The Representation of Women in the Renewable Energy Workplace

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The representation of women and men in board positions is skewed…

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10 Tips for Writing a Stellar CV

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The first interview is one of the most important parts of the hiring process…

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How to Retain Staff When Your Top Talent is Leaving.

It can come as a shock when one of your top performer’s hands in their resignation out of the blue. What influenced their decision? Who else may want to leave? How will your business be impacted? It’s natural to be concerned about these things. Other staff members will be asked to take on additional tasks and responsibilities to make up for the gap, and you don’t want that to negatively impact their motivational levels. So how do you go about preventing this from happening? Here are some things to keep in mind:
  • Retention plays a role from the beginning in your recruitment process. It’s essential to know the culture and strategy you want to instil in your business and make sure your potential candidate(s) match those. When using a recruitment company, the company you’re working with must take time to fully understand you and your business needs in order to find you the ideal candidate. AltGen’s recruitment team will always set up a meeting with you before working on your role to ensure that everything about your vacancy and business is understood.
  • Pick a candidate(s) who has a history of longevity with previous employment. This is one way to ensure your potential employee won’t hop from one job to the next after just a few months, increasing the likelihood of a longer employment relationship with your company. Seeing a candidate’s dedication to previous companies gives you a better idea of who they are as a person – loyal, determined, willing to ride the waves and not jump ship.
  • When deciding on a new hire, another thing to keep in mind is, do their values, vision, and mission align with your company’s? Finding an employee who resonates with your company’s core values is a recipe for success from the get-go. There is a higher chance of longevity when individuals feel they share the same values, vision and mission with their company.
  • A more obvious retention solution is to ensure you’re offering competitive packages. Specific skills can be scarce, especially in the renewable energy industry, and while money can’t solve everything, it can be a significant influencing factor in an employee’s decision to leave. AltGen offers free salary advice to clients in the Renewable Energy space if you’re unsure of salary ranges for specific roles. Click here to get in touch with us to find out more.
  • Lastly, recognition goes a long way. It could be something as simple as going out of your way to thank an employee for going the extra mile, but it is essential your employees feel valued and appreciated. Your gratitude or lack of what they do for your company can significantly influence how they think about their work.
It’s important to keep in mind that your company is only as strong as your staff. AltGen is here to help you hold on to your talent, and we’re here to help you find exceptional employees.

Protection of Personal Information Act – July 2021

The Act has been in play in South Africa since 2013 but has only become compulsory to enforce as of 01 July 2021. The POPI Act sets the conditions for responsible parties to lawfully process personal information.

Personal information is described as any information relating to an identifiable natural person or juristic person. This would include information such as name and surname; date of birth; contact details; age etc. The POPI Act is important as it protects people from harm such as identity theft and discrimination.

Each organisation is affected differently by POPI and the results of non-compliance can include fines, imprisonment, and reputational damage. As the Act becomes enforceable in South Africa, organisations are impacted by the way they process personal information, especially special personal information, children’s information, and account numbers.

In order to process information, organisations need to ensure that the following processing conditions are upheld:
  • Accountability: All legal entities need to be responsible, accountable and must comply with the conditions of the Act.
  • Processing Limitation: All legal entities need to know why they are processing and capturing private information. There also need to be limitations in place as to what information you process and how much there is.
  • Purpose Specific: The data must be captured for a specific and justifiable reason and the data subject needs to be aware of this.
  • Further Processing: Any further processing or use of information collected needs to be related to the original purpose of the information being collected.
  • Information Quality: All information collected must be correct, up to date and not misleading.
  • Openness: In order to ensure openness, notifications need to be sent to the party whose information is being captured.
  • Data Subject Participation: The party whose information you have, has the right to ask for any data you have about them. They can also request for this information to be deleted.
  • Security Safeguards: Firstly you need to identify the data that contains personal information and treat it with care. Secondly, all such information must be secured.
To ensure AltGen remains compliant, we have updated our internal policies and would like to bring the following changes to light:
  • Privacy Policy: Our Privacy Policy details why we make use of your personal information and the types of information we store about you. It can be found on our website here.
  • PAIA Manual: Our PAIA Manual, also found on our website, outlines how you may access information and who to contact within AltGen. See our manual here.

We also want to assure all our international clients and candidates out there that we are compliant with the GDPR.

AltGen respects the privacy of our candidates and clients. We will always provide you with the option to unsubscribe from marketing communication.

Our Information Officers are Lisa De Sousa and Lané Höll.

If you have questions – we are happy to help, just drop us a line.

AltGen Team.

Restraints of Trade in Employment Contracts

While the competition for skills in the renewables space is intense, there has been a definite trend of Employers resorting to imposing codified employment restrictions on current and potential Employees in the form of a Restraint of Trade in contracts of employment.

