If "business as usual" ever existed in the mining and metals industries, those days are long gone. A whole range of internal and external factors, including the COVID-19 pandemic, is reshaping the sector forever.

From volatile commodity prices, fast-changing international trade relations and new investments in renewables to disruptive technologies and compliance with new environmental and safety regulations, it's an incredibly fast-moving and challenging environment.

On top of all this, mining and metals companies are struggling to attract talent. Key reasons? The need for a greener future means new recruits expect employers to demonstrate a real sense of purpose and social responsibility. That's not all. Fueled by digitization and changing workforce dynamics, there’s growing demand for new workplace experiences that, until now, the industry has not been geared up to provide.

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New role, new operating model

As a result, there’s a major emphasis on the role of human resources (HR). As well as playing a vital role in attracting new talent, mining and metals companies are more focused than ever on the quality of their HR processes: both to seamlessly deliver transactional HR services—as efficiently and effectively as possible—and to enable the future workforce.

Bottom line: During a particularly testing time for the industry, chief human resources officers (CHROs) are moving into a new role as strategic partners to the business. Increasingly, they’re having new conversations with leadership about the impact on the organization of socio-political changes, the economic outlook and overall employee value proposition (EVP).

Instead of their traditional focus on industrial relations and labor union liaison, it’s a major new remit for mining and metals industry CHROs. Along with evolving HR into a more strategic role, new priorities include designing seamless employee-centric workforce experiences, harnessing data and analytics to predict outcomes and decisions and adapting the workforce to a world where people are augmented by new technologies like artificial intelligence (AI) and automation.

This isn’t the only big development for mining and metals industry CHROs to navigate. Driven by digital technologies (automation and analytics) and, to an extent, HR's more strategic role, we’re also seeing some fundamental changes in the HR organization’s operating model. Advanced technologies are helping CHROs build their HR function in a different, customer-centric way—with the focus on business and workforce "customers."

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CHROs are having to reimagine how HR operates, moving away from the old-school Ulrich model where expertise is concentrated in siloed centers of excellence and shared service centers.

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Big changes ahead

The results make interesting reading. We found that over the next few years there's going to be a real shift in where HR is investing.

Today, the greatest proportion of HR spend goes into employee services. The goals? Simplifying and standardizing processes, digitizing for productivity and efficiency gains and improving HR service delivery.

Two to three years out and it's a very different picture. By then, CHROs told us they expect to be targeting most of their investment at workforce effectiveness and organization transformation (see Figure 1).

Figure one explains the distribution of human resources focus areas. The chart represents an analysis where HR function currently spends most of its resources today. Then compares it to where HR anticipates it will spend time in the next 2-3 years.

Where workforce effectiveness is concerned, mining and metals company CHROs plan to boost investment into predictive skills identification and strategic workforce planning.

They are using new technologies like augmented reality (AR) and virtual reality (VR) to new-skill—on-demand and at scale—and reimagining talent for a multigenerational, digital workplace.

At the organizational level, initiatives will focus on redesigning how work gets done. That will mean developing more fluid organization models and building cross-functional centers of excellence to supply in-demand skills wherever they're needed.

Still a long way to go

However, while HR functions have started to develop more strategic capabilities and transition to agile HR models, there's still a long way to go before we see truly transformed HR and talent organizations taking shape. The reality is that mining and metals companies' HR transformation journeys still lag those of their counterparts in oil & gas and utilities.

Far from reimagining the HR operating model and enabling intelligent talent and HR services, most are still working on their core HR platforms—focusing on becoming functionally fit and building strong foundational HR processes and services.

At a time when their companies urgently need them to deliver more value to the business, CHROs should be planning now for more digital fluency within the HR function.

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By influencing talent to work in a low-touch, high-tech HR model, they’ll significantly accelerate their transformation to strategic HR capabilities.

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So, where next?

As the mining and metals industry transforms through digital and automation, there’s a clear imperative: Modernize the HR platform to enable better controls and quality of core HR processes and data—while reducing the cost-to-serve.

This will help to shift effort and investment into designing the future of work, while supporting the workforce in its journey to the New.

A few areas should be a high priority for CHROs:

  1. Developing robust strategic workforce planning and defining must-have capabilities
  2. Simplifying processes to improve the employee experience
  3. Delivering effective and efficient HR services by harnessing HR software-as-a-service (SaaS) and automation
  4. Preparing to new-skill the workforce at scale

State of the COVID-19 crisis
COVID-19 is a humanitarian and societal crisis of unprecedented speed and scale. It has both immediate and long-lasting implications for how people work and participate in society. The top priority is to protect the health and safety of people, including in their workplaces. Leaders must make rapid, highly-informed decisions, and take immediate actions to protect and support their people and ensure that critical business operations continue in order to help societal continuity.

Learn what to do now and next with our COVID-19 resources:


Gastón Carrión

Managing Director – APAC Talent & Organization/Human Potential Lead

Ritvik Bhawan

Senior Principal – Talent and Organization, Accenture

Riikka Hyytiainen

Director – Talent and Organization, Accenture

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