February 2011

HR Outlook

Quest for the best: Getting the most out of other organizations’ practices

By Martha Roberts and Lindsay Forcellini

The quest for best practices has preoccupied the human resources discipline for decades, but a quest for the quintessential way of doing things, balanced with a need for fast and actionable results, can have a price. The common hazards are bandwagons, blindly adopting one-size-fits-all solutions or groupthink (a rush to consensus without enough careful evaluation or thoughtful consideration of the ideas).

With the HR challenges facing Canada’s mining industry, the concept of grab-and-go HR practices has a strong pull. MiHR’s latest research indicates that even in our most pessimistic forecast, the industry will need to hire nearly 60,000 workers by 2020 to meet the needs due to changes in employment and replacement. If we consider a period of relative stability in the sector, the hiring requirements balloon to 100,000. Fast and actionable solutions are essential.

So what is best in this quest for the best? How can mining HR practitioners avoid the alluring pitfalls while seeking solutions to address the challenges?

Just because others are doing it does not make it right

This is solid advice that few of us would challenge. It was also the original spirit of “best practice” work. A best practice was meant to represent processes, initiatives and techniques that had been proven over time to produce desirable outcomes for large groups of practitioners. Practices were understood to be examples only and not to be taken out of context without careful consideration and adaptation for new situations. They were also understood to be imperfect and underwent continuous improvement as they were more widely adopted.

The concept has since evolved to become synonymous with a standard or optimal way of doing things, rendering best practices more like “must do” practices, to be applied directly and easily across a number of circumstances or contexts. They are somehow accepted through conventional wisdom to be the paramount, unsurpassed, best of the best. This kind of thinking has lured many into the common pitfalls.

Reforming best practices to restore the example

MiHR is breathing new life into the sharing of practices with the launch of “MiHR Innovate,” a collaborative platform for sharing knowledge an effective mining-specific HR initiatives. There is value and obvious benefit in collecting and sharing practices, and MiHR Innovate was developed to help the mining industry do that. It provides an opportunity to open up dialogue and engage with fellow industry practitioners in the interest of addressing the HR challenges specific to mining.

Mining employers were invited to submit examples of innovative HR practices to www.mihrinnovate.ca by the end of January. These ranged from smaller, focused initiatives to more complex strategies. The goal was to bring these ideas forward so other companies could tailor them to develop solutions to their respective HR challenges. Several examples include: offering a spousal welcome program to get new spouses involved in the community; and forming a women’s council to address the lack of representation of women in certain occupations within the company.

Through MiHR Innovate, practitioners can learn from what others have done, gain creative insight and become part of a community. The focus on the community aspect of practice sharing places importance on the social network behind the collection of practices. It is a sharing of ideas and insights, not recipes and instructions. The combination of shared examples and discussion with peers leads to customized initiatives, sensitive to each unique context.

Innovative HR initiatives will be combined in an online compendium and showcased during an interactive working session at the CIM Conference & Exhibition in Montreal this coming May. The session will provide a forum to explore how mining companies can benefit from implementing adaptations of these initiatives and strategies. Senior HR leaders will describe what their organization is doing, share their stories, answer questions on their approach and encourage other companies to innovate with their own spins.

Participating in MiHR Innovate provides an opportunity to explore your innovative potential and to discuss, challenge, question, consult, seek input and weigh opinions as you create effective solutions for your company’s unique challenges. You can look to your peers for their collective experience and insight and use their input to re-invent, blend and create your own options.

Visit www.mihrinnovate.ca or email akennedy@mihr.ca for more information.

Martha Roberts is director of research and Lindsay Forcellini is marketing and communications coordinator, both at MiHR. 

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