As the calendar strikes December, we all begin to reflect and think ahead to the new year. How much more can I accomplish before the year ends? Did I achieve my goals? What goals should I set for next year? For some of you, if you haven't done so already, I suggest adding Who will I need to be hiring next year? to your list of upcoming priorities. Obviously, capital budgeting for hiring is something most organizations do, but I'm referring to time budgeting that is needed to make an important hire.
Since the pandemic started in early 2020, it's been a strange and unpredictable employment market in renewable energy. Having nearly 25 years in executive search and recruiting, I thought I'd seen it all, but I was wrong. In March of 2020, when the pandemic lockdown took hold, I prepared EnergeiaWorks for a major downturn. This is what I saw my mentor do in 2001 when the .com bubble burst, and what I helped lead during the 2008-2009 mortgage-led recession with my business partner.
I knew the script and now it was time to act! Nearly overnight in 2020, the US unemployment rate went from 3.5% to a staggering 14.7%! For context, The Great Recession (December 2007–June 2009) 'only' hit 9.5%, so my assumption was to hold on for a multi-year ride. But by the summer of 2020, we started seeing our former customers come back unfreezing their hiring budgets, and right after the Presidential election, we saw a demand for talent in renewables that never existed before.
2021 was unprecedented in EnergeiaWorks history. We doubled our headcount. We doubled our capacity. We doubled our output. We shattered every single company metric record we track and still couldn't keep up with the demand for renewable energy talent. But even so, there were enough active job-seekers to serve the demand for talent.
However, that talent pool ran dry in 2022. The demand for talent remained high, but there were much fewer job seekers in the market as the Great Resignation spread across our industry. We still were breaking quarterly revenue records but without the volume of active candidates we saw in 2021. In fact, every placement we made cost us more money. It took us hours more research and dozens more phone calls to generate each placement than it ever has before. The net outcome of this was our search lifecycle was extended by 2–4 weeks. I saw the signs early enough in 2021, as I wrote about in April and May, to make some adjustments but it still hurt our service delivery, and in turn, frustrated a few customers.
Fast forward to December 2023, while the demand for talent is less urgent than it was in 2021 and 2022, the talent pool remains the same, and I don't see this changing in 2024 (even with some layoffs that I outlined last month). While early school grade education and cross‑training non‑industry professionals helps, we can't create an experienced talent pool overnight. As I mentioned a few paragraphs ago, budget more time for hiring in 2024! If you need a Q2 hire, start early enough in Q1 to assure you have this individual before you need them. Hire and onboard earlier so you don't miss deadlines and timelines.
If the Job Market is Softening, Can I Pay Less in Salary?
The short answer — NO. Even though the US unemployment rate crept back up to 3.9% in October, in-demand talent in renewable energy is still above market rate. Our industry still has the Inflation Reduction Act to count on for stability and growth. Once the Interest Rate levels out the residential solar market and once the interconnection queues clear up utility-scale solar, wind, and energy storage projects, it's back to business as usual. Our industry has its own economy and its own employment market that don't exactly match the Bureau of Labor Statistics numbers.
Another noticeable change we saw in 2023 is organizations making 'low ball offers' to talent they need. While the volume of hires in 2023 is down compared to 2021 and 2022, the ratio of declined offers is the same. If you need a specific talent on your team, make a strong, aggressive offer right out of the gate. I can almost guarantee that someone else is bidding to get that individual as well. Do you want them on your team or your competitor's team?
In 2024, we're going to continue to see a limited talent pool in the specialized field of renewable energy, so move qualified talent through the interview process fast, and make a strong offer. Otherwise, you run the risk of having to start back at square one and that could add weeks or months to your talent search process.
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If you are currently exploring a new job in your renewable energy career, we invite you to have a look at our careers portal. If you're looking to hire top talent in manufacturing, project development, finance, construction, operations, or energy asset management professionals, reach out to us today.