Canadian Mining Journal


What an HR manager can do in a downturn

Asking miners to work on their human resources strategy when the industry horizon appears to hold little that is positive may appear futile. But changes already underway in the employment market are going to impact on those plans, and when these times have passed, miners may be glad they did.

Previous talent wars were dire, but the industry survived with proven solutions.

This time the circumstances are different, and the old solutions may not be as successful. Hiring rapidly in an upswing, paying well and shedding staff on the downturn is already becoming an unacceptable model. The industry was accustomed to a (mostly) ample supply of homogenous talent, but engineering no longer attracts enough recruits. Mine schools are shuttered and reduced graduate intakes in prior downturns have created gaps in the supply of succession candidates for management positions. Families are changing, too: working spouses and shared parenting duties mean less willingness to fly in and fly out to mines in increasingly remote spots.

By the time the industry begins to turn, the baby boomers – for so long the go-to group, the “safe hands” of the industry – will be well advanced in their exit of the workplace. There are nine years before the last of that cohort hits 65, but plan on that experience being less available as the window closes, even as a stopgap. Several years on the golf course means that they are going to be out of touch and may have expectations of previous salary levels, making them an expensive alternative in the current environment.

Mining recruiting specialist Chris Stafford wrote recently about the importance of building bridges with educational establishments.

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