The global mining industry is currently facing one of its toughest threats – a threat that few organizations are prepared to tackle and overcome – a worldwide skill shortage of qualified talent. It’s no different here in Canada where the Mining Association of Canada estimates that 10,000 new workers will be needed each year over the next decade to replace current positions and new ones. Quite simply, mining companies here and abroad are struggling to recruit enough people – be they geologists, mining engineers, metallurgists or other technical professionals – to fill standard job functions. And the really bad news is that the talent shortfall is set to increase over the next decade.
However, to understand how to overcome this recruitment conundrum we first have to understand what is causing it. In Canada, the recruitment challenges can be attributed to a convergence of four critical factors. The first being a decrease in the number of students training within this field and taking courses such as mining engineering and geology in combination with an ageing mining workforce. The second is the immigration legislation when it comes to the hiring of skilled and semi-skilled labour from outside the country – something that is quite hard to turn around quickly in Canada where being able to find someone suitable for a job could still mean that it may be months before they are legally allowed to work for the company. The third is competitive benefits provision – with the cost of living being higher here than in some outposts, making it less appealing to some recruits. And then the fourth factor is one that compounds the first three; the global surge in new mining operations that are being set up, more often than not in developing regions such as Kazakhstan or Mongolia, which means that more of our talent is looking at opportunities outside of Canada.
Understanding all these factors starts to paint a clear picture of why the Canadian mining industry, arguably more than any other sector, is facing this distinct skills shortage crisis. Recruiting and retaining a workforce with the requisite skills and experience is a complex problem to solve. It is for this reason that the ability to recruit strategically and retain key employees is becoming fundamental to many Canadian mining operations and undoubtedly fundamental to the future of the industry in the country.
Canadian mining organizations that want to overcome the growing recruitment crisis need to address it in five ways:
1. Understand the layout of the market and create talent maps
While you’re acting locally you need to be thinking globally. Organizations and HR professionals need to keep in mind the global nature of the mining industry and look beyond the borders of Canada. HR leaders need to understand how to identify skills gaps, not only within their own business but within the international market. And conversely they need to know where to find the talent they need – both now and for the future. To achieve this, they can create a global network of peers in the industry that can help them categorize talent shortages in different regions of the world – creating a talent map. This will help identify what skills shortages there are for their business and may help Canadian organizations plan better when it comes to keeping their own talent engaged.
2. Identify the best regional strategic approaches
In order to strategically plan the best recruitment approaches, you need to have in depth knowledge of the different regional talent landscapes and requirements. Having a local and global overview of talent gaps will enable you to develop best practice recruitment and selection toolkits for each region or sector you are operating in. This can take the form of a clear set of objectives that will ultimately bring the talent adopted into the business in line with the company’s corporate agenda. A strategic regional approach that feeds corporate objectives will also create long-term talent retention as it will ensure that the right cultural fit of individuals are recruited into the company – no matter where they are located.
3. Enter into partnerships and learn how to get the most out of the supply side
Whether your company only operates within Canada or globally, there will be benefits in working with the right strategic resourcing or recruitment partner. The emphasis for HR professionals should be on finding a truly globally enabled partner – a company that understands both the complexity of the Canadian and global mining industry and the needs of your company. Working with the right partner will enable HR professionals to find the best talent, no matter where they may be located, and will help to keep them abreast of the latest talent management developments. Although supply side vendors can help, it is critical for HR leaders to keep in mind that in order to get the most out of the vendor they will have to be forthcoming with information on the current talent management challenges faced by their organization, future plans and business strategies. Experience teaches us that the closer the organization’s business strategy mirrors the organization’s talent strategy the more successful organizations are when attracting and retaining the right talent.
4. Invest in your employer brand
Once organizations have established what talent they are after and where this talent is located they have to concentrate on finding ways of attracting this group of individuals to their brand. One way of doing this is by investing in their employer brand. However, to do this successfully, HR leaders need to start thinking strategically and realise that creating and maintaining a strong employer brand is an all-encompassing activity. Employer branding is no longer just about a recognisable logo, a set of values, or a rationale. It is rather about a multifaceted and integrated approach to marketing, communications and HR – all taking shape together to attract and maintain talent. A strong employer brand in the Canadian and global market can make a company a desirable place to work and consistently evolving it to satisfy changes in brand strategy can help to keep employees engaged and talent attracted.
