As the global commitment to climate change action continues to grow, 100% Australian renewable energy company Windlab is seeing a huge demand for its large-scale, responsibly developed clean energy projects, and for highly skilled people to deliver them.
This is why they’ve partnered with AGSM @ UNSW Business School to upskill their workforce and ensure they’ve got the tools they need to lead the charge.
Born out of the CSIRO, Windlab played a foundational role in creating Australia’s wind industry. For the past twenty years, Windlab has applied its world-leading technology and globally-recognised expertise to find, develop and operate Australia’s top-performing renewable energy projects.
Today, Windlab is putting all its resources behind making fossil fuels a thing of the past, and they’re in the midst of a major growth spurt. The company’s workforce has more than doubled in two years, and today the company employs more than 110 people across seven Australian office locations.
Large scale projects with people at their core
Windlab’s General Manager People and Culture, Nicole Makin says the clear focus from governments on decarbonisation means demand is high for people with the right skills, experience and expertise to make the energy transition a reality.
“There’s a huge push to deliver renewable energy projects at scale to decarbonise the energy market, secure reliable energy supply for Australian homes and businesses and put downward pressure on power prices for consumers,” she says.
Windlab is focused on finding the best resources, securing sites, collaborating with local landholders and host communities to deliver projects that meet expectations and deliver lasting shared benefits, working through a robust and responsible development process, and then financing, building and operating renewable energy assets.
“Our presence across the entire value chain requires a strong investment in a diversity of professional and technical skills, as well as an ability to find the agile, resourceful and resilient thinkers who can thrive in an incredibly complex landscape and in an environment and industry that is always evolving,” Makin says.
Windlab’s massive growth over the past two years has resulted in larger teams with new reporting structures and leadership requirements.
Being a “fairly engineer-heavy” company, Makin says people faced new responsibilities they may not have taken on in the past. She wanted to make sure that Windlab’s people felt confident in stepping out of their comfort zone and supported in their career progression as the company grows.
“There are two things that really impact whether a person is going to stay with a company. One is their manager and sense of belonging. They want a good manager, and they want to feel like they belong in a team, where they’re accepted and can make a difference. The other is their career development,” Makin explains.
“From a development perspective, we were pretty good on the technical skills. But we really needed team members to be taught management and leadership skills, because they may have never been exposed to these skillsets previously as they progressed through an engineering pathway.”
Earlier in her career, Makin had organised team members to enrol in and complete several of AGSM’s Executive Education programs and was confident the courses would hold up under the scrutiny of a group of analytical engineers, who love picking things apart and putting them back together.
Windlab’s first group completed the immersive Emerging Leaders Program in 2022.
“They came back and were so complimentary. Our engineers loved the fact that they got that time to really think about the content and frameworks and to be challenged. They appreciated having to unlearn and change their mindsets from being an individual contributor to a team leader, receiving frameworks on having crucial conversations and the importance of feedback.”
And because it wasn't just Windlab’s team in the program, they had an opportunity for networking and to see how other companies worked – something they found extremely valuable.
Off the back of the success of this first cohort’s experience, Makin has collaborated with the AGSM Executive Education team to plan out a whole set of learning pathways from a wider leadership perspective.
“More team members will be completing the Emerging Leaders Program but for people who already are, or ready to move up to the general manager level we need something different. I wanted to have programs that would satisfy a wide cohort of people, and offer a common language and experience delivered by leading-edge thinking individuals. AGSM can offer that.”
And while Makin acknowledges the significant investment, she says losing good people in such a competitive market would cost the company a lot more.
“We have a very low turnover rate, in a really competitive market. We want an engaged workforce. So an investment in training and development to retain our people is well worth it. And it has a trickle-down effect on their team as well.”
And as ways of working shifted post-pandemic, Makin turned to AGSM to offer both new and experienced leaders cutting-edge insights and tools on how to navigate the future with an innovative mindset. An approach which aligned with Windlab’s people and their values.
Windlab’s key to success is the combination of its team and advanced technology. And building a team that has strength in both technical and people management skills will enable them to achieve more for the renewable energy sector in the years to come.