Laws of attraction

A flexible work environment is just one strategy the mining industry is currently implementing in a bid to attract and recruit employees. Jessica Darnbrough writes.

Current labour market trends of low unemploy­ment, an ageing work­force and corresponding skill shortages are placing pressures on the mining industry’s ability to respond to increasing pro­duction demands.

With a predominately employee-driven market, indus­try is continually called upon to come up with new strategies for attraction and retention.

The Hays Salary Survey, released earlier this year, showed the skills shortage crisis had con­tinued to worsen across all sec­tors of the industry.

Skilled personnel, in partic­ular geologists, were in increas­ing demand due to the massive focus on exploration. Despite the market’s strength, however, the survey, which is responded to by over 1700 of the companies clients, showed salaries had begun to plateau.

There were, however, some exceptions.

Metalliferous geol­ogy saw some notable increases.

The maximum salary ranges increased for an exploration Manager in WA from $160,000 to $195,000, in Queensland from $155,000 to $180,000, in NSW from $145,000 to $155,000 in Victoria from $120,000 to $145,000 and in South Australia from $155,000 to $180,000.

The Mining Industry Skills Centre’s manager for strategic development Jenny Neumann told Australian Mining that increasing salaries was a tried and tested technique that has now been proven redundant.

“Salaries are already high and they are probably not sus­tainable in the very long term if something was to happen with commodity prices,” she said. “High salaries also encour­age poaching which isn’t assist­ing mine sites at all.”

Instead, Neumann said mine sites need to focus more on career development opportunities, work-life balance and a flexible work­ing environment in order to attract and retain necessary skilled labour.

“The mining industry must recognise that they have the low­est number of part time employ­ment opportunities of any indus­try and could be expanding this area.

“The industry needs to think about how they can provide work opportunities for the under employed population. They also need to extend employment opportunities to women. As it stands, most women exit the workforce at approximately age 24 and re-enter it at age 50,” she said.

According to Neumann, the industry also needs to address its lack of entry points.

Often those looking to break into the mining industry are unaware of the avenues avail­able to them.

There are over 70 different types of jobs across a minesite. However, the scope of jobs on offer is ill-represented.

Following the development of the Mining Industry Skills Strategy, completed in Novem­ber 2007, the Skills Centre released their first research paper titled Attract, Develop and retain: Ini­tiatives to Sustain a Competitive Workforce.

The report suggested employ­ers respond to their employees needs by defining clear, career paths in conjunction with offer­ing non-financial benefits like flexible working conditions.

Due to skilled, experienced employ­ees being scarce in supply and high in demand, training and career development initiatives, when used appropriately, can have a positive impact on attract­ing and retaining valuable employ­ees.

Train to retain Career development initiatives give employees the opportunity to undertake further training and personal development which in turn improves their knowledge, skills and abilities.

Such initia­tives give employees the oppor­tunity to move into other job roles hence leading to greater productivity.

According to Neumann, effec­tive strategies need to be imple­mented immediately to help ease the crisis before it reaches boil­ing point.

“I would classify what we have at the moment as a skills shortage rather than a labour shortage. Over time, the aging work force will serve to broaden the crisis to encompass not only a skills shortage but also a labour shortage.”

Neumann said mining com­panies need to start looking at their employees as an asset.

If companies were to look to their employees as a potential finan­cial investment, they could develop a path that would in turn max­imise returns.

“Recent figures released sug­gest a mine worker contributes $369,000 GDP per year, whereas in other industries it is $70,000,” she said.

Vale Australia’s Human Resources general manager Rebecca Wells told Australian Mining that not just mines but the industry as a whole needs to continue to work with industry organisations such the Queens­land Resources Council (QRC), government and education sec­tors to ensure a sufficient num­ber of skilled people are deliv­ered to the industry to help ensure its future.

“QRC’s Sustainable Resource Communities program is an excel­lent example of an initiative to address skills shortages by improv­ing conditions and lifestyles as well as infrastructure for min­ing centres,” Wells said.

“Resource businesses need to accept that there are options in this market for employees, therefore they have to add that something extra to the position to encourage and retain people.”

One method Vale Australia has implemented in a bid to attract and retain is to reward its employ­ees for recommending suitable applicants to the company.

“It is widely accepted that there is a skills shortage, not just in mining but in many sectors across Australia. While this is difficult to reconcile with the recent financial reporting in the papers, the fact remains, the resources sectors continue to per­form strongly and we are chal­lenged daily to look for new ways to attract and retain employees,” Wells said.

Rebecca Wells

General Manager, Human Resources

Vale Australia

07 3136 0941

Jenny Neumann

Strategic Development Manager

Mining Industry Skills Centre

0422 390 630

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