5. Engage with the miners of tomorrow
Beyond establishing an employer brand, Canadian mining companies could benefit from building up their own talent communities – especially under the youthful miners of tomorrow. This is because highly skilled and talented individuals no longer just apply for a position within your organization because they believe you are a market leader. They have to engage with your company, understand its value for themselves and buy into its ethos and thought leadership position. For most Canadian mining companies this means that they will need to start thinking about how to find talent before they need it rather than when they need it. One way of doing this is by engaging with students that are studying in relevant fields such as engineering – offering co-op opportunities, on the job training and valuable insights into the industry which will help build a network of potential employees for the future.
When it comes to truly tackling the skills shortage conundrum in the Canadian mining sector, the fact remains that there is a requirement to manage both the immediate and long-term challenges at play. The five approaches outlined are about ensuring that you have the right outlook and tools to address your short-term recruitment needs. But HR professionals will increasingly have to position themselves as a strategic partner within their organization and will have to ensure that HR receives its rightful place in the boardroom. Internally, they will have to adopt long-term talent management objectives and externally, engage the right partners that can help them build their talent pools and employer brand to ensure this global skills shortage does not overcome them.
Making the right talent decision can be an extremely demanding task, in part due to the level of complexity that comes with it. No wonder some refer to it as an art rather than a business activity. A lot depends on this art, and a bad decision can cost a company dearly. At a larger scale, poor talent decisions can have disastrous impacts on a company’s reputation, morale, and ultimately, its bottom line. This can be attributed to the fact that talent decisions really affect all areas of talent management including recruitment, workforce planning, succession planning, leadership development and performance management. Assessments offer research-based tools to support this range of talent management decisions. Even those who have mastered the art of talent management can benefit from the scientific validation assessments can provide. Sophisticated assessment tools have the ability to meet the high levels of complexity inherent in any talent decision, and with many companies being required to do more with less, assessments can increase efficiency and reduce the use of resources. Data derived from these tools can help maximize performance and productivity while reducing the cost and risk associated with bad talent management.
Not every assessment is the same though, and the spectrum of offerings is wide, both from an applicability and a validity perspective. Some tools measure an individual’s knowledge, others assess skills and experience, while some focus on behaviours. Regardless of its focus, a good talent management tool doesn’t only assess an individual’s performance, but also looks at their potential. The best research-based talent management models work with competencies, which can be defined as observable behaviours. They have the potential to determine organization-specific competencies as well as position-specific competencies, creating solid frameworks for individuals to be assessed against. Among the most reputable research-based and experience-tested talent management models are Lominger, Development Dimensions International (DDI) and Personnel Decisions International Ninth House (PDI Ninth House). All have done extensive research by studying successful leaders and dissecting what makes them tick. Most importantly, they have developed best-in-class profiles which individuals can be assessed against, revealing any areas that can be developed further in order to turn a high potential individual into a top performer. The methodology can be applied to individuals, teams and entire organizations. Competency models can be applied to job profiling, training, recruiting of new hires, succession planning, giving feedback, performance management, and designing development plans.
Among the large number of competencies, there is one that truly stands out: learning agility. It describes the ability to wrest meaning from experience. Research shows that what separates exceptional leaders from good ones is their ability to perform well under first-time, challenging conditions. When it comes to talent and potential, learning agility separates the best from the rest. With regards to the impact of new hires, the focus – at least initially – lies on a different set of competencies. In its recently published Global Talent Impact Study, Futurestep examined how companies measure the impact of professional and managerial talent. Surveying over 1,500 HR professionals globally, the study revealed that there are three key competencies most successful new professional and managerial hires demonstrate: decision quality (the ability to make accurate and good decisions), action focus (quick to take initiative) and customer focus (dedication to meeting customers’ needs and expectations). Interestingly, while the report confirmed that more than 60% of participating companies said they undertook formal measurement of the impact of new hires on their business, only half of those reported that the methodology they had in place was widely used in their organizations. Knowing this, companies choosing to implement a formal, research-based talent management system have an exceptional opportunity to get ahead of their competition. Employers with strong candidate assessment tools will be able to attract the right talent, and those that also have a structured, research-based career and leadership development model in place will be able keep them.
