The energy industry is grounded on a foundation of technology, principles and work practices that are decades and, in some cases, more than a century old. A major factor in that reliance — on tried-and-true approaches to providing utility services — is that our customers value and have come to expect that we will reliably meet their energy needs in a way that is safe and environmentally responsible.

However, our industry is experiencing rapid change. There is increasing competition in the energy space and a growing demand from our customers for innovative energy services.

We have seen an increase in competitors seeking to enter the energy industry. This is happening at the same time utilities are experiencing a record number of retirements in our highly skilled workforce. This creates both a challenge and an opportunity. It’s a challenge in that in many cases, 30-plus years of knowledge, experience and expertise is walking out the door with each retiree. It’s an opportunity in the sense that we can develop and attract the next generation of innovators to bring new ways of approaching the challenges we face. We must ensure that we have robust training and development programs for our current workforce, while focusing on attracting the next generation of utility employees. With a tightening labor market, and predictions that the unemployment rate will continue to decline, the size of the labor market will continue to shrink, and we will find ourselves in a growing war for talent.

To better attract candidates from that pool of talent, we need full inclusion and greater diversity. Currently, 57 percent of bachelor’s degrees and 60 percent of master’s degrees are earned by women. By 2050, 83 percent of the working age population will be new immigrants or the children of immigrants. Having a workforce made up of people with varying experiences, from various cultures, genders and ages, is our best asset if our organizations value innovation and creative problem solving. Gender-balanced teams yield significantly better results. We also need diverse teams to incorporate the insights, experiences and worldviews of our customers.

The speed of change will not slow and demands for innovation will not diminish. We will be better positioned to respond effectively to disruptive technology changes if our workforce stays ahead of shifts in culture and anticipates customer demands. If we want innovation and organizational resiliency, we need to be intentional about who we select to be a part of the team.

Our life experiences influence the lens through which we see the world. We need a team of agile-thinking people from diverse backgrounds and experiences. Diverse perspectives foster innovation, which will play a critical role in our organizations’ resiliency in a fiercely competitive, rapidly changing environment.

Strength lies in differences, not in similarities. – Stephen R. Covey