12-14 November 2019
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19 Sep 2018

A Millennials Point of View – An interview with Pirjo Jantunen, Corporate Social Responsibility Manager, Helen Ltd

Kevin O´Donovan
In the run up to the ‘A Millennials Point of View’ Initiate! Session at European Utility Week, Kevin O´Donovan, EUW Brand Ambassador and social influencer, had the opportunity to chat with Pirjo to get her thoughts on the current state of the Energy Industry in relation to diversity & attracting the next generation of workers into the industry.
  • Introduction

My name is Pirjo Jantunen, I’m from Finland and I will be the Chairperson for the Initiate! Millennials session at EUW18. I have done my Bachelors in Sustainable Development and Masters in Economic and Business Administration. I work as a Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) Manager here at Helen, which is a local energy utility in Helsinki. I’ve worked in Helen for the past 10 years, starting in Environmental and moved more towards CSR, and I am involved in stakeholder, strategy & communications. I’m passionate about sustainable/decarbonising energy and the involvement of millennials and diversity in the Energy Industry. This has led me to work with the World Energy Council, where I was the chair of the Future Energy Leaders Programme for 3 years, up to April this year.

  • What attracted you to the Energy Industry?

If I start from the beginning, when I was a kid I was a huge animal and nature lover. This lead me to have an interest in sustainability which led me to study sustainable development. When I was looking for a spot to write my Thesis around environment & sustainability, the lead me to Helen. I was not specifically looking to work in the Energy Industry, so it was kind of a coincidence. When I was working in the Energy Industry I realized the importance of the industry, as most of the CO2 emissions come from this industry and it has a huge impact on climate change, so I understood that if climate change can be prevented or decreased then it will happen in the Energy Industry. This is what has kept me here since.

  • The Energy Industry is often portrayed as dull, boring, conservative, old and grey … your thoughts?

At my energy company and I guess in most energy companies, we do not have a ping pong table in our lobby, or we don’t have fancy coffee machines in comparison to cool start-up’s. I believe there is an important reason for that. The Energy Industry has been doing really well in the past decades and it did not need to attract new people. It’s been relatively static as there was no need to change. This results in a conservative behavior and they have been working for security & reliability for decades. It is in their DNA to do that well, to be trusted. It’s totally different to start-ups where it can be about fail-fast, whereas in here it’s about fail zero – so a totally different mid-set. And there are very valid reasons for this but that does not mean we should leave it like that. It’s now the exact opposite as the industry is challenged from different direction, be that climate change bringing a lot of pressure, digitalization is bringing new competitors to the field and competition is getting harder all the time. You have to find new ways to offer new services, find new directions for the company and in order to do that you need new thinking and new skillsets.

You have to move on from the old and grey, all white males to have all age groups represented and move from just grey to all rainbow colours. This is hard. It’s easy to hire people who are like you, easy to work with people who are thinking like you. It’s comfortable. And we all do that, we surround ourselves by like-minded people. But at work it’s quite dangerous for your business. Because if you are always in your comfort zone, you don’t develop. If you get away from your comfort zone, challenge your mindset, get your business decisions challenged, then you do not end up in a very narrow mindset, which is a big threat for any company.

Now I see in many Energy companies, they have the core part of the company and a new R&D unit that’s doing the cool stuff like solar panels, IoT solutions etc ... They are the cool guys and doing innovation but they should be in all parts of the company, not just in one part. Otherwise the company will not succeed. The company may end up with one innovative product but as it’s not part of core business, so core business does not change. The company does not change.

  • What’s been your biggest ‘a-ha’ moment to-date in your career?

Not so much a big ‘a-ha’ moment but when I joined the World Energy Council’s Future Leaders Programme, seeing how the issues we are trying to solve globally are so different, how energy has the possibility to make life better in different ways in different parts of the world was interesting. If you do not have light in your home then you can’t study. I’ve grown up in a welfare country where everyone has light, it is not an issue. Understanding that the issues, challenges and opportunities differ globally has been thought provoking.

  • How’s this industry doing around diversity?

I think it’s doing really poorly. It’s one of the least diverse industries. It’s usually dominated by old white males. I’m not sure if there have been any significant improvements in the past 10 years. If you check most of the top Energy companies they have at max 1/4 of their workforce being female and the higher you go up the company ladder, the less females you have there. And I’m only talking here about females. Not about people of color or other minorities. In many cases you never even see them in the energy sector. And I’ve already mentioned this. This is a big threat to the industry as research shows that companies with a more diverse mix perform better. Now Millennials will be half of the global workforce by 2020. And Millennials will also be a big share of the energy companies customers. Energy companies will have to invent new services and new business models as they understand their new customers. And if you are with traditional minded people you may not understand what these Millennial customers want to buy from their energy provider. So you have to have a diverse set of people internally in order to understand your diverse set of customers out there today. And I’m not sure the industry has realized the importance of this so far.

Also, in terms of skillsets. There is a lot of buzz about Digitalization, but there is not enough talk about how to implement that. How to attract the talent to do the Digitalization. These skills are not in the companies, so how do you attract the people who are used to have ping pong tables and cool coffee machines to work in the Energy Industry. That’s a big question. Now one answer can be that the energy sector can provide meaningful solutions to some of the big questions we have in the world today. The Energy industry can provide answers to CO2 emissions. That can be a lot more rewarding than working on coding the latest dating app. Many people are looking for companies who are doing important and responsible work, and this is something Energy Industry can offer.

  • If you could make 3 things happen in the Energy Industry tomorrow, what would they be?

Now that’s a very difficult question. OK, I’d focus on just two; 1st is that Energy companies would be brave enough to invest now in low carbon technologies, and policy makers brave enough to support the transition. So that they take action and investments now and not wait for someone else. And to combine this with an actual lifecycle emissions approach so we move faster to a low carbon energy system. My 2nd one would relate to diversity and inclusion. Many companies know about it and talk about it as a road to success. But are they actually increasing their diversity? It’s going slowly, way too slowly today. We have to speed up.

Pirjo Jantunen will be the chair person introducing A Millenials Point of view, Future of Work & Education, at the Initiate! Stage 1 - 07-Nov-2018 at 15:30 - 15:40 and will moderate the Panel discussion A Millenials Point of View -  What can the industry learn from the next generation workforce, same location and day at 16:00 -17:00.

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