The top 5 talent trends in global mining
The global mining industry continues to navigate through volatility, including uncertain geopolitical landscapes and technological disruption.
At the same time, reputational issues and evolving expectations from key stakeholders around diversity and inclusion, sustainability, and environmental, social, and governance (ESG) standards are making it more important than ever for mining organisations to adapt and evolve.
A new report by Odgers Berndtson has found that a key factor in this evolution will be the industry’s ability to attract, develop, and retain top talent.
Based on input from more than 60 mining executives from companies such as Agnico Eagle, Anglo American Platinum, De Beers, IAMGOLD, and Newmont, here are the five core themes playing out globally:
Tackling a shrinking talent pool of younger workers
The mining industry has an age problem. It has a workforce consisting of predominantly older generations close to retirement with a limited pool of younger workers to replace them.
In Canada, for example, almost half of the present mining workforce is over 45 years of age. Moreover, a large number are set to retire in the next decade, according to the Mining Industry Human Resources Council.
The situation is a microcosm of the wider global landscape, which has resulted in organisations competing over a small global workforce of younger talent.
At the same time, these future leaders hold strong and generally unfavourable views of the industry, making mining careers a difficult sell to millennial and Generation Z workers.
To address this, mining CEOs have begun to reposition the mining career path with a more ‘purpose-driven’ narrative. By developing an underlying set of principles, they are focused on rewarding talent who exemplify the organisation’s values, thereby shaping a culture that is inclusive and promotes the right behaviours.
The increasing importance of the ‘company story’ has resulted in a spike in demand for CHROs and other HR leaders. Particularly those who have experience in building a purpose-driven culture and know how to align things like inclusion and diversity and ESG commitments with the talent strategy.
Using technology to attract talent
A challenge to attracting talent of any age is the location of operation sites. To address this, executives are investing in remote management technologies that enable employees to communicate over digital platforms regardless of where they are geographically.
The technology is also making it possible to conduct R&D and manage production from within popular cities, helping to avoid the need for employees to be on-site all the time. It is also opening up the mining career to those who can bring a different mindset and skillset to the industry, including those who are comfortable operating in a more high-tech environment.
While the current cohort of leaders is beginning to introduce this technology, the next generation of leaders expect it to be part of their day-to-day – an important fact that mining companies should build into their talent strategy.
Investment in leadership development
Slow career progression, an absence of growth opportunities, and an overall lack of succession planning, have all been identified as barriers to the retention and development of high-potential leaders key to the mining industry’s future.
The problem is so acute that executive teams are investing extensively in assessment and leadership development programmes.
This includes ‘stretch assignments’ that help build additional expertise and leadership potential; supporting the development of critical soft skills instead of just promoting people based on technical ability; and even going as far as creating new roles that will help their future leaders develop and stay engaged with the business.
It is also becoming common practice within the mining industry to use talent mapping as a way of identifying untapped potential and unleveraged skillsets within the organisation.
Searching for leaders with a new blend of skills
A critical part of talent planning for the future requires a deep understanding of what kind of leaders can successfully capitalise on technological innovation, lead remotely, and tackle socioeconomic issues like climate change and inclusion & diversity.
For many organisations this has meant seeking out a new breed of leader, with a blend of four specific competencies. These are: vision and strategic clarity, commercial understanding, agility, and empathy.
In practice, these competencies materialise in the form of a leader who is able to think beyond their own specialism to create greater value for the business and is able to pivot from problems rapidly, at the same time as being comfortable with not knowing or having all the answers.
These individuals can quickly embed certain behaviours to achieve results and are driven to create inclusive and supportive working environments where trust is the mainstay of the organisation. Ultimately, the mining leader of the future is empathetic and human.
Recruiting from outside of the industry
The competition for leadership talent is so strong that more and more mining boards are now actively recruiting leaders from outside of the industry. The advantage to such a strategy is that executive teams can improve their bench strength with new skillsets and outside-the-box thinking that they might not receive from someone with a traditional mining background.
Interim executives are also becoming increasingly common as a way of filling critical skills gaps and injecting new ways of working. In a world that requires innovation and creative thinking to overcome mounting levels of disruption, both these approaches to leadership talent acquisition are likely to yield invaluable results.
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