Global Mining Companies Have A Dilemma: Address The Skills Gap Or Face Huge Losses

The global mining industry is currently experiencing a “massive talent gap” and it will only get worse unless companies make s a visible shift toward organizational succession planning and talent management.  The global mining industry is experiencing the biggest wave of workforce retirements in 70 years as per the Mining Industry Human Resources Council (MIHRC). As much as 40% of the mining industry’s workforce is at least 50 years old and one third of them are expected to retire by 2022.

Professional development and transferring expertise to the next generation has never been so important. Succession planning and talent management are the buzz words at a time when candidates with at least 10 years experience or more are in desperately short supply.

As Workers Reach The Age Of Retirement, Companies Are Forced To Get Creative

Working well into the 60s and possibly 70s is the new reality. Each time a mature employee resigns or retires, organizations lose years of valuable knowledge, skills and experience. These losses are critical in the face of global talent shortages.

Companies who embrace succession planning are one step ahead. Harnessing the knowledge of the mature workforce means re-engineering or re-designing jobs to taking advantage of the last years of employment. One such way is to design mentorship programmes, a method becoming increasing popular in Singapore, to transfer knowledge to the younger generation and ensure continuity.

Leveraging the expertise and extensive experience of retired professionals by re-hiring mature workers on a contract basis, in an advisory role, ensures companies meet knowledge transfer needs. At the same time it creates an opportunity for an appealing work life balance for would-be retirees to explore a more flexible and rewarding phase of  professional life – one of the perks of enjoying good health and vitality into the 70s.

Mining companies will lose out if they don’t commit to practical ways to execute succession planning and talent development.  “The time taken to train a mining professional can be up to five years,” as per Mining Global Employment Review 2011, Faststream Recruitment. The industries failure to recruit and train during the tough times in the 1990s  has led to the current skills gap and the need for a renewed focus on training and development.

An Aging Workforce Means A Loss Of Accumulated Wisdom, Knowledge And Field Experience.

Failure to transfer those skills to a younger generation of workers to maintain and grow current levels of production is the biggest business risk a mining company can assume. Labor shortages means future mineral output will be constrained and that has bullish implications on prices.

Professional services firm Grant Thornton corporate finance director and head of mining advisory services Steven Kilfoil believes the issue is that there is no cohesive strategy on how to achieve and maintain skills development. Talent management and succession planning must take top priority if mining companies want to stay viable. This means applying financial resources  to practical, measurable and impactful strategies that ensure continuity.

Gold Fields is one example of a company setting the pace for change with their training initiatives surrounding development. Gold Fields set up a mechanised training centre last year at its South Deep mine in Gauteng with the goal of helping employees improve their operating skills.  Eddie Stonehouse, South Deep superintendent and head of the center says the new facility promotes the advancement of practical skills through simulations, lectures and theory.

Training centers, mentorship programs and 1:1 coaching are all viable ways to ensure the longevity and vitality of a company. Knowing which method is best requires a deep understanding of your company’s demographics and  talent management strategies.

For more information on succession planning and talent management contact Cowan Professional Services.