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Workforce of the future in mining

Our Gaston Carrion shares how mining companies can improve employee experience with digital technology.
Gaston Carrion
Gaston Carrion

Talent & Organization Lead,
Resources Industry,
Asia Pacific

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What is your vision for the future workforce in mining?
I believe it will be one with highly connected workers who use digital technologies—such as connected devices, automation, real-time analytics and wearables—to optimize mining processes both at mine sites and via remote operation centers.

Mining companies that take steps to realize this vision will build a more productive and safer workforce with point-of-need knowledge. They will invite innovation through social collaboration and employee empowerment. And they will improve the employee value proposition in an industry that faces a talent shortage. The workforce of the future is an exciting proposition, but it will require miners to modify how work is organized, performed and managed.

What are some examples of how the change is impacting the mining industry?
I see change occurring in multiple areas; however, I’ll focus on two that affect the way in which miners manage, develop and attract talent.

  • Greater use of extended workforce—In some cases, contractors could represent 60 percent of the mining workforce, and this percentage will increase steadily. But the irony is that mining companies typically don’t apply the same management and development practices to this extended workforce, many of whom are completing critical processes right alongside employees. For example, most miners conduct extensive training for employees. Including contractors in this training can improve productivity and engagement and reduce safety issues while improving cost effectiveness.

  • Management of existing and future workforce—Mining companies will need to rethink how they utilize their employees. Tomorrow’s approach will be much more fluid between roles and projects. Instead of having the same job for several years, for instance, miners will source internal employees from across the organization into ad-hoc projects, or what I call “Task-forces.” The change in worker demographics will also bring opportunities to blend wisdom from the generations already employed with smarts from the generations coming in.

Speaking of new generations, how will they impact the corporate culture of mining companies?
Based on analysis of some of our largest clients, Millennial and Generation Z employees will comprise 50 percent of the workforce by 2020 and 75 percent by 2025. These “digital natives” have different expectations for their employee experience. They are looking for organizations with ethical brands and flexible policies. They seek interactive, team-based work along with a variety of career paths. Accustomed to being connected 24/7, they expect continuous access to resources (people, technology), as well as ongoing informal feedback and learning opportunities.

How can improving employee experiences benefit mining companies?
Delivering a great employee experience can be a magnet for talent. The objective is to engage employees in ways that they actually want: meaningful work, customized rewards, fair compensation based on performance and relevant perks.

How are digital technology advancements enabling the workforce of the future?
Outside of work, people rely on mobile devices, collaborate on social networks and use voice-activated personal assistants (powered by artificial intelligence). These same technologies can be applied throughout the employee lifecycle to enable smart workers.

What are some possible outcomes from digitizing the workplace?
The best way to convey the benefits is through examples:

  • Connected—Equipping the workforce with wearables makes it possible to easily monitor employees and contractors during a shutdown. Using head-mounted displays enables the workforce to request “over the shoulder” coaching while repairing equipment.

  • Rapid—Putting analytics in the hands of managers helps them make preventive maintenance decisions more quickly. For example, instead of reviewing tire truck pressures on a weekly basis, team leads can view real-time sensor data to understand the pressure of every tire on every piece of equipment at any time.

  • Scalable—Using intelligent machines to conduct mining processes and managing multiple operations remotely enables miners to achieve faster growth and the ability to scale.

You are originally from Argentina so how did you end up working in Australia?
I’ve actually lived and worked in 17 countries so far. My most recent move was eight years ago when I transferred to Australia in order to develop experience in Asia Pacific. I enjoy learning about people and culture, and I think of myself as a citizen of the world. One of the best ways I’ve found to hang out with the locals is through sports. My newest passion is surfing and Australia offers plenty of waves to practice.

Speaking of lifelong learning, you just completed a Global Executive MBA through London Business School, Columbia Business School and the University of Hong Kong. What motivated you to seek out this educational opportunity?
I recognize that the world is changing rapidly and globally, and I want to learn and develop my leadership and business skills. I especially enjoyed meeting senior-level colleagues from around the globe and contributing to discussions about current and future business topics that are directly relevant to my client work.

1Ellie Hensley, "The year of the millennials." Atlanta Business Chronicle, 8 January 2016. Factiva, Inc. All Rights Reserved.
2Kathryn Dill, "Seven Things You (Probably) Don't Realize About Your Millennial Employees," Forbes,12 November 2015. Factiva, Inc. All Rights Reserved.