Creating cultural change in mining

Maria Joyce accepts her award from BGC general manager Allan Fidock. Credit: Photographic Memory.

Maria Joyce is passionate about the role she can play in shaping company culture.

Joyce, MEC Mining’s general manager – strategy and business development, is a strong believer in creating an environment that builds team capability and trust, while fostering collaboration.

She champions the culture within Queensland-based MEC, a role that helped guide the company through the mining downturn and now into an improving market environment.

Joyce regards diversity and inclusion as vital ingredients that create a culture that enhances mining companies.

Her team is likened to a tight-knit tribe that supports each other through the good and bad times by collaborating and treating each other with respect and integrity.

This impact on MEC’s culture has been recognised with the BGC Contracting Contribution to Mining Award at the 2018 Australian Mining Prospect Awards.

Joyce says her positions at MEC and as Women in Mining & Resources Queensland (WIMARQ) committee chair have allowed her to create the change she wants to see and help shape the future of workplace culture.

“I thrive on variety, big-picture thinking, and pushing the envelope on what can be achieved by an organisation,” Joyce tells Australian Mining.

“My role (at MEC) not only allows me to have a meaningful impact on the future of the business – I also have the opportunity to engage with our people, the community and industry to positively influence the culture of the sector and the communities in which we operate.”

The growth Joyce pursues around her through a positive culture reflects her own personal development as a mining engineer over the past 14 years.

After joining MEC as a consulting mining engineer on a drive-in, drive-out (DIDO) basis from Townsville, she worked her “heart out” to support clients at over 25 deposits both locally and internationally.

Her break with MEC came when she pitched an idea to the company’s directors and they gave it a go.

Joyce, who built a team from the ground up in a new market centre, pioneered MEC’s first feasibility study and took the project all the way through to implementation.

This experience, and the culture that was developed in the process, set the foundation for Joyce’s development towards her current role as an MEC general manager.

Joyce believes mining companies with a strong culture have concrete values and diverse leadership teams that never compromise on these standards.

“Our industry is rapidly changing; its highly cyclical nature makes it tough to attract and retain talent,” Joyce says.

“In my experience, mining companies with a strong culture are not only more collaborative and innovative – their teams are more resilient when confronted with change.

“They respond faster than their competitors, capitalising on good market conditions and embracing disruptive technologies – sometimes even becoming disruptors themselves.”

Joyce has a strict operating philosophy that she never compromises to foster the culture in her team.

She says the philosophy focuses heavily on collaboration and ensuring a high level of engagement so the team are on a journey together.

“It is important to me that MEC team members truly believe in the company vision and support our culture,” Joyce says.

“I get to know what makes them tick in order to understand how they can help achieve the company’s strategic objectives.

I thrive on variety, big-picture thinking, and pushing the envelope on what can be achieved by an organisation.

“This also allows me to support their development and growth – I care for them and am invested in their future.”

Joyce backs the role a diverse workforce can play in developing a collaborative and engaging culture.

She says the benefits of having diverse leadership are clear and that mining has started to move further in this direction.

“It’s definitely progressing – there are more opportunities for women in the sector than I have witnessed in my entire career – but there’s still a long way to go,” Joyce says.

“Now more than ever, the world is looking out for women and individuals from all walks of life in the workplace. It’s not enough for companies to talk about diversity in their mission statements – there’s an expectation that they deliver on that promise.

“Currently, women make up only 15 percent of our workforce in non-traditional roles, which means that businesses are missing out on such a huge talent pool.

“It is time to be bold, challenge the status quo and raise our expectations of the sector.”

Joyce urges the next generation of female mine workers to take the same ambitious attitude to the profession that she did 14 years ago.

“If you are passionate about a career in this sector, go out and get it. Don’t let any social perceptions or the ratio of men to women stop you,” Joyce says.

“To me, these factors are just noise and they didn’t enter my mind once when I took up a mining engineering degree.”

Joyce hopes to use the Prospect Award as a platform to reach a wider audience that will help take her contribution to mining to the next level.