In a digitalized, decarbonized world, mining and metals companies will need radically new skillsets to succeed. But these highly sought-after skills will likely be in short supply. To attract and retain an effective future workforce, the industries would need new talent sourcing strategies and different employee value propositions.
To address this issue, the World Economic Forum’s Mining and Metals Future of Work Taskforce has conducted a Global Talent Innovation Initiative. Working with future talent, industry stakeholders and partners—and using innovation hubs and the SkyHive Quantum Labor Analytics Platform—the initiative has taken a deep dive into the future of mining and metals talent.
The result is a comprehensive report, based on extensive research and modelling, that defines the skills the industries will need and assesses where and how this talent will be sourced.
To date, technology advances have been the major factor reshaping mining and metals companies. However, the initiative found other factors—beyond emerging technologies—weighing heavily on future business models. The urgent need to adapt to climate change and the imperative, in some jurisdictions, to navigate geopolitical uncertainty will also dramatically reshape the business environment.
The working group concluded that the future for most mining and metals companies will likely be shaped by some combination of technology, ESG (environmental, social and governance) and geopolitical drivers. The following scenarios assess these drivers from a talent supply perspective:
High-tech leader: In this scenario, companies have invested heavily in digital transformation, leading to data-led decisions, automated supply chains and operations and a high level of business resilience. Core skills revolve around entrepreneurship, emerging technologies, creativity and innovation. Administration and physical labor have been largely automated, leaving behind few traditional roles.
ESG leader: In this scenario, companies have focused on ESG adaptation to attract potential investors and future talent, requiring new capabilities. Cultural and emotional intelligence and stakeholder management become core skills as companies focus on achieving their ESG targets. The key high-tech leader skills are still of interest but less important to these companies.
Geopolitically adept: In this scenario, companies navigate the disruptive forces of both globalization and localization as governments become more active in decision-making across the industry. Government relations have become more central to operations, requiring administration and stakeholder management skills. Digitization slows down, making these businesses less resilient and requiring fewer emerging technology and entrepreneurship capabilities than in other scenarios. Agility to manage the various changes of the industries and geopolitical landscape would be vital for success.
Mining and metals companies will have no choice but to start building internal pathways to develop, upskill or reskill internal talent.
Future workforce profiles
With emerging technologies, sustainability and geopolitical uncertainty shaping future operating models, mining and metals workforces will be filled with very different role profiles. Employee skillsets, backgrounds and motivations will change as the industries evolve their capabilities to tackle new challenges.
The working group developed nine profiles showcasing the breadth of the future skillsets the industries would need to succeed in the coming years. Many of the common skills are new capability priorities for the industries:
Future talent journeys
As future talent evolves, so will career journeys. Mining and metals companies will need to engage earlier with young talent and look internally to develop new capabilities. There is also an opportunity to re-engage with experienced and senior practitioners returning to the industries.
In this environment, new talent management strategies will be needed, including:
Defining a set of principles for a new talent architecture
Defining career journeys that originate long before people reach the industries, from higher education or even high school
Mapping the gig economy as much as the career pathway
Introducing new employee value propositions targeted at different aspirations and priorities
Upskilling internal talent who lack traditional qualifications but have deep experience in the industries and the right aptitude or capacity to learn
While EVPs will differ by geography, depending on local job markets and cultural expectations, traditional EVPs are likely to become increasingly irrelevant for future generations. Mining and metals companies are aware of the power of sustainability and diversity to attract future talent (see Figure 1). However, what they may not realize is that a competitive salary is now less important than being able to make a difference at a societal and environmental level.
Figure 1: Audit of recruitment ads for mining and metals companies
Future strategic talent sourcing pathways
SkyHive modelling—mapping skills supply and demand—shows the traditional mining and metals approach of buying talent will no longer be adequate to resource the workforce of the future. Instead, companies will need to adapt with build, borrow, bot and boomerang strategies.
To acquire new skillsets, companies will need to hire from adjacent industries—or use mergers and acquisitions to gain new capabilities.
Where skills are scarce, companies will have to start building internal pathways to develop, upskill or reskill internal talent.
Where demand fluctuates, skills can be borrowed from other parts of an organization—or borrowed from industry talent pools in a sharing economy model.
Automation may mean some roles and repetitive tasks are no longer performed by humans, but demand for workers with analytical skills will increase.
Alumni talent should be harvested, perhaps by using a sharing economy talent solution where people work horizontally across the industry.
Adopt a multipronged sourcing approach
Different future operating models in the mining and metals industries will introduce a range of emerging roles requiring new skillsets. To reach, acquire and retain the talent of the future, companies must map emerging roles, develop EVPs for a broader and more diverse workforce and adopt a multipronged sourcing approach.
As a priority, mining and metals companies need to evolve their approaches at three levels:
Adopt a blend of sourcing strategies—making increasing use of build, borrow, bot and boomerang—and establish the operating model and mindsets to enable people to transition into roles across the business to meet demand.
Start careers engagement in high school and expand pathways to include those without traditional qualifications.
Create personalized EVPs relevant to the individual in their career journey to attract and retain diverse talent, with a focus on purpose and flexibility.
Develop talent marketplaces that support internal mobility at scale based on real-time skills frameworks.
Balance specialist skills with general skills to support mobility and the creation of cross-disciplinary teams.
Look at flexible working models, including dynamic rostering and remote working where possible.
Redesign leadership and culture frameworks—with inclusion and diversity at the core—to support innovation and agility.
Map future skills at an industry level and better understand career journeys.
Compete as a consortium against other industries to attract scarce talent.
Collaborate with peers to develop sharing economy models for learning and talent.
The mining and metals industries have a window of opportunity to collaborate in preparation for the cyclical skills shortages ahead. For many organizations, making these changes will require a change in leadership mindset and cultural evolution.