Digital Issue 7

Has workforce diversity gotten better or worse during COVID-19?

  • By IMARC

In 2019, Shelley Roberts, Managing Director of Compass Group and Board Director at AMMA, spoke to the International Mining and Resources Conference (IMARC) audience about workforce culture and change management. In her presentation, Shelley referenced the AMMA Mining Workforce Report, which forecasted that by 2024 an additional 20,767 on-site mine workers will be needed to support $41 billion in new projects.

Shelley Roberts.

‘This growth will be facilitated by advanced technology. Jobs that previously relied upon manual labour will now be automated. The typical blue-collar miner will need to be replaced by young millennials with advanced technical and cognitive skills,’ she said. ‘These people possess different social values and workforce expectations and are already forcing major change in traditional employer-employee relationships. They value lifestyle over money and assess the suitability of an employer based upon their sustainability credentials.’

She referred to this as an opportunity.

‘The mining industry will face significant challenges securing the pipeline of skills to support future projects unless we make significant change to our workforce culture,’ she said. ‘The challenge is, how do we attract a gender-balanced millennial workforce with the desired technical expertise to work in the remote mining sector?’

The IMARC team caught up with Shelley this week and asked if she believed this industry challenge has gotten better, or worse, especially amidst the COVID-19 period.

‘The challenge around workforce diversity and a changing demographic is certainly still a very present and real challenge for the industry. It is not something that will be solved overnight and will require ongoing focus for many years to come,’ she said. ‘While COVID has certainly slowed down some progress in terms of changing operating models and adapting village environments, we have still seen progress from many of the companies we work with – particularly those that had made a conscious decision to address the challenge pre-COVID.’

‘For me this is a really encouraging sign for the future of the industry,’ Shelley said. ‘As an example, we have been working with one of our key clients to completely redesign the community experience, food experience and employee training to adapt to a changing workforce demographic. This started pre-COVID, and even through the challenging times of the last few months we all remained focused on the change agenda while still adhering to COVID response requirements. Security in villages has been improved, new food offers mobilised, facility redesigns planned and much more.’

In 2020, Shelley will be addressing IMARC Online audiences on the theme of community and engagement; a topic that remains extremely important for the industry.

‘At IMARC Online this year, my discussion will cover a range of case studies and shared learnings on community engagement activities within regional Australia. In this sense, community refers to the community within the mining operation and the community in which they operate,’ she said. Shelley intends to ‘look at various engagement outcomes from employment to business incubation, community wellness and skills development.’

‘I will also talk to how working as a collective instead of individual entities produces the best results for the broader community.’

When asked why this topic, especially when so many areas are important this year, of which many fall under the Compass Group umbrella of services and interests, Shelley said, ‘It is important for many reasons, but the reason I have decided to focus on this area in 2020 is threefold:

  1. it is a core to our purpose at Compass to have a positive impact within the communities we operate
  2. we would like to see the mining industry turn the table on the perception of FIFO and mining operations to that of a positive one
  3. it builds on the challenges from last year of attracting a new workforce through a demonstrated social purpose.’

How, if at all, has Compass Group, who care for 25 000 miners every day at 100 mining sites and offshore rigs across Australia, had to change the way it operates during this challenging period?

‘Our purpose at Compass, irrespective of whether it is a mine site, a corporate office, a school or a healthcare facility, is built on bringing people together through food, wellbeing and support activities,’ she said. ‘COVID meant a complete rethink of our service models across the board to meet social distancing and hygiene requirements, as well as responding to individual sentiment and feelings of personal safety.’

‘To name just a few, actions we’ve taken include:

  • moving health and wellbeing programs rapidly to a digital environment for easier access while at work, home or in isolation
  • creating tools for virtual training
  • developing virtual safety tools to allow safety interactions and field leadership to continue even when site visits aren’t possible.’

‘We continue to innovate and adapt today and believe this will remain for some time to come as we all adjust to the next normal.’

Shelley Roberts will be speaking at IMARC Online within the Community & Engagement session on Thursday 26 November. She will be joined by her colleague Brett Craig, Executive Director, Business Development who joins a panel discussing how technology and innovation are assisting the health and safety of employees across the mining and resources’ sector.

As a Founding Partner of IMARC AusIMM are also pleased to be hosting a panel discussion on diversity and inclusion to be held online at 6pm AEDT on Wednesday 25 November. Bringing together industry experts: Sara Prendergast (CPA, GAICD, MAusIMM), Giulia Savio MBA, Katie Collins (Yamaguchi), Stacy Hope, Ph.D and Harrison Turner to discuss the global importance of diversity and inclusion in delivering economic and social prosperity, supporting community sustainability and resilience, and maximising opportunity.

IMARC Online runs from 24-27 November and this year, for the first time ever, attendees can access the conference presentations for free. Claim your free expo and content pass here.

For further information please visit imarconline.com

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