While the BC unemployment rate is still a far cry from the record-breaking 4.3% of five years ago, there is a shift happening in the labour market that does invoke memories of 2007 all over again. A number of industry associations in BC have returned to their pre-downturn rhetoric and are warning that another labour shortage is just around the corner. BC’s construction industry is expecting that some 35,000 employees will be retiring within the next couple of years. Add to this an additional 45,000 extra workers needed to complete the major projects that are either planned or already underway, particularly in Northern BC, and a massive shortage of some 80,000 workers is becoming apparent. Representing BC’s IT & Technology industry, BCTIA is cautioning in their recently published TechTalentBC Labour Demand Study that another talent crunch is emerging. The mining industry is already experiencing severe shortages and with over 300 exploration projects currently underway in BC, the labour shortage is about to get even more significant. In order to meet the need for more qualified workers, groups such as BCTIA have long urged the Canadian government to implement better immigration policies that expedite the entry of highly skilled foreign nationals. The hospitality industry has voiced similar concerns with the current immigration system and is asking the federal government to strengthen BC’s position in this process by raising the application limits under the Provincial Nominee Program.
Last December, Premier Christy Clark called for the creation of a BC Immigration Task Force, projecting that BC’s economy will be growing by one million employees over the next ten years, with one third of those jobs requiring immigrants. The task force currently evaluates the immigration system and is expected to recommend stronger provincial influence over immigration decisions. In the meantime, Canada’s Immigration Minister Jason Kenney has been promoting his own vision for what he calls “transformational change” to the immigration system. Not only is he hoping to eliminate the enormous backlog of pending applications, he is also looking to learn from other countries’ best practises. Kenney has repeatedly referred to New Zealand’s “Expression of Interest” system which would allow Canada to generate a pool of skilled workers who meet basic education and language requirements and have expressed interest in working in Canada. Candidates selected from this pool by a Canadian employer would see their application fast-tracked. There is only one caveat: BC employers have been doing this for a long time. Talent is already being identified at a global scale – the real issue is an inefficient immigration system that simply doesn’t bring selected candidates into the country fast enough.
Industry representatives and the provincial and federal governments agree that the immigration system needs to be improved, drastically. They disagree, however, in who should have authority over the immigration system. Immigration Minister Jason Kenney does not intend to give any further power to the provinces and is not planning to expand the popular Provincial Nominee Program. Premier Christy Clark is demanding for more authority to go to BC, envying Quebec’s unique immigration authority. Industry groups in the meanwhile are requesting a stronger role in pushing pre-qualified would-be immigrants straight to the final security immigration background checks. Canadian companies are competing for talent globally and industries such as IT & Technology, mining and construction know all too well that they have to look for talent globally in order to stay competitive. When an employer gets to the point of making an actual job offer, they have already checked and approved the candidate’s educational background as well as their technical and language skills. In those cases, the immigration system should focus on security-related background checks only, allowing for a much faster turnaround in processing times. Just as much as Canadian companies are competing for talent globally, Canada’s immigration system is directly competing with that of other countries. A highly effective, painless and fast immigration process will be the key for BC’s economy to attract the talent we need.
Bonuses easily qualify as among the most hotly debated forms of payment. The sophisticated schemes and hefty sums of the 1990s and early 2000s still elicit strong emotions as we recall those bailed-out Wall Street executives handing themselves handsome bonuses, even while economic uncertainty continues to this day.
While the percentage of employees fortunate enough to get mega-bonuses is miniscule, most corporate professionals do have some bonus component to their compensation. Bonuses are typically tied to performance, either individual or company-based. Often a bonus links to both, as a percentage of the base salary.
Yet bonuses remain mysterious to most of us. Unlike base compensation, they’re almost never clearly quantified in employment contracts. Therefore they can be distributed at the employer’s discretion, communicated as thanks to employees for achieving certain goals. Such vagueness inadvertently produces a disconnect between employees’ expectations and what companies are really prepared to pay.
If bonuses are to reward performance, companies must establish clear rules and expectations as to how they measure corporate and individual results. A business that prides itself on encouraging performance but then hides behind discretionary “thank-you” bonuses risks being perceived by potential employees as hypocritical to its staff.
At the core of a bonus plan is the intention to align individual performance with what’s best for the company.