EMPLOYERS

So at the outset, in the interests of transparency, I have to make it clear that I do not support generalist and broad “Restraints”. In some instances, where there is a clear competitive edge to be gained from “opening up shop next door”, I would say a restraint may be justified and enforceable, but the restraints that we have seen coming through of late are so generalist and broad in scope, that they have zero chance of being upheld by a court.

Refer: “Hardware Centre versus Vallabh and Another” of March 2019, where the Respondent did in fact open a store next door (800m away) and the restraint was not upheld by the court.

Hardware Centre versus Vallabh (2019)

EXHIBIT A

“The Employee undertakes that he shall not… for a period of 12 months after leaving the employ of the Company for any reason whatsoever directly or indirectly set up in business or form part of any business in competition with the Company and/or which carries on a business similar to the Company”.

Guys, please go and get your lawyers / HR to please do the work that you pay them for. If you are serious that you have a specific service or product that is deserving of protection, the least you can do is specify what it is. This is such a broad clause and so arguable, any lawyer worth his or her fee can sidestep it in an instant.

  1. SPECIFY THE INTEREST DESERVING OF PROTECTION

For example: “Set up a business or work for another Employer in the manufacturing and/or assembly of energy storage components for sale and supply into the renewable energy industry”: may (I am not saying will) stand up, as long as it is accompanied by a qualifier on the geographical location as well as a time limit.

  1. SPECIFY THE GEO / SCOPE OF THE RESTRICTION

For example: “Set up a business in the manufacturing and/or assembly of energy storage components for sale and supply into the renewable energy industry into the distributed / home PV & storage market in the Western Cape”. Is possibly somewhat more enforceable, but still not enough.

If you are serious about having a service or product that is in some way unique and deserving of protection, then you need to be serious about how you word your restraint.

  1. SPECIFY THE TIME PERIOD

For example: We have seen restraints that are valid for 24 months, in PV component sales, in South Africa – clearly not enforceable! How is it reasonable to prevent someone from making a living in the area of their expertise in such a broad geography for such a long time? It is not, and it won’t be in the eyes of the courts either. The shorter the restraint, the greater its chance of its success. 6 months would perhaps be considered reasonable. 12 months or more, very unlikely, unless you are patenting a new COVID vaccine.

Lastly, take it seriously. If you honestly think that your product/service is worthy of a restraint, then make sure you are prepared to spend a year in court and spend R 100,000 to enforce it and get nothing in return. Are you seriously prepared to do this? if not, then all you are doing is using intimidation to hope that the ex-employee doesn’t come and work in your backyard.

EMPLOYEES

Do not make the mistake of taking a restraint personally. An Employer is also doing no more than trying to make a living and will often feel that need to defend their hard-won gains and turf. And very often, they are poorly advised and do not understand the HR or the law for that matter.

After all, Employers are in the business of doing business and HR and the legalise that come with that are often pretty low on their list in terms of priorities. Yes, yes I hear the coach commentators say, it is an Employers task to understand! After all, they are taking on the responsibility of employing.

But, the Renewable Energy space is by its very nature dominated by start-ups and early adopters, and they, by their nature, do not have the time and capacity for deep HR skills and understanding.

CLOSING

Let it be known: Not once in 8 years of recruitment in renewable energy in South Africa, have we ever had a case where an Employer has successfully defended a restraint of trade that they have imposed on one of our candidates/placements.

Exploring the Gap Between Skills and the Renewable Energy Industry

The renewable energy sector is one of the fastest-growing industries globally. According to the 2017 Global Talent Index, there is an estimated 8.1 million people employed within the renewables space. In South Africa, the South African Wind Energy Association (SAWEA) had estimated that an additional 109,444 direct, FTE person-years of employment would be created through the REIPPPP Bid Rounds 1- 4. The industry is still expanding and has the capacity to employ many more people but is hindered by the fact that not all required skills are always readily available. Based on our recruitment experience, there are some occupations which have proven to be very difficult to source for, often going for months before finding the appropriate candidate. Conversations with multiple employers in the IPP industry confirm that there is indeed a skills shortage in certain verticals.

There is a general scarcity of experienced technical support skills in South Africa’s PV space, such as Electrical Engineers, Operations and Maintenance Managers, and Mechanical Technicians – the scarcity of skills is amplified as the IPP’s and C&I service providers compete for transferrable skills. While most entry-level engineers graduate from universities equipped with a Bachelor of Engineering (BEng) or a Bachelor of Science (BSc) in either electrical or mechanical engineering, most of them would have little to no exposure to renewables and therefore cannot add any form of substantive value from day one. It then falls on the employer to get them into some type of learnerships or mentoring programmes to facilitate skills transfer needed to equip them with relevant industry skills like Solar PV, Wind, Energy Storage, etc, depending on the industry, and technology. According to the ILO report titled “Anticipating skill needs for green jobs”, published in 2015, there are two main types of skills shortage, which may exist separately or in combination:

  1. A quantitative skills shortage, under which the number of workers available with broadly suitable skills is insufficient.
  1. A qualitative gap under which the number of people available may be sufficient, but their skills are deficient relative to what is needed.

