Diversity dominates workforce management trends

Rio has built a diverse workforce at Weipa. Pictured is crew leader Craig Wone and community relations advisor Lucy Warren. Copyright © 2017 Rio Tinto

Diversity and inclusion dominate discussion when it comes to workforce management in mining these days.

Most resources companies have established strategies that support these trendy human resources considerations in recent years.

The diversity pursuits of BHP have so far set the standard, with the company last year famously announcing it hoped to make 50 per cent of its workforce female by 2025.

BHP reported in September that its workforce had grown to be more than 20 per cent female after it hired around 1000 women during the 2017 financial year.

The miner also nearly halved its female turnover rate to 4.7 per cent during fiscal 2017, while also increasing the number of female leaders at the company to 18 per cent.

Deloitte national mining lead Nicki Ivory described the diversity and inclusion push as a rising trend in mining that had continued to emerge since the company released its 2017 Tracking the Trends report in February.

Ivory said the diversity conversation now came up frequently, with companies setting up committees and holding events to promote the strategy.

“The hardest part is: are the actions keeping up with the talk (about diversity)?” Ivory questioned.

Ivory doesn’t expect that there has been a major change in the proportion of females or Australian Indigenous people at mining companies just yet, but believes most of them are taking the right steps to make a difference.

“It is a slow burn,” Ivory said. “It is not possible to change something like this overnight and you have to stay on track with it.

“But I have been encouraged with the number of actions that have been taken to set up the appropriate conversations internally (at companies) to have people focused on it.”

Several elements of another trend that Deloitte highlighted in 2017 – The Digital Revolution – are helping mining companies build diversity and inclusiveness in their workforces.

Ivory said companies were focused on how they could include their human resources strategies in the digital transformation projects they were undertaking at operations.

Miners are now often working with technology companies to not only digitise their company, but also transform how they work, with diversity and inclusion being considerations in this process.

South32’s three-year partnership with tech company GE to develop a technology roadmap and activate its digital transformation is an example of this.

The companies have been transforming South32’s operations so the miner can make fast, informed decisions, while also identifying how the company can optimise entire operations.

South32 chief technology officer Ricus Grimbeek said the partnership provided an opportunity to transform the way the company worked.

Ivory said a big part of the digital mining revolution was the impact it would have on people.

“Out of that, the whole diversity and inclusion conversation becomes an integral part,” Ivory explained.

“If you want to attract people with digital skills into a mining company you have to go about things very differently.

“It is the same if companies want to attract women into the industry – things have to be done differently. You have to restructure shifts and also have a different mindset.”

Ivory expects these digital mining and human resources trends to continue their convergence as the strategies evolve.

“We are seeing these conversations merge as companies determine the type of people they want to employ and the type of skills they are going to need,” Ivory said.

“Some companies that are more advanced with their digital projects are definitely including workforce diversity and inclusion in their digital strategy already.”

The next challenge, Ivory added, will be figuring out how to attract these types of workers to the mining industry instead of renowned tech companies like Google or Apple.

This article also appears in the November edition of Australian Mining.