Retention in the age of constant change: Three areas for E&U to transform before you lose your best talent

In this ever-changing economy, an organization’s survival and success hinges on the resiliency of its workforce. But how do you define and promote a resilient culture?

To digest this issue, we partnered with Harvard Business Review Analytic Services to explore workforce resilience in a time when 88% of organizations are facing disruption. Read our latest thought piece, “Building Resiliency From Disruption,” to learn more about creating a resilient workforce.


Companies in the energy and utilities industries have long discussed the challenges associated with workforce transformation and retention. Most of the discussion has centered on how to deal with the “silver tsunami” of retirements expected to occur over the next five to 10 years, and the associated challenges of replacing these positions.

The ability to retain the existing workforce beyond five years of tenure considering high turnover, is expensive. The cost of replacing an employee who quits is, on average, 21% of his or her annual pay[1] which varies depending on the career level of the employee.[2]  Additionally, cost- cutting measures to address volatile prices in the oil and gas markets and stagnant revenues in the utilities space have further shrunk the workforce.

With these challenges has come the need for a renewed focus on how to position energy and utilities companies attractively to millennials, who will account for one-third of the adult population by 2020 and 75% of the workforce by 2025[3]. While attracting millennial employees is important, retaining them may prove to be more of a challenge.

So how do firms create and maintain a resilient workforce? Maintaining competitive compensation and benefits packages is not enough. Resilience requires personal skills and processes that enable individuals to reduce stress but perform well under it, learn continuously, and keep their work and life responsibilities in harmony. In our recent survey with Harvard Business Review, data showed that 58 percent of respondents found that salary helps to combat the effects of disruption, but it does not get employees engaged with their work. We also found that employee engagement was most impacted by the immaterial as opposed to monetary rewards, with skill building programs and workplace flexibility among the most effective incentives4.

It seems that currently, energy and utilities companies may be faced with a classic case of “what got you here might not get you there” when it comes to retaining top talent. The diverse configuration of the workforce and their changing needs call for a renewed approach on three fronts:

  • Set consistent and realistic expectations:

 Work/life balance also emerges as an important priority when setting consistent and realistic expectations. In our HBR survey, respondents agreed about measures companies can take to create a culture of resiliency. 91 percent of employees stressed the need for work-time flexibility and another 70 percent stressed the need for organizations to discourage work beyond normal working hours[4]. It’s critical for employees to feel their workplace offers satisfying work and fosters a culture of cooperation and fairness.

  • Modernize your talent management approach:

Organizations are more likely to retain talent when they offer employees skill building opportunities and employee development, according to our survey with HBR. Adjustments to the organizational design, learning methodologies, and curriculum need to be accompanied by a talent management framework that incentivizes the desired behaviors. “Organizations are more

resilient and make the best use of their resources when employees do not feel they are trapped in a rigidly defined career track, but rather are on a path to success and growth based on their skills and interests”4.

  • Redefine succession planning:

Identifying the right candidates is only step one in the process. Create an ongoing and reciprocal employee experience approach by designing a journey of development to ensure that, when those candidates finally get to their new role, they are equipped to thrive and their needs for learning and personal growth are fulfilled along the way. There are many ways companies can promote resiliency through setting their employees up for success. Simple tactics include leadership training, mentorship opportunities, mindfulness training, and wellness programs to name a few4.

For more about how to design and execute optimal employee experiences, please view our latest thought ware:

Employee Experience Redefined

Purposeful Design as the Transformational Differentiator of Employee Experience