ESG and the Energy Transition are Over-riding Recruitment Requirements
Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) was once a differentiator for asset managers, investment companies and corporates. Only a few companies addressed it and it very rarely featured in any aspect of recruitment.
Today ESG / CSR permeates every department and function, and it is a routine part of every search and appointment at every level.
This rapid evolution has led to high specialisation. Corporates are actively looking for climatologists open to transitioning from academia, NGOs, management consultancies, think tanks and government to bring scientific and policy insights on the energy transition and its implications.
Having evolved beyond reporting and compliance, organisations want talented and innovative minds who can be part of providing solutions through their operations.
While at one level there is still a measure of needing to tick boxes, market leaders are now part of driving change and businesses are looking at sustainable solutions for commercial gain.
There is an ambition for ESG to become the driving principle behind organisations and for ESG as a separate function or activity to be merely the transitionary phase.
In the investment work the continuing appeal of ESG investing and stewardship is the potential to scale impact: an asset manager can enact change in many more organisations than someone working for a corporate.
One of the challenges is that while ESG is increasingly ubiquitous it is not commoditised. Its implementation requires a bespoke case by case approach. This brings opportunities for talented specialists and creates greater demand in a narrow talent pool.
It can also make it difficult for organisations to demonstrate progress, a key requirement when purpose-driven specialists are assessing new opportunities.
The rising demands of an ESG / energy transition talent pool
We continue to see an increase in candidates who are highly sustainability motivated and where this is the primary criterion. This transcends the anticipated demographics – older, younger and so forth.
Candidates across levels are most interested in organisations where the declared values are having a demonstrable impact on performance and helping to drive change. As long as there is clear intent and commitment, some candidates are open to joining businesses at an earlier stage of the ESG evolution, so they can be part of the change.
A padded remuneration package can no longer compensate inadequate ESG action, and it is essential to dig deep into the fundamental motivations driving a candidate to move or consider a position. Every recruiter has any number of examples where candidates walk away from high-earning positions to become a teacher or work for a not-for-profit.
Candidates increasingly expect to see clear strategy and outcomes in each of the three ESG areas – climate transition, governance, and D&I.
Biodiversity is the emerging fourth and asset managers should anticipate that questions that are currently being asked by not for profits and pressure groups will start to become part of a recruitment conversation as well.
New opportunities are being creates as ESG departments grow and specialist teams develop in addition to front of house roles. These opportunities need to be carefully considered to ensure they attract the required level of talent.
At one end of the spectrum, ESG is deeply embedded in all asset classes and senior specialists are rewarded on a par with investment managers.
At the other, organisations recruit at too low a level or create superficially senior roles that lack a clear board level mandate. The result is that it can be hard to attract and retain the highest calibre candidates.
Beyond these specialist teams, as every investment has an ESG angle or consideration more companies are interested in the same investor candidate pool.
Diverse candidates are also in demand, especially as the feedback is that they more readily engage in ESG conversations at interview.
While there are many ESG sceptics and data indicating different levels of impact, the one certainty is that ESG will continue centre stage in search and intensity for talent will increase.
Anticipate scrutiny from your internal and external talent pools and be prepared for difficult and involved conversations.
Questions to consider
- How will your business and brand attract experienced ESG personnel to enable you to effect transformation effectively and at a suitable pace? Many businesses are now looking to build both in-house teams and attract advisors to bring about change and lack the skills to attract the best talent for their needs.
- How is the business setting targets and measuring ESG impact? Does the culture live and breathe your ESG values once you look beyond statutory policies, employee statements and website stories?
- What audit measures are in place to ensure that ESG is more than a box ticking post-rationalisation?
- How transparent is your ESG messaging? Is there a clear timetable to how the transition from ‘low carbon’ to ‘net zero’ to ‘zero’ will happen?
- Are there metrics, evidence and regular review mechanisms in place to demonstrate your progress again the E, S and G individually? Is one of these areas being hyped to compensate for less of progress elsewhere?
- How is ESG reflected in career progression and remuneration?
- How can you develop your own ESG talent pool – or attract potential experts from other fields?
- Are your selection processes structured to encourage greater diversity of talent and avoid ‘group think’ especially at selection panels?