The War for Talent

by Richard T. Stuebi

In the late-1990’s, the management consulting firm McKinsey & Co. released a widely-read study called “The War for Talent”, which profiled how leading corporations were aggressively competing to attract and retain the best and the brightest in order to win in business. (McKinsey’s favorite example of this at the time was Enron. Oops!)

Last month, the research firm New Energy Finance and the executive search firm Heidrick & Struggles (NASDAQ: HSII) released their own take on the war for talent in the cleantech space by surveying 75 senior executives worldwide. The key findings included:

  • 96% of respondents said recruitment was a very serious or moderately serious challenge.
  • 56% of respondents said that the key challenge to delivering growth was finding executives — a significantly higher response rate than other challenges such as capital or policy.
  • 46% of respondents said that CEO was one of the most difficult positions to fill, approximately the same rate as those who found the CTO role difficult to fill.
  • 53% of respondents said the biggest barrier to recruitment was shortage of candidates with the right skills — far more than uncertainties about the future of the sector (32%), lack of employer name recognition (10%) or compensation (8%).
  • 48% of respondents said most recruits came from the traditional energy sector, vs. 32% from the clean energy sector and 31% from “other young, high-tech industries”.

In other words, cleantech is now a serious industry, quickly maturing well beyond “mom-and-pops”, “tree-huggers” and “two-weird-guys-in-a-garage”. Cleantech is facing many of the same management challenges that big corporations face, and is increasingly poaching from the big guys.

Richard T. Stuebi is the BP Fellow for Energy and Environmental Advancement at The Cleveland Foundation, and is also the Founder and President of NextWave Energy, Inc.

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