transformation is not just about back-office platforms; it encompasses every touchpoint on the customer journey, including move-in/move-out processes but also new opportunities in e-mobility. That requires a whole range of digital skills.
Steven Van Belleghem, an expert in digital customer experience, says that consumers accustomed to the simplicity of online retail expect the same experience from utilities. “Digital convenience is a minimum demand in today’s market,” he says. That is driving demand for digital marketers and customer experience designers.
of energy providers identify talent gaps in digital marketing and customer experience design.
The goal is to use customer feedback
For Danilo Gusmão Araújo, CEO of Brazil-based Cemig SIM, the convergence of marketing, customer experience, and data science is critical to what he identifies as the most important area of skills investment: data analytics.
“We need marketing and IT teams with skills in building interfaces and experiences that will provide us with important data,” he says. “The more we know how good our actions are, the more we will succeed in meeting clients’ expectations.” Those insights inform decisions across the business. “We analyze all the insights given by our clients, and use them to improve our products and the internal experience and training of our employees,” Araújo says.
Converting those insights into compelling new product and service offerings demands design expertise combined with behavioral insight, as Barbara Higgins, Consultant at Duke Energy, points out: “You need designers who understand human behavior, who know how to test things and really watch customers as they’re interacting with your product, to adapt and continually make it better.” Nevertheless, 21% of energy providers report skills gaps among product and service designers.
Be a better workplace to win over talent
Creating an engaging internal experience is critical for organizations to attract and retain talent. Energy providers are competing for talent with businesses across the economy who need similar digital skills. However, energy providers have one potential advantage stemming from their role in delivering net-zero: they can make their purpose prominent in attracting talent – and sufficiently ambitious to compete with other industries, especially for younger people who feel strongly about climate change.
At the same time, energy providers need to recognize the wider shifts affecting attitudes to employment. As Accenture’s 2022 Fjord Trends highlights, the Great Resignation has shown that people want more agency and independence in how they work.
To meet shifting expectations, energy providers need to redefine their employee value propositions and fundamentally reimagine the employee experience. Our research with the Center for Energy Workforce Development highlights five best practices: Enable continuous learning, listen to employees, use technology to enable flexible working, champion wellbeing and equality and use people metrics to provide transparency on key issues. With no more than 20% of utilities claiming to be leaders in any of these five areas, the improvement opportunity is clear.
With no more than 20% of utilities claiming to be leaders in any of these five areas, the improvement opportunity is clear.
At the same time as focusing on employee experience, energy providers need to engage with a bigger, interlinked challenge: reinventing how the business works and driving behavioral change.
Many energy providers remain highly siloed. They need to become far more agile and responsive to customer needs, right across the business. Better integration, internal collaboration, and cross-functional working are critical to becoming a true digitally enabled, data-driven, customer-centric business—what Accenture calls a Business of Experience.
Without that fundamental shift, the potential of new talent to transform the business will be wasted.
Collaborative working: sharing talent through partnerships
Even with bold steps to reimagine the employee experience and create more integrated working cultures, building new capabilities can be difficult and slow, especially for niche and in-demand specialisms like data science. In today’s hyper-competitive markets, time is critical.
The alternatives to building capabilities are to buy or borrow them through new partnerships. That can ensure that capability gaps don’t hold back business transformation.
Mind the gap: How to get the right people in the right places
Develop comprehensive talent strategies that address the need for critical skills today and for the future, weighing up the options to recruit new talent and upskill existing employees. Use your organization’s purpose to give candidates and employees a clear vision of its future and what their contribution could be, to strengthen retention and build a strong collaborative culture.
Reinvent the employee experience to become an employer of choice. Work with employees to create a workplace that engages them. Respond to shifting expectations about flexible working, wellbeing, equality, learning and development for upskilling and progression. Design your back-office IT infrastructure to unlock these opportunities for employees.
Transform ways of working and drive behavioral change. Build a culture of innovation focused on meeting customers’ needs through collaborative, cross-functional working. Promote new behaviors through recruitment, retention, and reward practices. Consider partnership options to access mission-critical new capabilities.