Retaining human assets key to staying ahead of the game

Recent apprentice sign-up, Jordan Mercovich-Brazell, with resource manager Sam Stevenson outside Minprovise's Welshpool HQ. Image: Minprovise

Minprovise’s 100 per cent growth in site service capability during the past year is matched by its strong employee retention rate. General manager Tony Sutton tells Vanessa Zhou how the company continually makes a difference.

When various industries are caught in the debate of who’s responsible for staff upskilling, mining services provider Minprovise has gone further to solve the dilemma.

In fact, upskilling was how the company survived the mining downturn in 2013.

Minprovise’s business was initially built on mineral processing advice (hence the name ‘Minprovise’), playing to its founder Graham Townton’s expertise in reducing the risk associated with operating and maintenance of crushing equipment.

“There was a pretty big need for advisory in the height of the [mining] boom, but then the iron ore price dropped in 2013 to 2014,” Minprovise general manager Tony Sutton tells Australian Mining.

“As companies’ need for maintenance dropped, we then had to change the way we operated.”

But the secret to Minprovise’s downturn-defying growth is its penchant to constantly challenge its people – with or without a mining downturn.

Between the financial years of 2014 and 2019, Minprovise grew from a 40-strong workforce working in full time capacity, to a 55-, 60-, 80-, 90- and 105-employee company this year.

While Minprovise’s ratio of labour to sales stayed pretty much the same, its casual workforce went from 250 to around 500 during the same period.

Minprovise has a vision to see its members grow from being at team leader, a supervisor, to a superintendent. Image: Minprovise


During the downturn, Minprovise brought in additional subject-matter experts in different areas, such as pumps, stackers and reclaimers, belt filters, apron feeders and vibrating screens.

Its subject-matter experts then trained those who merely focused on crushers to also master these other areas, expanding Minprovise’s area of expertise into project and capital works, fabrication and offsite repairs and bulk materials handling equipment, among others.

During the past 18 months, Sutton has sat in two tender meetings where he was asked to differentiate Minprovise, a company he’s spent six years with, from the next company vying for the opportunity.

“My answer to that was, if I’m not here for the next six months, it won’t matter, because we have a strong depth,” Sutton says.

“If our site services director is away for two months, it won’t matter, because someone else will step up and fill that role.

“When you look at crusher servicing as an example, there would be over 15 people [in a team] that you could go to when you’re having an issue with your crusher. And those same people are capable of training another individual in the finer experts of doing that work.”

At Minprovise, employees are part of succession planning to grow from being an apprentice, a tradesman, to a supervisor. Every member’s training advice is being looked after – there is always somebody to turn to. 

Today, Minprovise has 11 apprentices whom people in leadership are committed to train. This fulfils the company’s goal of making four apprentice positions available each year “because that’s the next generation coming through.”

“We are not run by an individual,” Sutton says. “We’re not one dimensional. And this runs a long way down the organisation.”

It’s not hard to prove that Minprovise’s greatest assets are its people. The company’s steady retention rate stands in stark contrast to the industry-shared struggle for talent.

Eighty-two per cent of Minprovise’s increase in supervisory roles this year (from 14 to 39) came from internal hiring. Ninety per cent of company apprentices end up securing full-time positions upon finishing. And 22 personnel – including supervisors and team leaders – are undertaking certificate four or diploma in leadership and management to move into senior level positions.

“If you want people to grow, they need to see that there’s room for growth,” Sutton says. “You don’t want them to become a number.

“It’s a two-way street, isn’t it? We can make the positions available and we can encourage people, but they have to do the work as well. We provide them feedback and those who want to make it will put the effort in.

“So I tell our clients – I tell everybody – we wouldn’t continue to grow like we are if we were a transactional company.”

Starting from day one, every team member is encouraged by team leaders to make a difference in the way things are done – that’s the strong Minprovise culture to do things in a better, and not safer, way.

This led to one of Minprovise’s crusher teams being recognised by a global mining group’s High Five team, which commended them for their safety innovation and practices in the elimination of working on live equipment and personnel out of line of fire while driving bowl into the crusher.

“We are not putting people out there so that they get paid an hourly rate,” Sutton says. “Our culture is about partnering with our teams and our clients to make a difference.

“And that is it for me. It’s about keeping people here, so you can actually build a culture and continue to grow as a provider of choice in the mining industry.”

This article also appears in the April 2019 edition of Australian Mining.

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