How to retain staff in the mining industry


The challenge for HR professionals in mining is attracting top candidates and retaining talented workers.

Employees are the most valuable asset to any business but in mining they are the absolute backbone of the operation. High staff turnover can have far-reaching consequences. It not only means spending money on recruiting and training new employees, but it can also impact staff morale and productivity.

With multiple projects due to ramp up in Australia in 2018/19, candidates will be able to be more choosey about the companies they sign on with. The challenge for HR professionals, therefore, will not only be attracting the top candidates but retaining talented workers.

Like most other industries, one of the biggest reasons for mining workers changing jobs is job dissatisfaction. Happy, engaged, and productive employees stay with their organisations longer and reduce costs. Here’s how to retain valuable staff in the mining industry.

Create a healthy workplace

Many mining industry roles are FIFO, so employees live where they work for a great deal of the time. Therefore, creating a healthy, positive and supportive work environment is paramount. It can often be smaller things that make all the difference. Making sure workers have adequate mobile phone coverage and internet access to keep in touch with family, for example, can go a long way. If possible, try and make sure they have their own rooms and that the facilities are as good as they can be. They might work long hours, but that doesn’t mean all they will do otherwise is eat and sleep. Gyms and sporting facilities help keep employees healthy and give them valuable distractions.

Look for opportunities to improve shifts

While a FIFO roster is part and parcel of working a mining job, shorter rosters have been found to reduce staff turnover rates. An Australian Government study has found that deteriorating personal relations caused by extended periods away from home have a big impact. Almost 30 percent of mine workers said their work life interfered a great deal with their ability to develop and maintain friendships in the community. When an employee’s partner is unhappy with their working arrangements, there’s a higher probability the employee will leave their job. Around 20 percent of partners wanted their partners to get a non-FIFO role if possible. It’s not always possible, but where rosters can be shortened, it can make a huge difference in retention.

Reward and recognise

Employees want to not only know they are being paid what they are worth, but that their efforts are appreciated and recognised. So you need to keep an eye on the market and make sure the salaries your company is paying are on the button. However, aside from that, frequently recognising and rewarding good work is one of the easiest and most powerful staff retention strategies. Taking the time to say thank you or well done makes people feel valued, especially when it is accompanied by appropriate monetary rewards (such as a salary increase or a bonus) or non-monetary incentives, like the opportunity to lead a new project.

Offer opportunities for growth and advancement

One of the biggest drivers for people in the workplace is the opportunity for career progression. If an employee doesn’t see any chance to advance their career, they’re likely to go looking somewhere else. Offering new projects and challenges to high performers is the key to keeping them. You should organise meetings with them to discuss their goals and the skills they’d like to develop and see if you can offer them appropriate avenues.

Establish strong management and teams

Relationships with managers and co-workers are a huge factor in how happy and engaged employees are at work. Managers should communicate openly, offer frequent feedback and make sure that workloads are sensible and achievable. Sometimes excessive turnovers have little to do with the job, company, or environment and everything to do with the manager or supervisor. If a particular manager is losing high volumes of staff, it may be that they need additional training or support, or it might be that they just aren’t suited to the role. If that’s the case, you need to address it.

Conduct exit interviews

It’s a fact of business that employees will leave. But if you don’t know why, then it’s incredibly hard to form strategies to keep them. An exit interview is the last opportunity you’ll have to find out if there are significant things your company can improve to retain staff. You might uncover some valuable information or issues you didn’t realise existed. Use last interviews to identify problems and make changes to stem the flow.

If you’re looking for help to recruit and retain the best staff for your mining operation, get in touch with our team of specialist mining industry HR and recruiting professionals at MPi.

Stephanie O'Brien
Mining People International