War for talent in mining heating up

The end of the mining boom does not mean victory in the war for talent, says an EY report.

Instead, the firm says it’s merely a ceasefire—and companies must maintain a focus on talent to minimize risks presented by more enduring trends.

“During the boom years, many mining companies hired talent at any cost,” says Bruce Sprague, EY’s Canadian mining and metals leader. “Now, as cost-cutting exercises mean there are fewer jobs to fill, the best people are able cherry-pick the top roles in a global marketplace, and in other sectors as well. Now more than ever, mining companies must not lose their focus on talent management.”

Read: Retention and talent management

EY’s report notes things such as an aging workforce, globalization and disruptive technology are all affecting the future supply of talent. Amid these trends, without a strong focus on talent management, companies are faced with two significant risks: a loss of wise, senior and experienced people from the sector and significant talent shortage in the next upturn.

“In the past 10 years, we’ve seen more semi-skilled people in skilled roles,” he explains. “It’s not a sustainable way to resolve the labour productivity challenge. You can’t underestimate experience in this sector. It’s critical to have the right people in place who can lead projects based on first-hand experience.”

While labour productivity programs are important, mining companies should focus on the acquisition, maintenance and optimization of human capital.

“Companies must optimize their inventory of skills for their most valuable projects, and implement robust people programs,” Sprague adds. “Retaining the right people is becoming a key competitive advantage in this sector.”

Read: Energy industry faces talent crisis

EY’s report notes that senior, experienced mining professionals are best positioned to lead the sector through this period of turbulence because they have the right skills, deep knowledge of the mine and the sector and have “seen it all before.”

“The demand for this senior, experienced mining professional is growing,” says Sprague. “But the reality is that the supply is decreasing. Those companies that are innovative and flexible in how they effectively attract, retain and grow talent will be the ones to realize productivity gains now—and position themselves to win in the next upturn.”

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