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Mining for Talent

With all economic indicators pointing to renewed momentum in the mining sector, the increased urgency to recruit and keep talent is being felt across the sector. From our conversations recently at PDAC 2015, the world’s largest mining conference, everyone, from Rio Tinto to Goldcorp, emphasized talent as essential to operational productivity and the leadership pipeline.

Globally, Deloitte is predicting the talent gap to widen, estimating that over the next decade at least one third of the current mining workforce will retire. This is particularly important in countries like South Africa, where mining and quarrying account for around 8.3 percent, and Canada, where mining represents 4.5 percent of the GDP—and 23 percent of Canadian exports.

To provide a snapshot of where current trends are heading, these statistics speak for themselves:

—The MIHR Council says that over the next 10 years, the mining industry’s projected hiring requirements      exceed 145,000 workers—over half the current workforce.

—The mining industry will need to hire over 67,000 workers in the next 10 years to replace retired workers.

—According to Statistics Canada and the MiHR Council, over 40 percent of the mining workforce is older than 50 years.  (Source: MIHR Council)

New challenges require new strategies

Historically, the industry has relied on high wages to attract talent. However, as we look into the future, it’s clear that we need to find new strategies to engage and appeal to a broader set of prospective employees. In addition to the milllennial challenge, diverse groups such as women, immigrants, and Aboriginal Peoples, remain under-represented in the industry. Women represent only 16 percent of Canadian mining, falling short of other natural resources sectors such as manufacturing, energy, oil and gas, utilities, and forestry. However, some companies are making great strides forward: earlier this year mining giant Rio Tinto set the goal of having women make up 20 percent of its senior managers by 2015, up from 14 percent last year.

From our perspective, there are five ways mining companies can close the talent gap:

Build reputation from the inside out: An organization’s reputation is essential to attracting and retaining a new generation of employee talent. Reputation starts with current employees. With Gallup noting that employee engagement is at record lows (13 percent globally), organizations should consider how their brand can be an accelerator, a filter to guide innovation and creativity, and a vehicle that inspires discretionary effort as a means to higher productivity, safety, and performance.

Tell your story proactively—not reactively: Whether mining companies value it or not, reputation matters. With demographic shifts, millennials entering the workforce, and the game-changing impact of technology, the industry needs to do a much better job telling its story transparently and doing so through non-traditional methods, like social media. While many companies engage public relations firms during a crisis, the real opportunity is for mining companies to go on the offensive. Mining companies have the opportunity to intentionally create, shape, develop, and manage their brand proactively, rather than let happen by accident.

Focus on millennials: In their careers, members of the millennial generation expect rapid progression and exposure to different facets of an organization to remain stimulated and engaged. Attracting and retaining millennials requires a different strategy, as they also place more emphasis on authenticity, purpose and meaning in their work than previous generations.

Improve CEO visibility: With a new generation of CEOs leading mining companies, there is a tremendous opportunity for CEOs to be more visible and vocal, and articulate a clear sense of purpose that drives differentiation. More than ever before, mining companies have incredible potential to leverage brand as a means to align the interests of current and prospective employees with those of the organization. Since CEOs are the face of the brand to all stakeholders—and now that social media has dissolved the barriers between the inside and outside of an organization—authenticity is key to building trust in leadership.

Engage current employees as your best brand ambassadors: An engaged employee is your best way to recruit new ones. Employee referrals have the highest applicant to hire conversion rate—only 7 percent apply but this accounts for 40 percent of all hires. In addition, referral hires have greater job satisfaction and stay longer at companies—46 percent stay over one year, 45 percent over two years and 47 percent over three years. Consider this: the average employee has 150 contacts on social media networks—100 employees means around 15,000 contacts (and possible candidates).

From our discussions at PDAC 2015, it’s clear that a new generation of mining companies are looking to their reputation—and brand—as powerful levers to enhance or focus talent strategies.

If you would like to contact Carolyn Ray about any of the statistics or opinions expressed in this article, please send an email to


Managing Director, Interbrand Canada
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