Mining people leave other people, not mining companies


In recent years the mining employment market has generally ebbed and flowed roughly as follows:

Several years back (pre 2011)

Massive demand/inadequate supply

  • Poor and hurried hiring decisions.
  • Bad job seeker behaviour.

The years straight after the boom (2012-2014)

Negative demand

  • Pay Cuts.
  • Massive redundancies.
  • Large unemployment across many discipline groups.

The rebalancing (late 2014 – early 2016)

Demand/supply in balance across some disciplines

  • Opportunity for astute employers and company owners with a solid medium to long term business plan and vision to attract good people at reasonable salaries.

So where next for mid 2016 and on?

  • Gold is clearly acting as a positive contributor to demand growth.
  • The rest of the industry is starting to need technical project studies resources again, admittedly only on contract, but the demand is there nonetheless.
  • Another generation of good people have given up looking and left the industry forever.
  • If things continue as they are it is likely that even without much more of a shift in demand growth, we will again find ourselves where the less attractive employers with the harder projects will have left their run too late and will find themselves fighting over a smaller and smaller pool of the best candidates.

What this means for mining industry leaders/managers

Previously in the re-balancing phase, companies had downsized with the GMs and CEOs doing everything. The top executives debated, set and then enacted strategy directly.

This required them to deal directly with all their financiers, investors and employees directly.

As a result, the good ones influenced all of these groups positively, by their own force of will.

(Keep in mind, most of these companies were the ones picking up or renovating distressed assets in times when others couldn’t. They were the believers and the forward thinking visionaries.)

As things move on and some of these businesses mature, the role of another level of frontline leaders and managers will again become more important, thereby somewhat diluting the CEO’s message.

Part of the risk that comes with the CEO’s message being diluted, is the idea that people leave people, not companies. If a great employee felt positively motivated because they were employed directly by the CEO but he or she is now three levels in the
organisation structure away, then they won’t necessarily stay loyal to that ‘company structure’. Their direct manager or supervisor will have a much bigger influence in how connected they feel and therefore how loyal they will act.

This point is driven home by a great book by Warren Bennis entitled ‘On Becoming A Leader’.

Amongst other things it laid out a list of great differences between a manager and a leader that are worth reflecting on as we all build and in many cases rebuild our companies off the back of the great mining bust of the early 2010s.

Not that I think we will ever go back to the crazy times, but nor do I want that. It was just that - crazy and impossible!

What we will get back to though is a place where the demand-supply equation between employers and job seekers in niche industries such as mining, will return to where it inevitably spends most of its time; that is in a state of permanent, structural, talent shortage.

If you believe that — and the evidence of hundreds of years of mining development categorically confirms it — then in many cases the quality of frontline leadership and management you put in place will become as critical to you business success as your boardroom strategy.

Sometimes a person is both manager and leader, but many times they are not! In all cases though, businesses need both. Sometimes you will find them both in the one body and sometimes you won’t.

To help you decide what you have got and what you need, check out this month’s Top Tips Stats and Facts for that list of differences as quoted in Warren Bennis’s book.