Staff Engagement in Mining: What Are Mining Companies Doing Differently To Really Keep Their Staff Motivated?
Posted: 08/24/2011 12:00:00 AM EDT | 0
With the global mining industry facing a skills shortage, holding onto talent should be at the top of the corporate agenda.
In Canada, 40 percent of the workforce will retire in the next 40 years, requiring 81,000 new skilled workers to enter the industry. In Australia, 58 percent of mining companies said they were understaffed in 2010, while the United States is also facing this challenge.
Research has consistently shown that employee engagement has a positive impact on the bottom line – and on retaining members of the workforce – both of primary importance to the mining sector.
Rio Tinto conducted its second employee engagement survey in 2010, questioning 51,000 employees in 15 languages across 43 countries, receiving a response rate of 64 percent.
From this research, it found three key areas which are the underlying drivers of employee engagement; leadership, external reputation and safety practices.
"Where levels of employee engagement are higher, performance on key operational and safety metrics is also higher," Rio Tinto noted.
Strategies to boost employee engagement fall into a number of key areas. For Rio Tinto, one of the current target areas is leadership.
"Globally, we are focusing on increasing the capability of our leaders to engage with and maximise the contribution of our people, especially among our frontline employees," it's 2010 annual report said.
Evidence of how this strategy pays dividends can be seen in the case of AREVA Resources Canada (ARC). Following the company's first employee engagement survey in 2006, it noted a number of key areas of improvement and enlisted the help of recruiter Hay to put together a strategy to improve levels.
Components of the project included a leadership development programme, focussing on helping management develop the skills needed to bring about change and develop skills, and an enhanced performance management system.
"This provided additional clarity by giving employees an increased line of sight and created an annual cycle of goal setting, coaching, mid and end of year reviews linked to rewards," Hay noted.
ARC also put in place a training and development strategy, noting the previously "training was sometimes seen as a cost or perk, rather than an investment, with approvals often based purely on individual manager discretion".
Three years later in 2009, the first results spoke for themselves. Overall employee engagement increased by 9 percent, employee turnover fell by 58 percent and there was a 70 percent decrease in the number of grievances recorded.
Xstrata is among the mining companies which have been making increased investment in training to boost employee engagement.
In its most recent sustainability report, the company noted in 2010 it increased its average number of training hours per employee across the group from 36.2 hours in 2009 to 41.7 hours. Expenditure on training also rose by 5 percent, from $63.5 million to $66.7 million.
The report noted a number of other employee engagement efforts being made, including suggestion boxes, exit interviews, intranet feedback mechanisms and monthly communications meetings.
"In line with our devolved business model, employee surveys are conducted regularly at the majority of our commodity businesses and their results are used to inform the development of business plans, human resource management strategies and working practices," it noted.
Boosting training and leadership development both have a proven track record in improving employee engagement, and in the longer term will help companies fill the positions soon to be left vacant by their ageing workforce.
Landelahni's report into the skills shortage noted that further investment in skills "is not just a scorecard measure, it's an economic imperative for a sustainable mining industry".
This is a responsibility which must be met across the board including senior management, it concluded, claiming: "Executive incentives should be aligned to increasing skills across the business, not just to advancing the bottom line."
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