How Important Is “The Mission” In HR Recruiting?

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Recruiting can be thought of as a two way street. How important is it to love the work you’re doing? How important is it that your values align with those of your employer? Trends certainly seem to indicate more people are finding work with purpose, oftentimes eschewing slightly higher pay in favor of feeling good about your work.

I know as an entrepreneur that *every* employee we’ve ever had has come to us because of the eco-mission. It’s the main reason I would say that our company has thrived, more than compensating for some challenges inherent in trying to always “doing the right thing” in our business. Recently, I had a chance to interview Lauren Todd, Senior VP of HR at Ameresco, one of the leading energy efficiency providers in the US, to talk about recruiting great talent by leading with the company mission to make the world a better place by eliminating fossil fuel use.

CleanTechnica: How much influence does Ameresco’s mission have in recruiting a qualified and loyal workforce? 

Above all, our mission, vision and values are the most critical. Throughout the entire interview process, we take the time to really get to know our candidates. If they don’t live and breathe Ameresco’s mission, vision and values, we ultimately can’t make an offer.

CleanTechnica: Given the job market is volatile at the moment and we’re all trying to figure out the post-COVID reality, what are you seeing in terms of trends in the clean tech job market? 

The current cleantech job market is the most competitive and aggressive I’ve seen throughout my 20+ year career. Recent changes in Federal, state and local legislation, and the rising focus on sustainable infrastructure across industries, have generated more employment opportunities. From electricians to construction project managers and everything in between, Ameresco is hiring around 10 to 15 people per week.

As a candidate’s market, talent is in high demand. Our prospective hires often have multiple opportunities to choose from, which requires companies like us to focus on more than competitive compensation. We’re noticing a much larger focus on factors such as flexible workplace cultures, corporate philanthropy and social initiatives. Previously, questions about our ESG efforts surfaced with senior level individuals, but now, our interview teams are fielding these questions from candidates at every level.

Beyond investing significantly in developing a corporate culture that aligns with our candidates, the current job market has required cleantech companies to increase recruiting efforts at the university level. By developing ongoing relationships with leading colleges and universities, local tech-based higher education institutions and regional trade schools, we’ve been able to hire and engage the next generation of energy talent through internships and apprenticeship programs.

It’s a transformative time for the industry, and we’re excited by the next generation of talent, as well as our current workforce.

CleanTechnica: What are Ameresco’s goals in terms of growth in this industry and corresponding HR needs as you see them over the coming year? 

Ameresco’s enterprise stretches across the US, Canada, and Europe, and we work hard to have localized teams for on the ground customer support. As we continue to expand into new locations, finding local talent has proven to be somewhat challenging due to the state of the job market. Given that our hiring needs are dependent on current regional projects (e.g. east coast requires more licensed solar electricians, west coast requires more project managers, etc.), we look for candidates beyond popular platforms like LinkedIn. We are turning to organizations and associations for referrals and actively sourcing passive candidates.

Additionally, we’re constantly looking ahead for the next cutting-edge technologies entering the market. As we plan to expand further into EV infrastructure and clean hydrogen, we will need new hires who offer tremendous technical expertise. Although my team has worked diligently to recruit skilled talent in these areas, we will need to continue building teams who can support Ameresco’s newer offerings.

CleanTechnica: Tell us a little about the team culture at Ameresco: what types of people do you generally look for, and what are the main characteristics that get you excited about a potential employee? 

One of the most important things I look for is passion and excitement. We’re in an industry that continually changes, so finding people who are genuinely excited about energy and a cleaner future only supports our work. We look for motivated self-starters who want to learn and be challenged to think creatively. And although the learning curve in the clean energy industry can feel steep, we recruit individuals who are invested in their own personal and professional development. Specifically with recent graduates, we have found tremendous work ethics, the ability to prioritize and balance tasks, and skill sets that make immediate contributions to our teams.

CleanTechnica: What has Ameresco done to nurture its workforce during these loony-bin times? 

As a result of the Covid-19 pandemic, we built a flexible workplace. Our first priority has always been our employees’ health and safety. As such, we focused on flexibility and leveraged our communication platforms to seamlessly enable us to stay connected. We’ve also upgraded our benefits portfolio to ensure that employees have the tools available to support a flexible work environment and healthy work-life balance.

As I think about it today, I’m truly proud of the community we’ve built. Our employees came together during some of the most challenging times and executed at all levels. We found ways to safely give back to our communities, enjoy social events outside of business hours and donate to the causes that mean the most to us.

During the pandemic, we also built programs dedicated to investing in our employees. For example, last year, we launched the Center of Excellence in Advanced Technologies, a company-wide monthly virtual training series available to all interested employees (e.g., engineers, project developers, sales representatives, marketing professionals, etc.). Designed to equip us with the necessary information and tools to understand our latest cleantech solutions, from hydrogen to cybersecurity best practices, the Center of Excellence in Advanced Technologies continues to receive positive feedback after each session.

CleanTechnica: What is the role of HR for ESG?

HR is highly involved in each part of Environment, Social and Governance (ESG) planning, implementation and measurement. At a recent conference, I spoke with other HR leaders and we all came to the same conclusion — companies need to look beyond numbers and fully embrace action. As HR leaders, we have the ability and responsibility to advocate for diversity, equity, inclusion and justice (DEIJ), recommend partner organizations and champion new philanthropic initiatives, and develop programs to ensure the safety of our teams.

At Ameresco, we established an ESG Ambassadors program in 2020 and released our inaugural ESG report “Doing Well by Doing Good” later the same year. Our ESG Ambassadors program, which I serve on, is an internal committee dedicated to ensuring our efforts span across internal operations and external communications. We established key benchmarks and goals to demonstrate our commitment and efforts, and I’m excited by the progress we’ve already made.

From an environmental standpoint, we aim to achieve net zero carbon emissions by 2040 and reduce our customers’ carbon footprints by a cumulative 500 million metric tons by 2050. In terms of our corporate social responsibility, the ESG Ambassadors and my department are leading a new initiative for paid volunteer hours, community service and donation matching programs. We’re also dedicated to increasing our diversity and partnering with organizations like Browning the Green Space, the National Association of Women in Construction, HireHeroes USA, the Dolce Center for Advancement of Veterans and Service Members and more. Lastly, from a governance standpoint, we’re targeting zero accidents and injuries on worksites with our Global Safety Ambassadors program and focusing on comprehensive cybersecurity trainings for all employees.

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Scott Cooney

Scott Cooney (twitter: scottcooney) is a serial eco-entrepreneur focused on making the world a better place for all its residents. Scott is the founder of CleanTechnica and was just smart enough to hire someone smarter than him to run it. He then started Pono Home, a service that greens homes, which has performed efficiency retrofits on more than 16,000 homes and small businesses, reducing carbon pollution by more than 27 million pounds a year and saving customers more than $6.3 million a year on their utilities. In a previous life, Scott was an adjunct professor of Sustainability in the MBA program at the University of Hawai'i, and author of Build a Green Small Business: Profitable Ways to Become an Ecopreneur (McGraw-Hill) , and Green Living Ideas.

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