Exploring Iluka Resources’ journey towards a more diverse workforce, and the benefits that change is delivering
Following a review of its business in 2010, mineral sands miner Iluka Resources Ltd (Iluka) identified workforce diversity as a key focus for the company.
This review led to a diversity committee being established in March 2011. Iluka’s Managing Director David Robb chairs the committee which meets quarterly.
The diversity committee was formed to develop a diverse, sustainable and high achieving workforce and has identified various opportunities to facilitate this, including:
- promoting diversity awareness within the company
- integrating workplace diversity principles into company activities
- supporting skill development
- attracting, developing and retaining more female and indigenous employees
as well as people of varied ages
- create a flexible workplace culture that aids employees with balancing their responsibilities.
This organisational-wide focus on diversity led to the establishment of company policy, including measureable targets for Iluka’s workforce. Iluka’s remuneration and nomination committee approved the policy in August 2014. It adopted a target of achieving 30 per cent female and 8 per cent indigenous employee participation by 2018. To achieve these targets, Iluka has implemented a values-based recruitment initiative.
After the success of this pilot, Iluka has decided to roll the program out across the company’s Australian operations
Iluka’s Narngulu Operations Manager Stuart Forrester established and piloted the values-based recruitment in his approach to hiring and retaining employees at the company’s Narngulu site near Geraldton in Western Australia. The success of this pilot resulted in Mr Forrester winning both the Chamber of Minerals & Energy WA Women in Resources Champion and Gender Diversity Champion in Australian Resources at the National Awards in 2014. Mr Forrester was the first male to ever receive the WA award. He was also the inaugural winner of the national award.
After the success of this pilot, Iluka has decided to roll the program out across the company’s Australian operations.
When Mr Forrester started at Iluka as Narngulu Operations Manager role in 2009, it was immediately clear to him that it was necessary to make changes to the male-dominated workplace.
In 2009, all operational staff at the Narngulu plant were male, and there were no indigenous employees. This contrasted starkly to the population of the nearest town (Geraldton), which comprised 49 per cent females and 8 per cent indigenous Australians.
Mr Forrester identified he was spending approximately 80 per cent of his time on 20 per cent of his staff due to behavioural issues, which he believed arose primarily from misalignment of core values. His goal was to reduce the time spent on dealing with employee behaviour in order to focus on business growth and the development of the workforce as a whole, which in turn he felt would result in a lift in overall performance.
According to Mr Forrester, it takes far less time to upskill an individual than attempt to change a person’s core values and behaviours. Values are entrenched within a person’s core identity. Although behaviours can be modified and altered, this requires significant time.
Mr Forrester determined that in order to ensure a workforce with the right values and behaviours, he needed to alter the recruitment model to attract the right people, including more women and indigenous employees. This approach fundamentally altered the recruitment strategies at Narngulu.
Mr Forrester worked with Iluka’s human resources department to alter the job criteria to attract applicants’ without mining experience and modified the interview process with questions that explored applicants’ commitment, integrity and responsibility, which are Iluka’s core values.
Because he was taking on less skilled workers, Mr Forrester had to implement a solid process for upskilling. This involved improving training systems so they would meet the needs of new recruits who held the right values and behaviour, but would require more training to perform their jobs.
The Standard Operations Platform (SOP) was developed and is now recognised as best practice within Iluka. A SOP provides guidelines to the operators on how to achieve optimal plant performance based on extensive test work and plant modelling. The processing plant now has little variability hour to hour and across shifts, which has resulted in a higher rates of production, improved recoveries and a reduction in non-conformances.
A Nationally Accredited Certificate III in Resource Processing was established. It assists in alignment and steady plant operation, aims to up-skill the workforce as swiftly as possible and consists of more than 100 assessment tools.
Additionally, plant manuals were compiled to provide information required to operate the plant and assist with the completion of the Certificate III knowledge assessments.
The quality of operational Safe Work Instructions (SWIs) was improved. SWIs are an important tool in keeping employees safe, particularly new starters, and are aligned with Certificate III skills assessments.
In addition to improving training systems, Mr Forrester spent time coaching individuals and groups within Narngulu operations teams to break down potential barriers and gain understanding and acceptance of the program.
Iluka Resources reaping the rewards
The benefits of the values based recruitment materialised quickly with the number of female employees at Narngulu increasing from 16.5 per cent in 2012 to 24.5 per cent in 2013. During a two year period, the number of women in production crews at Narngulu has gone from zero to 20 per cent. Instead of one demographic with similar backgrounds reinforcing certain dominant behaviours, Iluka’s Narngulu operations now have male, female and indigenous employees of different ages and from a range of backgrounds. Although expertise and experience is varied in new recruits, behaviour standards are now much higher.
The positive outcomes of recruiting the ‘right people’ have been profound. The tangible benefits include:
- Record production at Narngulu within 12 months of implementing the altered recruitment strategy
- A substantial lift in employee engagement (Right Management survey) from 48 per cent in 2012 to 86 per cent in 2014; this compares with a mining industry average of 38 per cent and an average of 58 per cent for high performing companies
- Significant improvement in safety culture with total recordable injury frequency rate dropping from more than 42 in 2009 to 4.16 (current)
- Step change enhancement in quality control with an average of 4 per cent off-grade sales parcels across 2008-2009 reduced to zero parcels off-grade from 2012 to current.
Between 2010 and 2012, there has also been a 200 per cent increase in new ideas generated from a continuous improvement program compared to the prior corresponding period.
Mr Forrester has worked actively with the Clontarf Foundation (www.clontarf.org.au/), which Iluka is a partner of, and the SHINE programs to increase opportunities for female indigenous youth in Geraldton. SHINE aims to empower girls at risk of falling out of the education system by developing confidence and wellbeing in its young participants through a structured experiential learning process. Iluka became a major sponsor of the program in 2014 and Mr Forrester became a chairperson of the SHINE board.
The partnership between Iluka and SHINE has proved successful with the company recently employing school graduate (and SHINE participant) Rhiannon Mourambine in a trainee administration officer position following her previous work experience at the site.
Diversity focus across the organisation
After the success of the program at Narngulu, Iluka is rolling out the values based recruitment across its Australian operations. Iluka has also initiated a gender pay equity review and promotes the ability to purchase additional leave for greater workplace flexibility.
Mr Forrester is not the only Iluka employee to be recognised for their commitment to diversity. Erin Kinnealy, from Iluka’s North Capel operations, was one of three finalists in the Outstanding Operator/Technician/Trade Woman category at the 2014 CME Women in Mining Resources awards. Ms Kinnealy was recognised for her efforts to proactively gain operational and business experience while encouraging continuous improvement and collaboration on site.
Ms Kinnealy is continuing onsite mentoring for Iluka’s female employees in the North Capel area. She is also North Capel’s representative at the Ricky Grace Girl Academy in Bunbury, Western Australia, which supports young indigenous girls’ education, employment and training.
Additionally, Chief Executive Women recently recognised Iluka’s Project Generation & Geological Services Manager Alison Morley as one of three Western Australian women for her leadership initiatives. Ms Morley is also a former Chair of WIMnet.
In late 2013, the Minerals Council of Australia awarded four scholarships to women working in the mining industry to enable them to study a Company Directors’ course in 2014. One of the winner’s was Iluka project manager Miriam Stanborough. The scholarship enabled Ms Stanborough to complete the Australian Institute of Company Directors’ Company Directors course in 2014.