· Comment

Green jobs of the future: meeting the demand-supply gap 

New data from the ONS reveals that while green jobs in the UK slipped by 3.5% between 2018-2020, around a quarter of working adults describe part of their role as a 'green job'.  

Green jobs are roles that positively impact the environment; from agricultural specialists to ESG managers and carbon accounting technicians.

The ILO forecasts that more than 24 million green jobs will be created globally by 2030, as more companies target a sustainable future.  

Yet LinkedIn’s recent Global Green Skills Report suggests green talent may not keep pace with demand, having only grown at approximately 6% annually in five years. 

Net zero workforce to create 300 million jobs

So, how do HR leaders build a green workforce that meets their organisation’s needs now, while keeping long-term value and the future demand-supply gap in perspective? 

Diagnosing the green job skills gap  

With new climate policies and commitments, organisations are under increasing pressure to find the right green talent. The first step to filling green roles is conducting an inventory of existing talent and skillsets, using evaluation tools to assess green jobs required, the capabilities and skillsets needed, and the gap that needs plugging by existing or external talent.  

Workforce analytics dashboards can help organisations understand their workforce data and extract actionable insights, including management and skills data and attrition rates across capability and geography.  

In addition to people data visualisation, HR leaders can use workforce modelling to predict future talent supply based on ‘as is’ data, ensuring that future scenario-planning is grounded in, and backed by, data.

Strategic workforce and capability planning workshops can also help companies account for external ESG trends that will impact the workforce. 

How the climate crisis is transforming HR

Reskilling and upskilling workforces 

After the initial groundwork to identify the green jobs skills gap, organisations need to devise cost-efficient ways to build a talent pipeline.

Often, upskilling and reskilling an existing workforce is more viable, as research suggests that hiring new skilled workers can cost up to 20% more than reskilling current employees.

Relying on tried and tested talent, rather than unknown new talent, also reduces risk.  

HR leaders would do well to target three key categories for upskilling employees.

Firstly, foundational skills, which equip employees with a baseline sustainability literacy to drive sustainable behaviours and culture throughout the organisation.

This can unlock opportunities for more developed training, and help employees identify possibilities for sustainability within their day-to-day work. 

The second skillset is strategic, and involves in-depth training to employees who require specific knowledge and leadership skills to make business decisions that accelerate sustainability.

These could be anything from setting the sustainability agenda in downstream teams to carbon reduction roles.

Training on soft leadership skills – change management, communications, and problem-solving – are also critical to establishing the sustainability agenda.

UK hotspot for green jobs

The third skill category is specialist: specialised knowledge and skills for functional and technical roles, such as carbon accounting and reporting, environmental engineering, and renewable energy generation.

This skill-group offers employees opportunities to reskill and pivot their career towards a more technical green role.  

AI tools 

Artificial intelligence is a building block of tomorrow’s workforce and a useful tool for expanding the green talent pipeline. A recent survey found most HR leaders are already using AI in some capacity and 92% plan to increase it in at least one HR area.  

Using human-centric AI, organisations can also predict skill supply, find talent, increase accuracy and efficiency in hiring, and design targeted learning to onboard and upskill people in green jobs more effectively. 

The journey to a sustainable organisation comes with much unknown territory, but a robust talent pipeline provides the resources to achieve sustainability at scale.

HR professionals must prepare for the considerable impact the green transition will have on the workforce. Diagnosing the future green jobs skills gap now, reskilling and upskilling employees, and employing new AI tools are key ways to achieve this. 

Lakshmi Sankar and Isabelle Cheung are talent and workforce experts at PA Consulting