Aberdeen’s ongoing transition of decarbonising the oil and gas industry and investing in the development of sustainable green energies has the potential to inject new life into the city, restoring its position on the world stage as an economic powerhouse. However, as has been highlighted by many experts and industry leaders, getting there is going to require considerable investment in skills to meet the workforce demands of this new economy.
While the individual skill requirements will differ from one organisation to another, there is one thing which every successful company will need. Businesses wanting to succeed in the net zero economy will require leaders who can carefully navigate this transition from fossil fuels and emerge stronger on the other side.
So how can Aberdeen ensure that it is attracting and retaining the best talent to lead the city through this transition? And what are the key qualities that these leaders will need to create the next generation of market leading companies in a more sustainable and decarbonised energy industry?
From our view of engaging leaders from across the energy sector and supply chain, we believe there are six key considerations for leaders who want to maximise the opportunities presented by the energy transition.
1 – Get the right strategy in place. It is a leader’s core task to set the vision and put in place a clear, actionable strategy. Through diversification, acquisition or organic growth, leaders will need to make the right strategic moves to give their businesses the best platform to secure opportunities resulting from the transition.
2 – Align brand strategy and purpose. Shareholder primacy is no longer the only game in town. The rise of stakeholder and employee activism, the growing importance of CSR and the power of purpose have presented leaders with the challenge of looking beyond solely making profit. Leaders who can clearly articulate a new narrative which balances people, planet and profit will stand the best chance of attracting the next generation of workers, appeasing investors and stakeholders and, most importantly, winning and retaining business.
3 – Identify the skills and roles needed for the future. The best leaders are only as only as good as those around them. Leaders who possess the ability to delegate effectively and play people in their right positions will ensure that their businesses are best resourced to meet new skill requirements. Part of the skills challenge will lie in effective recruitment. Another element will lie in retraining and repurposing roles. Finally, a new strategy also represents an opportunity to increase diversity of thought, both within the management team and throughout the workforce.
4 – Achieve balance between present realities and future goals. Change takes time. Shareholders need to be assured actions are carefully planned and implemented without sacrificing profitability. Stakeholders and customers need to be assured that they’re not being greenwashed. Effective leaders will need to strike the right balance.
5 – Show your long-term vision and investment in the north-east. Aberdeen has witnessed its fair share of peaks and troughs over the past 50 years. However, with its access to CCS, wind and tidal energy and hydrogen opportunities, combined with its depth of experience and rich pool of talent, the city has a real opportunity to transition from “oil capital” to “energy capital” of Europe. Such a transition will require a cohesive and collaborative effort from all the city’s leaders – across the civic, political and business spectrum – to promote Aberdeen as an attractive place to live and work.
6 – Focus on the leadership qualities that drive and enable change. Guiding a business through uncertain times, while undergoing transformation, requires patience, clear-thinking, bold decision-making and the ability to respond quickly to a rapidly changing business environment. Successful leaders will also need to trust their teams more than ever before. For many leaders, delegating work to employees focusing on transition, while setting the mission agenda, might be their biggest challenge.
The energy industry is changing, and Aberdeen has an opportunity to lead the way into a greener future. To do so will require a new style of leadership that meets the demands of a complex transition. Leading from the front will give our great city the best possible chance of staying both relevant and critical to a changing global economy.