Managing the Mining Cycle Through Long-term Workforce Planning – by Lindsay Forcellini

Lindsay Forcellini is the Marketing & Communications Coordinator at Mining Industry Human Resources Council (MiHR)

Rapid economic change is a reality that makes strategic long-term workforce planning a challenge. In mining, workforce plans tend to focus on short-term operational objectives, rather than long-term strategic human resources management. In order to help manage the impact that economic cycles have on industry employment and meet future HR needs, an industry based, longer-term workforce strategy would be a significant asset.

Following a number of regional HR Forums across Canada, MiHR’s stakeholders have clearly expressed a need for timely, reliable, and relevant labour market information and resources for workforce planning to help mitigate the consequence of rapid and significant changes in the supply of skilled workers.

Broadly speaking, MiHR recommends a two-pronged approach in planning for the forecasted labour shortage. First, employers can continue their efforts to make the most of all available sources of talent. Strategies for this approach include creating a culture of inclusion in the workforce and increasing the representation of women, new Canadians and Aboriginal peoples. Second, the industry can increase productivity through investments in workforce training and development, combined with emphasis on innovation and support for technology advances.

Teck Resources Limited is an example of one Canadian mining employer that is taking a multifaceted approach to workforce planning. The company’s strategy is to first focus on understanding its workforce before identifying possible gaps and developing possible solutions, explains Jim Utley, Teck’s Vice President of Human Resources. 

Teck has a number of programs which demonstrate the company’s commitment to its employees and their training and development, such as its Graduate Diploma in Business Administration which, through a partnership with Simon Fraser University, offers MBA level courses relevant to Teck’s business needs. Since it was established in 1996, over 200 employees have taken courses within the program and 38 employees have completed all required courses for the diploma. Twenty-five of these employees are now working toward completion of a full MBA degree.  In 2009 the program was recognized by the Canadian Council on Learning under the Sharing the Flame: Recognizing Excellence in Learning program, which was designed to honour innovative and effective learning programs.

Another development program at Teck is the ‘Emerging Leader Program,’ a comprehensive leadership development program targeted at individuals who would have the potential to become senior leaders within the organization.  Development and mentoring programs focused on long-term investment in employees are recognized as key components of employee engagement and retention strategies.

“One of our key priorities is keeping our employees motivated and engaged,” Utley says.

Teck’s performance management program, ‘Building Strength with People,’ charts an employee’s progress and career ambitions. Employees and their supervisors have constructive conversations around performance, development and career planning. These conversations facilitate ongoing coaching and feedback and help employees set objectives to help them achieve their career goals.

“We know what keeps people motivated is knowing clearly what is expected of them and then getting feedback on their progress and being recognized for their accomplishments,” explains Utley.

Teck also has several programs in place to minimize employee turnover. The company closely monitors its turnover rate, conducts exit interviews and performs regular market reviews to ensure its compensation is competitive. In addition, Teck offers technical development, supervisory and leadership training programs to its employees.

 “Our commitment to employee development programs is a way for Teck to show our employees that they are valued and appreciated,” says Utley.

In addition to having a comprehensive workforce planning strategy, Utley stresses the importance of understanding your own workforce data, demographics and forecasts and says reliable labour market information is an important resource for the industry as we work together to address the skills shortage.
MiHR has developed two new resources to add to its suite of products, launching this fall the Canadian Mining Industry Employment and Hiring Forecasts 2010 report and Mining HR Forecasts to proactively address these challenges and help industry  by providing timely, mining-specific labour market information employers can utilize in their workforce planning.

Developed under MiHR’s Mining Workforce Information Network (MIWIN), these resources provide the most extensive research and analysis on Canada’s mining labour market and workforce planning to date. The report provides an economic overview of the Canadian mining industry and its labour market, as well as discussion on key labour market trends, including employment, labour productivity, educational attainment, employment relations, workforce demographics and diversity. Mining HR Forecasts is a website which includes an employment forecasting tool that allows users to generate custom reports for specific forecasting needs.

These resources are freely available at www.mininghrforecasts.ca. For more information, please contact MiHR at info@mihr.ca.

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