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Mining company embraces the next-generation workforce

Nov. 21, 2019
Newmont Goldcorp’s Bill MacGowan discussed the steps the mining company is taking to attract next-generation talent.

“We’re working on a cultural evolution to attract the next-generation workforce and female workers. The majority of today’s university graduates are female, and they have choices about where they’ll work.” Newmont Goldcorp’s Bill MacGowan discussed the steps the mining company is taking to attract next-generation talent. 

Management consultants at Bain & Co. list mining and industries such as oil & gas and utilities as having no cohesive strategy, just pockets of investment and experimentation around the edges.

“We’re behind in digital transformation, but working hard to catch up,” said Bill MacGowan, executive vice president of human resources (HR), Newmont Goldcorp, at the Metals & Mining Forum at Automation Fair 2019 this week in Chicago. Newmont Goldcorp is a 98-year-old gold and copper mining company based in Denver, Colorado, with annual revenue of about $10 billion, $31 billion market capitalization and a workforce of 34,500 employees and contractors.

By contrast, according to Bain, in industries such as manufacturing, consumer products, healthcare and airlines, digital is emerging as a key differentiator. Meanwhile, in industries like banking, retail, telco and media, digital is table stakes: digital strategy is embedded and there’s an inherent willingness to disrupt the core business.

Instead, Newmont Goldcorp “is disciplined, operations-focused, say what we’ll do and do what we say, and relies on continuous improvement," MacGowan said.

An evolving strategy

“We brought in a consulting company, and they identified six areas where we could benefit by focusing our efforts,” MacGowan said: an autonomous fleet of mine vehicles, advanced process control, operations support hubs, connected workers (wearable technology for safety and operational efficiency), advanced analytics, and the smart mine (maximum use of production data to optimally mine and process ore).

The company has since been rocked with a hostile takeover and eventual spinout, but during the next year, it consolidated its IT and operational technology (OT) departments, and MacGowan’s HR department has begun initiatives to:

  • Minimize employee losses through training, upskilling and development;
  • Demographically model to understand its management and workforce requirements through 2030;
  • Prepare leadership and management for a digital future; and,
  • Brief the executive leadership team (ELT) and board of directors for long-term evolution of the company culture.

“Every year, a human capital strategy is defined, discussed and approved by the board, and distributed throughout the company. It describes our shortages and needs, and what we’ll do about them,” McGowan said.

It’s an incremental approach, not a big bang. “When you want to build a billion-dollar mine in a remote location, a big incentive for local stakeholders is the jobs,” MacGowan said. “When we build a new mine, part of the value proposition we provide to communities is jobs, that we've committed to upskilling and training to minimize job losses so as not to create problems with communities or unions."

At the same time, "it's expensive to fly people to mine sites, house them in camps and feed them, and it's also hard on employees and families, so moving work where possible from the mine site is a good thing for the employees and the company," MacGowan said.

Concrete moves

In part as a strategy to attract talent, the company's North America regional headquarters was moved from Elko, Nevada to Vancouver, and its South American headquarters from Lima to Miami, Florida. “To prepare for our CEO transition, we defined the current talents and skills, and what we’ll need five and 10 years out—a future profile,” MacGowan said. “We used that to select what turned out to be an internal candidate, and to develop them for two years before their succession.”

The company also developed more capable definitions for other higher-level positions, including the chief information officer (CIO) and ELT. “The board can be a great ally, with members from industries outside of mining—utilities, healthcare—with more experiences in digitalization,” MacGowan said.

“We’re working on a cultural evolution to attract the next-generation workforce and female workers,” MacGowan said, changing from male and macho to diversified and inclusive. “The majority of today’s university graduates are female, and they have choices about where they’ll work. For us, it starts at the top, with five female board members and a female chair,” he added. “But we have a long way to go.

“We want employees to see us as a fair meritocracy,” McGowan said, where they can excel on their merit and still be themselves. “Our standards and policies must reinforce inclusiveness.”

Two years ago, the company added leave policy for mothers, fathers and care of the elderly, “which differentiates us from traditional mining companies,” MacGowan said. “We added transgender benefits, which helped our brand, and two miners chose to stay with us through their transitions.”

Research on Millennial and X, Y and Z generations shows they don’t like hierarchies, they want a team approach. “We’re still hierarchical, but we’re adjusting our procedures,” MacGowan said. “Younger employees want a company with a purpose, not just a job, money and security, like I did. When mining comes to a country, it can bring cultural change as people are empowered.”

The only movie that has a positive view of mining is “Snow White and the Seven Dwarves,” MacGowan said. “We want to change that.”

Consider your workforce as a whole, and don’t separate employees and contractors. “When issues arise, the public doesn’t see contractors as separate, they’re part of Newmont Goldcorp,” MacGowan said. “We’ll be tarred with the results, so we keep them safe.”

People realize digital revolution is occurring. Mining must move from the tail to the middle of the pack. “We’ll never be Google, but we need to stay abreast of improvements, and adopt them,” MacGowan said. “Managers must view inclusion positively. Otherwise, they’ll have attrition, and union issues.”

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