Digging in for success

The mining industry can optimize its prospects with sustained, strategic talent management in thick and thin times, new Korn Ferry study says.

As prolonged as the global slump in commodity prices has been for mining companies, conditions may be shifting: Prices of precious metals are beginning to rise. Iron ore prices have leaped by 40% this year. Some gold companies have posted better-than-expected results. Capital markets also have opened up. More mining enterprises are looking to pursue opportunities to refinance, restructure, and find other ways to get a head start on better times.

That means the clock is ticking in the commodities sector to find advantage from a talent management perspective, new Korn Ferry Hay Group research finds.

Some mining companies have leveraged the downturn to rethink, retrench, and reinvigorate their management of talent, in much the same way that leading companies find opportunities in “buy low” business situations, Korn Ferry has found. These forward-looking organizations are now positioned to avoid overpaying or missing out on key talent—and to leapfrog competitors—as the industry’s economic prospects improve.

“The mining industry has not been as disciplined as it needs to be with talent management through its legendary boom and bust cycles,” says Michael O’Callaghan, the firm’s global sector leader, Mining, Metals, and Minerals. “This has cost companies. They have scrambled and overpaid for talent in flush times. And they have undercut their long-term prospects in lean periods with hurried downsizings.”

Leadership teams whose companies have yet to act in the downturn to strengthen their talent management should know that difficult choices must be made regarding current talent, and that these decisions should be made quickly, because opportunities could evaporate once a full-blown sector turnaround materializes. Companies with lesser talent management will then quickly fall behind on a range of strategic opportunities.

Based on decades of experience—including constant conversations with leaders in the sector—experts from the firm in mining, as well as in diversity and inclusion, say that strategic companies in the sector are positioning themselves now to improve their talent and its management. The firm’s study says these companies are taking such optimal steps as focusing on fundamentals, making sustained and thoughtful talent investments, and benchmarking results.

They’re also tapping external expertise, such as Korn Ferry’s, to more carefully assess talent. They’re looking to their future and aiming to diversify their workforce, especially to include and develop talent native to their operation sites.

“No one can predict exactly when the good times will return to mining,” O’Callaghan says. “But companies know with absolute certainty that people drive results. This is a resource we can and must mine, develop, and retain in the best ways to benefit all, in good times and bad.”

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