Based on the above, clearly the latter is true for the renewable energy sector in South Africa. The use of AltGen outsourced services can provide a solution to this deficiency. We provide basic upskilling services and where the sought-after scarce skill cannot easily be found AltGen Recruitment focuses on sourcing the applicable skills from the local districts. Currently, in the Northern Cape, AltGen Employment Services has developed a Renewable Energy Industry Specific Skills Programme, for IPP’s and O&M’s, with the aim of upskilling members in the local community to prepare them for formal employment. Due to the high unemployment rates in the Northern Cape, the goal of AltGen’s Solar Works Programme is to develop training programmes that allow community members to contribute meaningfully to the IPP’s operations and in turn, find long-term employment in the local community or start their own businesses.

WFM Sewing Ladies
Women in the Workforce Management programme making PPE for community members.

The scarcity gets deeper when we go into specialist niche roles like SCADA Automation Engineers, Wind Analysts, Power Studies Engineers, Energy Storage Engineers, Project Developers, and the list goes on. After further probing with employers as to why these skills are scarce, 90% of them responded by saying there is “simply not many of them around.” This scarcity puts employers in a predicament to outsource these skills to expatriates from European countries until this option is no longer cost-effective. Searching for this kind of talent locally takes more than the generic methods of recruitment, including techniques such as word of mouth. The Global Energy Talent Index (GETI) survey reveals that there is cause for concern regarding skills training and knowledge transfer within renewables. In South Africa, Sector Education and Training Authority (SETA) is playing a vital role in coordinating and funding skills development initiatives. According to the Energy and Water Sector Education and Training Authority (EWSETA) 2018-2019 report, they have successfully supported 115 firms with mandatory skills development grants.

There have been many instances where employers incur the costs of developing entry-level talent for periods of 12 – 18 months only to lose them to their competition before they reap the returns on such investments. When talent is thin, the immediate reaction by some employers is to throw money at the situation and out-bid their competition. This has an adverse effect of inflating the price of talent and can potentially degenerate into some kind of a price war. What therefore begins as a skills shortage, quickly translates into a retention challenge. Attracting skilled talent is generally a challenge and retaining scarce skills is even harder. Based on the conversations we have had; 70% of employers have developed different strategies to hold on to their treasured skills. This involves taking a genuine interest in their career development, planning advancements, and creating favourable conditions to keep them enthused. Over and above, employers also shared with us that they offer profit-sharing incentives and extended leave as additional incentives to remain loyal to the company.

The renewable energy sector, just like many other sectors in South Africa, is still very much a male-dominated space. In South Africa, it is estimated that the sector employs an estimated 32% women and 68% males. According to the GETI 2021 Report, it is found that globally the renewable energy sector comprises 78% males and 22% females. Within AltGen Recruitment, females constitute 25% of our total placements into the industry, which is a success story as female talent can be difficult to acquire. It is also notable to mention that currently, 44% of AltGen Employment Services upskilling programme consists of women. In our experience, it can prove challenging to source female engineers or technicians. Historically, it was accustomed that women were placed in strong administrative roles, however, times are changing with an increasing amount of woman seen in managerial roles.

Solar Works Programme Members
AltGen Employment Services Staff Compliment Consists of 44% Women.

There is no silver bullet or instant solution to solving the scarcity of skills and lack of gender diversity in the industry. Listed below are some of the steps and initiatives, which if implemented, might potentially help to alleviate the situation: –

  • Gender diversity and transformation in the sector needs to be more deliberate, planned, and more structured to avoid leaving it to chance. Employers should consider deliberately setting targets to attract more female talent of colour into technical roles in the industry, even if it means bringing them in as semi-skilled technicians.
  • Take a genuine interest in the growth and development of your talent to keep them enthused. Implement proper employee retention strategies which extend beyond good salaries which will provide them with a sense of belonging.
  • A closer partnership between the industry and tertiary institutions is required. A deliberate acknowledgement and strengthening of this symbiotic relationship by increasing interactions and collaboration between the two will influence the quality and diversity of graduates which tertiary institutions produce. The 2017 Global Energy Talent Index shows that 45% of employers in the renewable energy sector believe that they can overcome the skills gap through partnering with tertiary institutions.
  • Create deliberate opportunities and platforms for skills transfer by pairing skilled specialists with junior engineers and technicians. This will inspire younger talent to venture into niche spaces of specialization which they never knew existed.