It’s relatively easy to set up key performance indicators (KPIs) for employees who affect the bottom line directly, but it gets more complicated when performance doesn’t generate profit immediately. Creating awareness of how each employee contributes to the success of the business is an important first step.
Once you’ve established KPIs for each role, the next step is to identify high yet attainable goals. To ensure internal buy-in, develop these goals collaboratively with each employee and review them together regularly. If bonuses are based on performance, people must be confident in their ability to attain their goals.
Incentives become notoriously more complicated than they appear to the people who first set them up, so put the structure in writing. Be as specific and unambiguous as possible. People will focus their actions on areas on which they’ll be measured. An unbalanced incentive structure leads to neglect of important deliverables. Good employment contracts and clearly defined performance plans can help you minimize this problem. Be unmistakable about what constitutes performance and how each employee’s performance will be measured, so that every person understands how his or her own contribution affects the organization’s success.
Lastly, it doesn’t always have to be about money. Most Fortune 500 companies also support innovation and creativity through recognition. Positive reinforcement and active engagement are key indicators of corporate cultures that celebrate success and produce high performance.
Continuing economic challenge offers an excellent opportunity for companies to take hard looks at their corporate cultures, for realigning their approaches to measurement and recognition. An environment in which employees are passionate about doing their best every day results in higher profitability, which, in turn, allows for better bonuses.
Bonus dos and don’ts
- Do ensure that any performance targets for earning a bonus are within the individual’s area of control or influence.
- Do set goals ambitiously but make sure they’re attainable. Follow the SMART rule: make goals specific (S), measurable (M), attainable (A), relevant (R) and time-bound (T).
- Do aim for transparency. Track performance consistently. Give your employees full access to their comparisons to the benchmarks.
- Don’t be cheap. If the bonus isn’t worth the extra effort in the employee’s eyes, you’re defeating its purpose.
- Don’t make it too complicated. Use easy-to-understand formulas for bonus payments, and you’ll avoid frustration and conflict.
- Don’t wait until the next performance review to discuss shortcomings. Discuss performance issues immediately.
In the story “Home truths hurt talent search”, published in the Business In Vancouver May 31st issue, several executive recruiters warned that Vancouver-based employers lose out on recruiting top talent due to our red-hot housing market and high cost of living. While this is true, there is also no denying the fact that a lot of people have deliberately chosen to make Vancouver their home, despite the challenges of the city’s affordability.
When asked about the origin of applicants to the BC Cancer Foundation, Cindy Dopson, Director of Human Resources suggests that only 50% of all resumes actually come from BC. A large number are being received from Alberta, followed by other provinces, mainly Saskatchewan, Ontario and Quebec. On top of that, quite a few resumes come from the US. When screening those applicants, it turns out that most of them are keenly aware of what they are getting themselves into.
To avoid surprises later on, recruiters at lululemon athletica cover the home truths right off the bat. Most importantly, though, they stress what still makes Vancouver such a desirable place to move to: “We tell them, yes, your place will likely be smaller but it might only be a few blocks away from the ocean. Your commute might be 10 minutes by ferry as opposed to two hours in traffic. 30 minutes and you’re in the mountains”, says Stephanie Corker-Irwin, Head of Recruitment at lululemon. All this is part of a well-developed recruitment strategy as the company purposefully looks to hire people who embrace the West Coast lifestyle, which is also part of lululemon’s corporate culture, states Corker-Irwin. “We are not looking for people who want to replicate their NYC lifestyle, but rather who will embrace the beautiful experiences here in Vancouver.”
Eric Perez, HR Director at WorleyParsons remembers discussions with candidates from places like Texas where taxes and cost of living are substantially lower compared to Vancouver. Surprisingly, some have told him they would much rather live in a society that values inclusivity and has a strong social culture. That said, Perez is still cognizant of the fact that financial concerns are a reality for hiring managers looking to bring people to Vancouver. But if companies can’t ease the pain by maxing out their budgets and paying newcomers top dollars, what else can employers do? Perez suggests that recruiting managers are forced to really understand their candidates much better: “This is a great opportunity for companies to see what else they can do to accommodate their candidates’ personal and family needs.”
