Business In Vancouver: The War for Talent; The issue you probably aren’t talking about

Mining Recruitment: Andrew Pollard

The war for talent: The issue you probably aren’t talking about

It should come as no surprise that as a mining industry executive recruiter I’m looking forward to the next five years, because business will be robust.

Is it because I see myself as an outstanding consultant providing an unparalleled level of results-based service? Well, partly (depends who you ask).

But the real reason is because the demographics of the industry dictate business will be robust.

As I am sure you are already aware, the baby-boom generation is approaching the first wave of retirements.

What you might not know is that the workforce in the mining industry has a higher average age than any other industry in Canada, and, on average, over a third of the workforce will be eligible to retire in the next five years.

In almost all skill categories the number of Canadian mining workers over age 50 is two to five times the number below age 30.

When you pair up this tidbit of information with another observation – the fact that during the early-to-mid-1990s not many people entered the industry – you can safely say that there will be a war for talent the likes of which the industry has never seen before.

The micro-cap explorers as well as the large-cap producers will feel this gap created by an outpouring of experienced and skilled workers.

There will likely be a noticeable drop in productivity and a hampering of future expansion opportunities.

Those professionals in the industry with the relevant experience to fill the shoes of retirees will be highly coveted, and will have a constant target on their back from other companies trying to poach them.

Bearing this in mind, what are those at the helm of resource companies to do?

The old adage “The first step to solving the problem is admitting you have one” would be appropriate here.

In speaking with my clients, it is clear that at some level they all seem to understand that this might be an issue one day. No one seems to have internalized yet that it is going to be an issue for everyone.

A few things to consider that may help your company weather the storm:

Succession planning. Common sense, right? Well, too bad, this isn’t very common. In fact, my firm regularly polls our database of mining executives and, when asked about it, only 30% say their company is involved in any sort of succession planning.

Mentoring. Those that are “green” in the industry are eager to learn, and, in speaking with the highly experienced, many are eager to teach. Leverage the resources you have in place now for the benefit of those that you hope to have in place for many years to come. Encourage new recruits to ask a lot of questions and encourage the industry veterans to answer them. Reward them for going out of their way to do so.

Knowledge doesn’t have to be lost when a key member departs; it can be passed down methodically if the right incentives are in place to do so.

Keep them engaged. If your employees aren’t fully engaged in what they are doing, they are likely finding unique ways to pass the time (i.e.: talking to people like me or scouring the Internet for opportunities). Only rarely do people leave jobs for more money.

The main reasons for leaving a job that I come across when speaking to candidates are stagnation and a lack of professional development or vision.

If employees are doing a good job in their current role, look to give them added responsibilities that might initially be outside their comfort zone, making them well-rounded and, down the line, they’ll be even more valuable to your team. If they are engaged and growing, they are loyal. If they’re not, they’re probably already in my database.

Always be on the lookout for good talent. Now is the time to be on the lookout. There is still good talent available; you just need to be in a position to act when you come across it. Make space for them and bring them on early. The time is now.

These are just a few suggestions among many that you can do to better position your company as the industry faces the demographic reality that waits.

The most important thing is to start having these conversations with your team now. If everyone knows the implications these trends could have on your company you will be one step closer to creating proactive ways to address them. •

Andrew Pollard is the president of the Mining Recruitment Group Ltd., a boutique executive search firm focused on the mining industry.

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