It’s no secret the construction industry has been experiencing a labor shortage for a while.
But now, it’s even worse. In 2020, more baby boomers retired than ever before. This wave of pandemic-motivated early retirements is expected to continue throughout 2022 and beyond.
The loss of the older generation of workers has hit the lighting and energy retrofit industry particularly hard. The wave of new generations of skilled workers is forcing businesses to prioritize sustainability & ESG initiatives as a way to attract top talent to their organiziation.
Where Are Tomorrow’s Retrofitters?
As we reported this summer, observers noted as far back as 2018 that more skilled lighting industry workers were leaving the field than entering it, with young people gravitating toward colleges and universities instead of trade schools. There are early indicators that the pendulum may swing back a bit, due to the high costs of college and a decreasing stigma against trade schools, but the industry likely won’t see any significant increase in new recruits for a while yet.
This couldn’t have come at a worse time for lighting and energy retrofitters. Fueled by government spending and the resumption of projects postponed during the COVID-19 pandemic, demand for energy efficiency work is exceptionally high.
To meet the demand with the appropriate staffing level, lighting, and energy retrofitters must find ways to attract members of a dwindling pool of younger workers. But how?
It’s All About Values For Job Seekers
The latest research shows millennials are motivated by more than money when choosing a career path and an employer. Don’t get us wrong, they still want to be paid a good living wage, but money is not their sole motivator.
The even younger Generation Z “values salary less than every other generation,” reports Deloitte: “If given the choice of accepting a better-paying but boring job versus work that was more interesting but didn’t pay as well, Gen Z was fairly evenly split over the choice.”
Both of these young generations list sustainability high – or at the top – in their list of employer must-haves. For retrofitters, this is an opportunity to recruit some of the most engaged young people in the talent pool.
And one of the tools you can use is your ESG metrics.
What Are ESG Metrics and Why Do Young Job Recruits Care?
The abbreviation ESG typically refers to environmental, social, and governance criteria that potential investors consider when evaluating a firm’s commitment to sustainability and social responsibility. But positive ESG metrics can appeal to job seekers, as well.
A 2020 study by Marsh & McLennan analyzed ESG data from over 7,500 companies around the world. The study found:
- Employers with highly satisfied employees had ESG metrics that were 14% higher than average.
- Employers with “an attractive image among young talent” performed 25% better than average on ESG metrics.
- Companies with high employee satisfaction and attractiveness to younger employees generated lower carbon emissions than the global average.
The study’s authors concluded that positive ESG metrics give companies a competitive advantage – "both in engaging today’s employees and attracting tomorrow’s talent."
Positive ESG metrics give companies a competitive advantage – "both in engaging today’s employees and attracting tomorrow’s talent."
Why Mission-Motivated Employees Are Good for Business
Another feather in your sustainability cap (and another draw for eco-minded employees)? Your effect on your clients’ ESG metrics.
As of an April 2021 report, at least a fifth of the world’s 2,000 largest public companies has committed to net-zero targets. And the lighting and energy retrofitters are a major contributor toward the success of those goals. Retrofitters that can support larger, complex projects that involve more elements than lighting (such as electric vehicle charging stations) can play an even greater role in corporate ESG initiatives.
While not every millennial or Gen Z person assesses a potential employer based on ESG metrics, those who do would be excited to work for employers that aren’t just sustainable on their own, but that contribute substantially to the worldwide corporate sustainability movement.
In fact, some savvy retrofitters have discovered that these eco-conscious employees are highly motivated employees and are now actively seeking them out.
“We’ve hired a couple of people just from meeting them on the go because of their passion for the environment and their love for what we’re doing,” said Lynn Hawkins, CEO of Sustainable Turnkey Solutions, which manages complex retrofit projects for massive corporations.
Hawkins told us that amid the current labor climate, his company’s employees are being asked to take on the responsibilities of multiple people.
“We want you to be passionate because right now, we’re going to…need you to do the work of five people,” Hawkins said, describing his ideal job candidate.
Strategies for Using ESG Metrics to Recruit Top Talent
Hawkins said his firm brings up sustainability during the interview process to ensure mission alignment between the candidate and the company. Hawkins prefers to hire environmentally oriented people, he said, because they (like his company) see their role as contributing to something larger than themselves.
“We want to come across to the customer that it’s not just about the dollars,” he said. “We’re genuinely trying to come in and help…You can’t really fake that.”
Customers and employees can see right through meaningless lip service, so it’s important for retrofit companies to stand behind their words when it comes to ESG metrics. (For example, Sustainable Turnkey Solutions is putting its money where its mouth is with a program that allows employees to choose and donate to a charity. The company is also exploring the possibility of helping with solar lighting and water projects in Africa.)
In today’s labor market across the board, employers and job seekers are in control. A younger generation of workers wants to feel like their work impacts the issues that matter to them the most, especially sustainability. And as longtime sustainability leaders, lighting retrofitters are in a prime position to attract these young people and harness their passion for sustainability – driving innovation and a greener future for even younger generations.