In her career as an HR professional, Sabeeha Pardhan, now HR Manager at Molson Coors Canada would routinely connect new hires with real estate agents, invite potential candidates to events in Vancouver, and offer assistance in finding work for their spouses. “You really have to spend time with them to find out what they want”, urges Pardhan as she recalls situations where new hires were offered regular flights home, and exceptions were allowed to vacation and education reimbursement policies. In one case, a paid golf club membership did the trick, registered as a taxable benefit.
Other than meeting candidates’ unique needs, some companies have understood that building extraordinarily strong corporate brands can withstand the challenges of a place where many think only the rich can afford to buy. Lululemon is a great example. The same goes for organizations such as the BC Cancer Foundation which is known as one of the top fundraising organizations in BC. Vancouver’s hot housing market and high cost of living is a reality companies have little control over. What they are in control of, however, is their brand as employers of choice. Companies like lululemon know exactly who fits their culture. They have mastered the art of attracting the right talent by focusing on all the things that truly matter to their people outside of basic monetary needs. In this market, employers have two choices: they can complain about how the housing market prevents them from recruiting top people to Vancouver, or they can start to think what unique value they can offer to meet their employees’ non-financial needs. Which option will your company pick?
While the challenging economic climate of the past two years has given employers a bit of a break, there is no denying that the war for talent is back on again. The economy is picking up and a lot of people have made “finding a better job” their number one New Year’s resolution. Still, most employers will be caught off guard when a valued employee hands in their notice. Many will default to the age-old sales strategy of making a counter offer. As someone who recruits professionals and assists companies in trying to hire the best talent, I have frequently observed how the counter offer game is being played. Rarely does anyone win.
The resignation of a high performance employee means considerable loss of knowledge and revenue to a company. Add to that the average cost of 1.5 – 3 times their annual salary to find a replacement. Presenting a better offer appears to be the only realistic option to prevent significant loss to the company. I firmly believe in doing whatever you can to retain your top employees, but the moment an employee makes it known that they have another offer on the table, the dynamics of the relationship between employer and employee shift dramatically. If you are not prepared to accept the resignation, there is no real alternative to making a counter offer. However, this makes it an act entirely born out of desperation. I like to call it the forbidden fruit of employee retention, and as tempting as it may seem – don’t touch it.
Employees who are truly invested in the well-being of their company will always bring up their concerns and, at times, challenge their employer. Only when they repeatedly feel disappointed will they consider the last resort: Making the conscious decision to leave. You might be able to persuade them to stay on by making all sorts of promises and possibly paying them a better salary. Almost all companies who make a successful counter offer still end up losing the person within the next six months. The reason: A counter offer only sugar-coats issues that are much deeper rooted and can’t be resolved as easily. Eventually, employees will remember why they were looking in the first place. And that has rarely to do with money, benefits, vacation time or job title. Most employees leave because of their bosses.
Sometimes, an employee hands in their notice completely out of the blue. Before rushing into a counter offer, take a moment to think about this: Why did they not bring up any of their concerns before? If they never bothered raising their concerns and observations with you, are they really the kind of individual you want as part of your business? You may be able to convince them to stay on, but be prepared that their productivity level is compromised as they have already checked out mentally. Also consider for a moment the effect a successful counter offer sends to your other staff. People talk and your other employees will soon have figured out that they have a very powerful bargaining tool at hand. Do you really want to put your company into such a vulnerable position?
That said, there is one circumstance when touching the forbidden fruit can be excused: In a pinch, a manager may very well want to use this tool, especially when the immediate cost of losing the individual outweighs the risks of the counter offer. Keep in mind that the odds are against you if you think you will be able to retain the individual permanently. Instead, use the counter offer strategy to buy yourself some time. Remember, by threatening to leave, the employee has just shown you how little they believe in a future with your company. You can no longer be sure of their loyalty and commitment. Use the time you bought with the counter offer wisely and do whatever you can to find a replacement as soon as possible.
