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It's time to put people first

“People are simultaneously the greatest advantage and disadvantage that the mining industry possesses.” Discuss.

Actually, that wouldn’t be much of an introduction. More like an opener for a massive can of worms. So, let me explain my thinking…

There is a lot of talk at present about ‘mines of the future’ and what they could look like. Everyone agrees that the industry is at a pivotal point and that change needs to happen. But virtually every conversation centres around technology, citing that as the key enabler.  

Machines and data will only get us so far. I doubt there will ever be a mining operation that doesn’t require human intervention in one form or another (namely maintenance or supervision). But still, we talk about autonomy and data like they will solve all our problems.

 It’s true that, if managed poorly, humans can be a significant source of error. They can be the weakest link in an operation. However, if managed well, people are also a source of great strength.

What if, before ploughing a tonne of money into new systems and equipment, we take a step back and look at optimising the most powerful tool we already have on site first – the human brain?

A lot has changed in the mining industry over the past 30/40/50 years, yet teams are still built, structured and managed in exactly the same way. The stresses that operators, contractors, even executives are subject to have increased exponentially and so have expectations, but rosters and workplaces have remained untouched. Why?

The challenges that we face have also intensified. So why are we not designing teams and hiring individuals according to their neurological strengths and social skills?  

Most importantly, how can we change this and start putting people first?

These are some of the questions I have set about answering this month. From speaking to executives who have reorganised their companies to address specific goals, to a former athlete who works in mining and manages his team to optimise their physical performance and endurance.

And you know what, nearly every discussion I've had has come down to leadership; something else we need humans for.

So, let’s put our heads together and talk about how to optimise mining operations and companies holistically. Because we need to recruit more people, and to stop the talent we have from leaving.

Now, let’s discuss 😉


P.S. This month, I've themed the reading list below to provide insight on this topic too.
Do you like it/love it/couldn't care less? Tell me

Reading list
Eight of the most interesting articles I've read on people & leadership...
Alex Moss: The CEOification of start-up culture
A fascinating look at the origins of the CEO role and why wearable technology specialist, Canaria, has revamped its company structure in a bid to conquer the mining industry
Swann Global: Neurodiversity, different ways of thinking
The article that got my brain whirring on the subject of neurodiversity. Emily Goetsch looks at how mining firms can embrace neurodiverse individuals to address some key future challenges
The Lean Post: How the Hoshin Kanri Process Coupled with Coaching Drives Lean Transformation
Ever heard of the Hoshin Kanri method? Nope, me neither until recently. Intelligent Miner alumni, Laura Mottola, explains how leaders can use it to invoke successful business transformations 
BHP: How technology is enabling different kinds of diversity 
"While gender diversity is our top priority we are also investing time and money into other areas of diversity like neurodiversity". CTO, Diane Jurgens, explains the commercial case for building a truly diverse workforce
Harvard Business Review: is CEO a two-person job?
John Gerzema and Will Johnson (co-CEOs of The Harris Poll) make the case for sharing the top job
Swann Global: The changing role of HR in mining
John Murray summarises some of the key changes we're likely to see in HR requirements and expectations in mining going forward
Brain Smart: The secret to harnessing team diversity and inclusion
Why is inclusivity so much harder to foster than diversity? Here's the neuroscience behind bias and how we can take positive action. Not mining specific but still super useful
Hatch: Designing with diversity & inclusion in mind
Diverse and Inclusive Design incorporates and considers the diversity of a project’s workforce, workplace, and community right from the planning stages. There's a lot the mining industry could learn from this
Last month on The Intelligent Miner
We explored treading lightly on the landscape...
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