Energizing the Energy Sector

Written by:

Lori McKnight

What your four generations of workers want

The energy sector today employs approximately 6.7 million Americans, accounting for 7% of all new jobs created.

According to a 2018 study by Mercer Consulting:

  • 83% of energy employees are proud to work for their company
  • 88% feel their organization places a heavy emphasis on employee safety
  • 87% think their organizations respond quickly to the needs of their customers

That’s the good news. The not so good news…

  • 50% of the U.S. utilities workforce will retire in the next 10 years
  • Younger workers aren’t drawn to the energy sector due to instability and environmental concerns
  • Lack of diversity is negatively affecting acceptance of differing views, industry growth and recruiting efforts

Energy companies are facing a current and deepening skills gap requiring HR to get creative with strategies that not only attract and retain younger, more diverse workers but hold onto experienced baby boomers… longer.

The “one-size-fits-all” strategies of the past won’t cut it

We’re moving into an Age of Personalization. How many times in a day do you hear the word “customized” solutions designed “just for you”? The digital economy allows almost everything to be targeted and tailored towards our interests and preferences.  Employees have come to expect this at home and now at work. Personalizing your approach and recognizing generational differences and preferences in your policies, programs and management can significantly improve retention and engagement.

What employees want

There are generally accepted attributes common to generations based on their stage and age of life that can impact your attractiveness and keep workers from moving to “greener” pastures.


This generation (born 1997 onwards) is just entering the workforce and are more conservative than Millennials. They value:

  • Stability - the ability to pay off their educational debts with competitive salary and benefits

  • Technology – companies with evolving technologies that are improving communities and the environment

  • Feedback – they thrive on public recognition and feedback. Face-to-face meetings with managers is important to a generation obsessed with screens but they’ll also push employers towards more modern, efficient communication tools


Energy companies need to think like start-ups to lure talented professionals. Millennials value organizations that promote:

Work-Life Integration – according to Simon Sinek, Millennials more than any other demographic need to work for managers who care about them as people and performers, inside and outside the workplace

Recognitionsocial media has created a generation that “NEEDS” to feel recognized. It fuels them. Companies with cultures of everyday recognition will be best positioned to keep this job hopping cohort grounded

Growth and Development – providing a clear career path doesn’t have to mean climbing the ladder with this group. Job shadowing, cross training and skills development will keep them motivated


A new MetLife study reveals those born between 1965 and 1979 feel like the neglected middle children. This group values:

Career Mobility – they are in prime earning years so salary, benefits and job opportunities are #1 motivator

Respect – Only 62% of GenXers feel they are given timely promotions and leadership exposure. This cohort is most likely to be “actively disengaged”

Saving for Retirement - 75% of GenXers have children and nearly 50% of GenXers have a parent over aged 65+ and a child. This sandwich generation is juggling the present while worrying about their ability to retire. Savings-matching programs and benefits attractive to retirement planning will resonate with this group

Baby Boomers

Holding onto skilled and experienced workers requires going beyond offering more money. This group values:

Flextime – many are grandparents with retiring spouses. Offering workers more flex time will be attractive to delay leaving the workforce

Symbolic Awards – honoring your loyal and experienced employees in public ways will go a long way in keeping boomers with you a longer

Making a Difference – identifying employees with deep skills/smarts and incentivizing/encouraging them to mentor others is critical to succession planning and gives your loyal, experienced workers a sense of purpose

A company that’s getting it right

Plains All American employs more than 4,800 employees, is a Fortune 150 company, ranks as a top place to work in Houston and takes top honors in EnergyPoint. Research Customer Satisfaction surveys. Attracting young workers, recognizing employees more and retaining experienced longtime employees are three important factors of their success and competitive strength. Here’s how Plains makes employees feel valued from day one.

New Plains employees are greeted with a care package on their first day, with 3 options to choose from. These personal touches make a great impression and show how excited we are to welcome new people onto our team,” says Diana Enriquez of Plains All American.


“We publicly recognize our employees contributions at every five year milestone with a personal message from our CEO, certificate and choice of a symbolic award and gift presented in a keepsake presentation package.


Our people are very proud to work for Plains. Employees of all ages appreciate the time we take to design unique items that symbolize their career and hard work and we make the presentation a big deal”.

Invest the Energy

It’s the little and big things that cultivate a high energy, purpose-based workplace. Leadership that invests the time and energy in understanding the motivators of their diverse employees and reflects this in policies, programs and management skills will lead the way!

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