2 big mining recruitment trends to watch for in 2024

Mining recruitment is changing rapidly in response to both market conditions and technology. Here’s what recruiters need to look out for in 2024.

The end of the year is a natural time for a bit of crystal ball gazing, so let’s take a look at what the next 12 months might involve for those of us who work in mining recruitment.

We asked our team what trends they were picking up on, and what they thought 2024 would mean for recruiters in the mining industry. They identified two big themes.

Employee Value Proposition

We all know the mining jobs market is tight. It has been for several years now. That’s a fact that’s not going anywhere for the foreseeable future.

Here’s what a major report by McKinsey, published in February, found:

“Mining companies are experiencing a talent squeeze: 71% of mining leaders are finding the talent shortage is holding them back from delivering on production targets and strategic objectives. Indeed, 86% of mining executives tell us it is harder to recruit and retain the talent they need versus two years ago—particularly in specialised fields such as mine planning, process engineering, and digital (data science and auto­mation). We expect this trend to continue. Mining is not currently an aspirational industry for young technical talent to join: there has been around a 63% drop in mining engineering enrolment in Australia since 2014.”

High salaries aren’t attracting the talent any more

In the past, mining companies tackled this problem by using huge salary packages to coax and cajole qualified people into joining the industry. But in 2023, we started to notice that strategy was no longer enough. There’s such a skills shortage through the whole economy that people can earn good money anywhere—often without having to leave their families and live remotely for half the year in a hot and dusty mining camp.

Job candidates are looking for more now. What matters is the total employee value proposition a mining company can offer.

What is an employee value proposition?

Employee value proposition is defined as: “A statement of the values, rewards, recognition, support, and company culture that an employer gives employees, enabling them to do their best work and achieve their highest potential”.

In other words, candidates aren’t just looking for a job; they’re looking for a partner in their careers. If you want to attract the best talent, it’s about much more than the cash you can throw at them. It’s about everything else you can offer, too: work-life balance, career development opportunities, personal growth. It’s also about who you are as a company: your values, your mission, your culture, your attitude to the environment, the way you treat your employees.

Candidates really care about EVP

Believe us when we say, candidates are genuinely asking about this stuff now. It’s not enough to pay lip-service to it. Jobseekers are doing their research. It’s something we highlighted back in August, during Diggers and Dealers, when MPI Mining Engineering Consultant Emma Lewin said: “There’s been a shift. You can’t just throw out buzzwords like collaborative and supportive and diverse. It’s not enough. Candidates want to know what the expectations are from day one. Is there a structured onboarding plan? Will there be support and resources to upskill them in areas of development?

“(Mining companies need to) be honest about your culture and the journey you’re on. Clients are apprehensive to share anything like that with a recruiter and I think they’re missing an opportunity, because we’re the conduit between the candidate and them; we’re the one who can sell that story for them, if they just give us the information.”

The risk of poor EVP

We can’t impress enough how seriously candidates are taking EVP. This isn’t something you can fix with a little clever marketing. What we see with those who are disingenuous or try to be too clever by half (and talk the talk on EVP without walking the walk) is a poor retention rate. The mining workforce can afford to be highly mobile. They have options. If you promise and don’t deliver, there are plenty of other companies out there willing to offer the candidate what they’re looking for. In many ways, attracting the employee is the easy part—it’s keeping them that’s tricky. If you’re setting expectations, you have to deliver.

That’s not to say marketing doesn’t have a place at the table. It does. In a highly competitive market, you need to be standing out from the crowd—testing new messages all the time, to see what works. But then, whatever you’ve said, you need to deliver.

In 2024, this is going to be more important than ever.

AI and automation are going to change everything

When historians look back on the early part of this century, it may well be that 2023 is a landmark year—the year AI went from science-fiction to science reality. It’s already beginning to disrupt many industries and professions. In the year ahead, we’re very likely to see AI change the way we do mining recruitment, too. The machines are coming!

Harnessing the data

The first and most obvious application for AI in recruitment is the ability to really dive deep into the data—to uncover the hidden patterns in everything from the effectiveness of past recruitment campaigns, to attrition rates and employee performance data. It will help us create more effective candidate personas and recruitment campaigns, replacing gut instinct with actual insight.

Within a very short period of time, we can expect that AI will be used to streamline candidate filtering processes—analysing qualifications, work history, and skills to identify the best possible candidates for any given role as efficiently as possible. It will be able to benchmark candidates and identify top-performing employees, and result in more effective hires.

Eliminating bias and other filtration issues

We’ve come up with various strategies for blind recruitment over the years, to ensure our own unconscious (or conscious) biases don’t impact the recruitment process. But AI may provide a genuine solution to this thorny problem.

On the flip side of that, consider the impact on diversity within your organisation if the AI algorithm knew what your diversity goals were, and could identify more candidates who matched that intention.

Saving time and money

Over all, we can expect the addition of AI to the recruitment task to save a lot of time and money in the search phase. It should also result in a higher quality and number of applicants, more effective screening, and a better offer-to-acceptance ratio (although that also feeds back into the EVP discussed above, of course).

Notionally, with AI we should all be able to optimise our recruitment tasks but, at very least, we’ll have a very clear picture of the time and costs per hire.

We’re still going to need people

All of that sounds great but recruitment is about people and we believe, as great as AI might be, recruiting is always going to involve a bit of human judgement. Relationships will still matter. That old “gut instinct” will still matter. An algorithm can tell you a lot, but can it honestly choose which of two highly qualified candidates is the best cultural fit for your company? Maybe in the future, it will be able to but for now, human judgement—and a personal connection—still matters.

We’re a long way off from machines replacing recruiters entirely, but they can certainly help us improve the process. In 2024, we’re going to start to see just what that improvement will look like.

MPI has 30 years’ specialist experience helping mining companies find the best candidates across every job category. Find out more here or get in touch today.

Dan Hatch
Mining People International