Gold Road Resources’ People & Culture Business Partner Samantha Ware urged delegates at Future of Mining Australia to consider the importance of attracting ‘millennials’ to the mining industry and provided strategies to retain the next generation.

Held in Sydney from 23 and 24 March 2019, Future of Mining Australia brought together expert speakers and leaders from around the world to address the key strategic and operational questions that could define the current and future mining landscape.

Samantha Ware presented at the conference along with member speakers from Evolution Mining and Newcrest Mining, discussing topics such as innovative technology, digital strategy, leadership models, and more. Ms Ware’s speech fell under the heading ‘People and Leadership’, with her focus being on Future Proofing Your Workforce.

Ms Ware offered practical long-term strategies and case studies of how best to attract and retain the ‘millennial’ generation, as well as getting the most out of the workforce, by using her own experiences as guidance and backed by current research.

The advice has come in a timely manner, with a recent spate of limited interest from young people towards a career in the mining industry. This in turn, has led to trade shortages, ‘bidding wars’ over the limited number of graduates available, and a reduction in staff at the WA School of Mines due to reduced interest in their study programs.

“We need young people in mining, to encourage an innovative industry which drives continued success and economic growth for Australia,” Ms Ware said.

Thus, more students are needed and for longer careers.

Getting the next generation interested in mining

A clear first step in future proofing the industry’s workforce, is to educate the wider community about mining. This not only includes school-age students, but their families, teachers, and the media. By raising awareness of the industry’s importance and the variety of roles it offers, companies can influence at a grassroots level, driving initiative during these teenage or school-age years to seek the opportunities of a mining career.

“Based on my academic strengths I was ‘highly encouraged’ to pursue medical sciences, not once hearing about engineering as a potential career path,” said Ms Ware.

“It wasn’t until halfway through my university studies that I even came to know what mining engineering was and how it may be a suitable career choice for me. At this point, it was too late as I had pursued alternative studies and found HR, a career I greatly enjoy.

“The point is, my network of educators, family and friends didn’t even mention it at that young age – therefore I didn’t consider mining for my career choices, whatsoever,” Ms Ware explained.

Rather than look for large scale solutions to changing the perceptions of mining, Ms Ware asked delegates to consider partnering with existing stakeholders and starting with simple involvement in the community such as: by attending a ‘bring your relative to school’ or ‘career day’, where employees can share insight with real experience; volunteering at career expos, to promote the opportunities and workplace culture of a mining company; or by being a guest speaker at a science laboratory.

By adopting these and similar methods, employees become advocates and ambassadors for the sector.

Appealing to millennials

As a member herself, Ms Ware explained the ‘millennial’ generation encompasses people who are currently in their early 20’s to late 30’s, and in order to best attract them to your organisation, appeal to what they look for in a business: strong leadership, company impacts on society and positive workplace culture.

Whilst typically studying longer and entering the workforce later, as the most educated generation to date, millennials have a greater understanding of the ‘bigger picture’ than most employers would assume. In the results of Deloitte Millennial Survey 2018, it was discovered that most do not believe Australian businesses behave ethically, with 83% suggesting businesses focus only on their own agenda instead of the impact to wider society.

To attract young professionals, Ms Ware suggested placing focus on the organisation’s direction, its leadership, and mentoring or coaching programs. Demonstrate that your company can offer:

  • Motivations outside of increasing wealth, as millennials believe companies hold a responsibility to improve society or leave a positive impact on the environment.

  • Sound leadership, as it demonstrates a commitment to job creation, innovation, and employee development.

  • Mentoring opportunities, development programs or opportunities to continue learning, thus providing millennials the balance between study and entering the workforce whilst improving their skills.

  • Fair pay for all, as millennials believe in diversity of thought, equality and inclusivity, not just when it pertains to gender.

  • Positive workplace culture that is welcoming, trusting, flexible, includes job share of projects and encourages innovation.

Retaining young professionals

Once millennials have joined an organisation, many employers would consider at this point their job is done, however Ms Ware explained that whilst artificial intelligence has come a long way, it is still crucial to retain the next generation of workers for continued business success.

Ms Ware suggested employers either establish or use their existing employee development program, and show you care by providing millennials with honest and timely feedback. Continuously evaluate and recreate the workplace culture, allowing it to grow and change in accordance with the organisational strategy. Encourage employees to network outside of the workplace with their colleagues and other industry professionals. This includes the chance to grow outside of the company, potentially by partnering with other organisations or joining industry groups.

Here Ms Ware again referenced her own experience as Chair of the WA Mining Club Young Professionals, which was established after recognising a gap in the industry for young professional development and networking.

“Not only do these strategies position your company for continued success when current leaders leave, but also ensures the vast knowledge held by previous generations can be passed through millennials to the generations which will follow,” Ms Ware said.

For other industry forums and networking events, visit the Events page.