Job Hunting: 3 Ways to Make the Process Seem Less Daunting

Beginning the career searching process can seem daunting and incredibly time-consuming if you don’t know where or how to leapfrog the process. But despite the challenges that many face on their journey to professional development, we have some good news! For most, the benefits of engaging with an executive search firm may not be glaringly obvious – for one, the right recruitment agency will generally have a much stronger and established relationship with the companies you’re wanting to work with. In fact, in most cases – they are probably already working with them, so why not leverage their networks to help you land your dream job?

From AltGen’s perspective, we can help you learn from others’ mistakes. AltGen is niched in the renewables game in Africa – and has been in the last 10 years… ever heard the saying “It’s about WHO WE KNOW and WHAT YOU KNOW”? Well, it is a real thing. Too often we have candidates approach us asking us to represent them on their career journey but to their detriment, they have already applied to the firm and have not showcased themselves accurately. Sadly, for the candidate, recruitment firms can’t represent a person if they have applied to the company themselves. The best thing you can do for yourself is find an executive search company like AltGen to showcase you in the best light possible in the renewable energy job market or the relevant industry you are wanting to enter.

This leads us onto the next hot point – identifying your next ideal employer. The job search process is more than just looking for employment and/or sending your CV to a recruitment firm. You need to make sure you’re well suited for your upcoming career move (be pragmatic – make your goals achievable). Furthermore, you need to know how to effectively attract a recruiter’s attention – highlighting how well positioned you are to take on the role and hit the ground running, and should they respond, that you are thoroughly prepared for a screening interview.

Here are some aspects to keep in mind when conducting your job search:

  1. Know your career goals. It is very important to map your next career steps and long-term career goal before beginning the search (do yourself the favour, it will save you a lot of time). Ask yourself, which or what type of company do I want to work for (additionally, ask yourself why – is it a technical and/or cultural reason?). Make sure you have a realistic career trajectory planned out and that you isolate your target company… there are thousands of renewable companies out there – focus on quality over quantity.

Next, once you know who you want to work for and why, find the person whose job you want. Conduct a benchmarking exercise (or matrix) to see what someone in your ideal position has in terms of experience, skills, and qualifications in order for you to become aware of what you need to have under your belt, or at least be close to. Use the tools you have at hand, go onto LinkedIn, you will be surprised how much information you can learn from a person!

  1. Plan ahead and consider your timelines. While your recruiter will be handling the job search on your behalf, it is still a good idea for you to create a job alert (using keywords of interest) with the recruitment company so that if new jobs pop up, you will be notified and can chat to your recruiter about your interest in this position. It is vital to ensure the CV you present to your recruiter is up-to-date and formatted correctly (follow us to stay informed through our next post where we will be discussing your CV) It is also important to remember to create milestones for yourself, keeping in mind your current notice period, and if you are currently involved in projects – you don’t want to change jobs at the wrong time and end up jeopardizing your reputation. Planning helps you know when to focus on engaging with recruiters, perhaps give your recruiter a heads up that you will be looking in the next quarter, etc.
  2. Use multiple job-research platforms. Pnet, LinkedIn, and Indeed (amongst others) are great platforms to search for jobs as well as connect with recruiters who are actively looking for talent. For a recruitment company like AltGen, 87% of our monthly applicants come from LinkedIn, which shows that it is a valuable platform to be a part of, not only for jobs, but for live content and info. We also recommend keeping an eye on other job boards for new jobs that are posted (and creating that alert we spoke about!). Last but not least, we would suggest following your preferred brands so that when you see a role you would like to apply for, you can touch base with your recruiter regarding this vacancy.

Since job searching isn’t always a quick process, you need to remind yourself to not get disheartened easily, sometimes the right job for you is only ready for you later on (job hoppers be warned). You need to manage your expectations and realise that there’s a chance you won’t always hear back from every firm you’ve applied to. However, with AltGen representing you on your job search, our recruiters have your best intentions at heart and they will provide you with as much feedback as possible throughout the process. It’s also important that you remember to protect your image – before starting this process, go through your online profiles and make sure that you remove anything that you wouldn’t want a potential employer to discover. Make sure you are contactable, so update your details across your preferred platforms for a recruiter to be able to get ahold of you if need be.

Keep posted for the next installment, where we will discuss what is involved in a cover note and elaborate on the CV writing process. We will provide you with ways to better improve your resume as well as inform you what you should and shouldn’t have in your CV and intro message in order to make the best first impression possible – that is what your CV is all about!