This week, I had the opportunity to speak at Fleming Gulf’s Global Human Asset Expansion in Mining conference, in Toronto.

What I learned (and shared, at the end of Day 1, with the conference facilitator), was that mining firms are incredibly innovative when it comes to talent management – almost no other industry is facing such a dramatic gulf between the demand for a flexible, skilled workforce (spurred by fluctuations in commodity prices, aggressive targets for profit and production volumes, advances in technology that require new skills, and acquisitions) and the supply of labor; compounding high retirement rates of chief electricians, geologists, and mine superintendents, mining firms are increasingly losing key talent to companies in the Oil & Gas sector, and it’s not as though they can be replaced overnight.

As discussed by the opening day speakers, the fact is that the industry suffers from an image problem – much of the work is seen by recruits as low-skilled or manual, thereby deflating the number of potential candidates. And while global firms are committed to hiring local employees, one panelist shared that, where her firm operates, Tanzanians are leaving the country in search of higher pay. Those who are hired often come from cultures unused to the highly visible emphasis on safety, structure, and regulatory procedures.

However, it’s not all doom and gloom. The modernization of the industry’s technology is a draw to engineers and technicians and new hires are excited to be working for strong management teams at well-run companies.

In fact, I was very impressed with the innovation demonstrated by HR teams in adapting to local customs and building global talent pipelines. For example:

  • Publicly recognizing unskilled employees who achieve technical proficiency via colored helmets (graduating from green to yellow, for example)
  • Over-investing in diversity (particularly female and aboriginal employees) as a mission-critical necessity, rather than a nice-to-have option
  • Correlating performance score distributions with profits (higher profits should equate to a greater percent of employees with scores above the median)
  • Embedding knowledge handover programs for roles with high levels of turnover
  • Creating learning and development guides for every competency used in assessing performance

Across the board, workforce analytics was cited as a topic of interest. That said, during my presentation, a significant majority of the attendees rated themselves as a Level 1 (of 3) on the maturity scale, essentially delivering ad-hoc reports rather than conducting analysis of the data and/or strategic workforce planning.

Given lean HR resources and constant quest for operational efficiencies, I believe that the opportunity exists for mining firms to take advantage of workforce analytics & planning techniques that enable even more precise investments in gap-closing strategies.

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  1. Luke Marson

    Interesting insights Mick and I’m sure perception has an impact on many industries that increases the recruiting and retention efforts of organizations.

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  2. Jelena Perfiljeva

    Liked the headline and was actually quite interesting to learn about the mining industry HR challenges. And there was no sales pitch for SAP software. Win-win-win! 🙂

    You’re exactly right about the image – most people probably still associate the mining industry with Flintstones. 🙂

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