The Fossil Fuel Industry’s Millennial Problem – and How to Solve It.

By Alex Epstein, Center for Industrial Progress

It is common knowledge in the U.S. fossil fuel industry, including the coal industry, that attracting and retaining millennial workers is a challenge and a priority. “The Great Crew Change” brought on by the looming mass retirement of baby boomers and the shortage of workers in their 30s to 50s means that millennials will be a key source of industry talent in the years ahead, and that they will have to take on more responsibility more quickly than workers in the past.

Therefore, companies that care about attracting, retaining, and motivating talented workers, especially millennials, must be able to answer the following with an unequivocal “yes”: Do your employees believe their industry is making a positive impact in the world?

The conviction that the company an employee works for is doing something good in the world, one study concludes, “is second only to pay and benefits in importance for employees, and ranks ahead of promotion opportunities, job responsibilities, and work culture.”

This is true for all employees but it is particularly true for millennials, who have grown up in a culture that emphasizes passion and purpose in work. To attract, retain, and motivate millennials, the fossil fuel industry must make sure they have a positive moral evaluation of their impact.

Unfortunately for the industry, the message its employees get—from the media, educators, politicians, and the culture at large—is that their work is immoral.

Let’s estimate that at an absolute minimum, just about every millennial in the modern world gets 200 hours of exposure, through their education and media consumption, to the moral case against fossil fuels—the idea that what the fossil fuel industry does is immoral because it is producing an unsustainable form of energy that is destroying the planet. Unsurprisingly, McKinsey found that more millennials say they would not work in the fossil fuel industry than any other industry, thanks to its negative image.