A word of caution to any professional considering accepting a counter offer: Think very carefully about the implications of your decision. If you have gone through an in-depth interview process with another company but turn down their offer because you accepted a better deal from your current employer, your true motivations will be questioned. In my experience, companies don’t make job offers lightly and will wonder whether you were simply out shopping for a better deal. This will definitely limit your future chances with this company and whomever you met during the interview process. Receiving a counter offer is very flattering but be aware that you will invariably be considered a flight risk even if you decide to stay on. Your employer can no longer be sure of your loyalty. What will this mean for your future career?
photo credit: purplemattfish
Etiquette 101 for Hiring Managers – How applicants’ experiences during the hiring process have a substantial impact on the employer’s brand in the candidate community
In my role as a recruiter, I spend a lot of time in interview situations. Like most hiring managers, I sure have my share of anecdotes when it comes to the topic of etiquette. There are numerous examples of applicants blowing their chances by ignoring the simplest rules of first impressions, ranging from being late to casually bringing along a cup of coffee to the job interview. However, basic etiquette (or the lack thereof) is not only a pet peeve for employers but also a hot topic in the candidate community. When asking job seekers about their experience applying for jobs, many are disillusioned and frustrated after having had poor experiences. The recessionary climate has put some hiring managers in a deceivingly comfortable spot where opportunities are scarce and applicants are plentiful. Qualified candidates complain about companies not responding to their applications, about poor interview experiences or a breakdown in communication after having gone through a formal interviewing process with a company.
What many employers seem to forget is that the interviewing and hiring process speaks volumes of the company’s brand as an employer. Smart companies know how important it is to treat every applicant respectfully and to offer an interviewing experience that reflects the company’s brand and values. It’s not just about courting the best candidates; job interviews can still be tough, intense situations. In fact, high potential applicants will expect a tough interview process which enables them to display their accomplishments and abilities which will make them stand out from the pack. A high performing, no-nonsense producer will want to feel reassured that the company they are interviewing with shares their sense of professionalism, respect and effectiveness. Here are a few ideas how your company can improve their brand in the candidate community:
- Set expectations properly: One of the major frustrations applicants experience is the complete lack of communication after an initial application has been submitted. If you are not planning on contacting every single applicant, at the very least include a disclaimer in the job posting indicating that only qualified applicants will be contacted. Ideally, you will also include a specific date by which an applicant can expect a response. At least they will know to move on if they haven’t heard anything by then.
- Communicate effectively: Most companies have applicant tracking or HRI Systems in place that allow them to properly track applications and to send out personalised emails to large groups of recipients. Why not set up an automated response thanking applicants for submitting their resumes and advising them of what they can expect moving forward? Even if your company doesn’t have a proper system in place, a basic email client has the ability to send automated responses or customised emails.
- Consider some advice from the dating world: As with any first date, a first impression is a lasting impression. When conducting the first interview, remember the basics: Be polite, be respectful, and be on time. Be an active listener but also be prepared to give an elevator pitch as to what an employee can expect from your firm. As the labour market improves, top candidates end up with multiple job offers and you want to make sure that your company is at the top of their list.
- Nothing trumps professionalism: I’ve heard numerous hiring managers say that they don’t really need to “interview” a candidate. They simply “know” when they see the right fit. While this may be true, the applicant is left with a disappointing experience. A strong candidate will want more from an interview than just a pleasant conversation. They want to feel that the hiring manager has a keen interest in their work history and previous accomplishments. In the worst case, a top candidate may not want to proceed after a weak interview experience as they presume it is a reflection of the company’s lack of focus on performance.
- Be smart when releasing applicants: At the end of the day you can only hire one person per job. It’s very tempting to focus entirely on that new hire. Sadly, taking down the job posting marks the end of the hiring process for most companies. Making an effort to not leave other applicants in the dark is more than just good karma: Those applicants who have been interviewed should receive personal feedback. Be constructive and explain your hiring decision. Thank them for their time and interest and encourage them to keep in touch should you feel that they may be of interest for future openings. Sending out an email to the other applicants who could not be interviewed offers a great opportunity for employer branding. By advising them that a hiring decision has been made and thanking them for their interest in your company, you are sending a clear message that speaks volumes of your professionalism and thoroughness not only during the recruitment process but also in how your company conducts its business.
As with any experience in an open market, negative news travels exponentially faster than positive. In a time when people can vent publicly about a negative experience, disgruntled job seekers can leverage the powerful world of social media networks by openly commenting on their experience with a particular company and an employer brand can suffer substantial damage. With every new job your company recruits for, your brand is put to the test over and over again. A lot can be gained from offering a great hiring experience. Much more can be lost by having a particularly bad one. What is the impression you think your organization is leaving in the candidate community?