Retaining culture in a joint venture

At the 2023 IPF in Baltimore, our Business Development Director Jeff Anderson chaired a panel of senior figures from the leading US offshore wind developers and solutions providers.

In the third part of this series, key figures from Vestas, Attentive Energy, RWE Renewables and Atlantic Shores share their real-world insight on growing corporate culture from the ground up when embarking on a new joint venture, and integrating team members from different sectors as they transition into offshore wind.


Jeff Anderson
Everyone on the panel has been involved in a joint venture at some stage – how do you retain culture when two organizations are coming together to form something new?

Damian Bednarz, Managing Director, Attentive Energy
There should be a whole panel on relationship counselling, and the different phases of the relationships! (laughs) In the beginning it’s about setting up, almost like chores in a relationship. It’s like – I’m responsible for this, you’re responsible for that – and this is a natural development. Sure, you create governance, and you create systems and processes, but at the heart of it, you have to establish the values and principles. Because if you don’t have that within a joint venture, it’s chaos. It is so important to get all those critical points right.

Have conversations on the strategy and day-to-day things. But ensure that where you’re headed, what’s at your core, is the same. That’s important in joint venture relationships, and as you bring new folks on, make sure they going to fit well within your culture.

Nathalie Jouanneau, JV Strategy & Portfolio Manager, Atlantic Shores
We’re in transition right now because we’re growing, and we haven’t finished growing. So one of the big questions right now: how do we keep that culture of a start-up? But we also need structure, and we need clear responsibilities.

When you start a joint venture – I was certainly an example of this – you have an interest in everything, and you want to help with everything. You pick up jobs and scopes because nobody else owns them yet. And then you find you have four jobs! That doesn’t work in the long term. So you bring in more talent, then you spread it out, but you also lose a little bit of control.

You then have to learn, through the power of delegation, how to create a culture of trust. So there is definitely an organizational strategy to define. There are some processes to set up – although you don’t want to create a mammoth number of processes.

One of the things that boosts retention and keeps our people interested is that within our joint venture, we try to ensure that everything is 50/50, not just funding. It’s also: how do we get 50% of our workforce from Shell, and 50% from EDF Renewables? This is where this first transfer at scale actually happens. We have people coming from oil and gas, where they are heavy on processes, with a lot of procedures, with a lot of knowledge, and this is all really necessary for a large infrastructure project. 

And you have the developer side – with a developer mindset and onshore expertise. At first, when they talk, they think: “we don’t speak the same language!” But pair them together – for example, you pair an onshore wind project manager with a risk manager from oil and gas.

And these people are able to understand the benefit of each other’s experience, and to pair, to exchange knowledge. And then out of this, after a year, you end up with a program manager for renewables who understands offshore risk, and how to manage the supply chain, and how to make it work with the other ocean users.

So it’s all really interesting and it happens at this micro-level within our company. And that’s part of the attractiveness of the joint venture structure that we have.

When you move into a new sector, if you come from oil and gas, you may be worried, like: what is offshore wind, does it actually have a future? But then you absorb the excitement and enthusiasm from an experienced renewables campaigner. And you understand and learn from them, and you realise that you have the same job that you had, it’s now in another industry. You have it in a new context with new people, who you’re learning from every day. 

Read part one, with real-world insight on offshore wind hiring strategies and scaling-up journeys.

Read part two, on retaining talent and nurturing corporate culture

Read part four, on training strategies for new team members transitioning into offshore wind.

Read part five, on attracting the right talent.

Read part six, on salary and compensation.

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