May 2013

The right people at the right time

Goldcorp establishes a new graduate program

By Simon Rees

As the company expands, Goldcorp has hired the first in a series of cohorts of recent graduates in order to create a consistent business culture. The company is projecting a 70-per-cent increase in gold production in the next five years, as projects like Éléonore (above) come online | Courtesy of Goldcorp

“Goldcorp is on a major growth trajectory,” says Jenine Ellefson, director of recruitment and talent management for the company. “We’re expected to grow production over the next five years and, as a result, we need to monitor our talent pipeline.” The inflow of talent will be essential for the company to reach its goal of increasing production from 2.39 million ounces of gold in 2012 to about four million ounces by 2017. To make sure this happens in a coordinated way, Goldcorp has designed a new graduate recruitment program to develop groups of young professionals together. Beginning in June, a cohort of around 20 carefully vetted engineering, metallurgy and geology graduates from Canada and the U.S., will begin two years of skills development within the company.

Paul Farrow, the company’s senior vice-president of people and safety, explains, “The individuals will either be placed at one of our operations or in one of the regional offices, depending on where the need is. As a group, they will have a common, baseline introduction to Goldcorp.” He hopes the change away from hiring one at a time will help maintain a more coherent workforce as the company expands.

Graduates will be brought together twice over the two-year period to take part in workshops and to discuss in detail various aspects of Goldcorp’s business. This includes the mining industry in general, company values and strategies, career development, systems-thinking, and in-depth work on safety. According to Farrow, the yearly get-togethers will give the recruits a forum to ask questions and bring fresh ideas to the company. He says he is hoping “to listen very clearly to what they have to say – not just about their experience in the program, but about opportunities for Goldcorp to grow, things like operating for excellence and continuous improvement activities.”

University alliances

“We partnered with universities that offer programs relevant to our industry and with universities located close to our mine sites,” Ellefson says. Goldcorp attended nine career fairs in Canada and five in the U.S., and also accepted resumes from students at other Canadian and U.S. universities. Candidates have now been chosen and are finishing their studies before starting work.

“We start the program by first identifying the technical experience a new graduate will need in whatever stream they are in,” says Ellefson. “For engineers and geologists, this will help them progress towards their professional designation.”

After the first year, the graduates will have the opportunity to rotate to a different work environment. “They will have the chance to either physically relocate to another geography or otherwise rotate within a large operation to a completely different department,” says Farrow. But just like any other employee, Ellefson notes, “There is no guarantee of travel. This must be earned and make business sense.”

While at their respective operations, graduates will bolster their experience by performing several different roles and a variety of tasks. “We want graduates to gain exposure to different areas within their specialist field over the course of the program,” says Ellefson. “This will help them decide what role they want to pursue with the company after the program ends.”

Ellefson expects the company will have its own learning curve: “The first year will be a test in a sense. We are committed to the program, but I imagine we will make some tweaks after we receive feedback from the first year of the process.”

Farrow is taking the long view and anticipates the program will only begin to truly flourish once the first cohort has had the chance to report their experiences back to their respective alma maters. “It’ll take probably the second cycle before people start talking about the program and spread the word through alumni associations in universities,” he says. “And then that will be when the excitement starts.”

The company will likely see the biggest gains after a decade. “As they grow in the company, in perhaps 10 years, the graduates will begin to become managers or even progress higher,” Farrow explains. “And we are looking for that next wave of leaders to come up through the organization. Our leadership team is interesting if you look at it currently; the people know each other from previous job experiences. With a program like this, we’re increasing the odds of having that in the future.”

Leading the next leaders

Goldcorps’ graduate program was tailored to emphasize leadership. To develop and facilitate this, the company has engaged the assistance of The Refinery Leadership Partners Inc., a consultancy firm headquartered in Vancouver, B.C., and with offices in the U.S., Mexico and Chile. “This will be the first opportunity for many participants to consider aspects of leadership and, while they won’t start their career leading a team, it will be an opportunity for them to consider their leadership skills while they are contributing to a team,” explains Refinery consultant Stephanie Ryan.

“We begin with a four-day workshop at the start of July that is followed up with 10 missions,” Ryan says. “These missions are opportunities for the graduates to practise the leadership skills presented in the workshop. We want them to apply the knowledge acquired in their day-to-day working lives. For example, if there is a mission on how to give or receive feedback effectively, it won’t simply be a role-play situation – it will be about engaging in a meaningful, real-life conversation.”

Ellefson highlights the need for mining companies to maintain their graduate programs throughout the economic cycle. “The mining industry is cyclical, and these types of programs tend to be backed when the sector is doing well,” she says. “But companies should ensure they have a long-term view of these programs and their value. They take time and effort, so you won’t see rapid results; yet it’s important to maintain momentum in order to ensure a company has the skills and the talent available when needed in the future. As an industry we all know there’s a skills shortage, especially in technical areas. This is an industry-wide issue and we all need to do our bit in training people.”

“The program starts in Canada and the U.S. first,” explains Ellefson, “although we hope to expand this to all the regions in which we operate.” And as the program grows, specifically into Mexico and South America in the near future, Goldcorp’s yearly crop of the best and brightest will increase in size to fuel their business.

For now, the hiring has been limited to engineering, metallurgy and geology grads, but according to Farrow, that will change. “We need finance people, we need people with HR backgrounds, we need people with corporate social responsibility backgrounds, safety, all the usual disciplines you need for a company will eventually come into this graduate program,” he says. “It’s okay to hire one at a time, but the long-term impact of bringing on board a group of like-minded, ambitious, talented individuals at the same time with the opportunity to work together as a team is exciting. One of these individuals has a great chance of being a future CEO or senior executive at one of the best mining companies in the world.”

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