August 2011

HR Outlook

Skilled labour on-demand with “Discover Barrick”

By Lindsay Forcellini

New short-term assignment initiative shows promising results

The impending skills shortage facing the mining industry means it is now more important than ever to invest in our people. We are competing with other industries in Canada for talent and we need to send out a strong, consistent and positive message about careers in mining to position our companies as employers of choice.

The following practice, submitted by Barrick Gold Corporation to MiHR Innovate, illustrates one way in which this company is addressing the challenges that today’s labour market presents in filling roles with experienced workers.

A gold industry leader

With 25 operating mines and a pipeline of large, long-life projects located across five continents, Barrick has implemented “Discover Barrick,” a new “short-term assignment” initiative in response to increased requests for on-demand skilled labour to support ongoing operations and project sites.

The company’s approach has been driven primarily by critical site demand that cannot wait the customary three months often necessary to deploy assignees. Add to that the benefit to employees that comes from exposure to international travel, new and challenging assignments based on their critical skill set and the opportunity to build global networks, often while gaining invaluable experience in the developing world.

Barrick also benefits from not losing an employee longer term and having to backfill the home country position had a traditional long-term assignment been used in its place. Beneficial to both parties, the short-term assignment allows personal and professional growth while avoiding excess costs to the organization (i.e. shipping/storage of goods) or familial inconveniences (i.e. uprooting and relocating the whole family).

Once it was decided that these types of assignments would be necessary going forward (based upon the successful completion of two rounds of short-term assignments, equaling roughly 30 assignees in total), Barrick completed an exercise to determine if certain measures could be undertaken to reduce the lead time to deploy assignees. The result of this has been positive; weeks have been removed from the process and Barrick is better prepared to respond quickly to requests for immediate skills and assistance.

How it works

Through Barrick’s internal job portal, “evergreen postings” (postings that have no end date) will be created in broad buckets of functional areas that contain the types of positions that are most often sought by the sites or projects for short-term support. Once employees “apply” to an evergreen posting, demonstrating interest in a short-term assignment, and their experience and skills have been vetted, they will begin preparing for an assignment: further discussions/review of the assignment package, conducting background checks, and updating passports and travel immunizations in order to be ready for when an opportunity becomes available.

By completing these steps up front, the company has a pool of “ready-to-deploy” short-term assignees to support the sites and projects in short order. Due to Barrick’s numerous operations and projects, the ever-tightening labour market and the general challenges faced in recruiting skilled, technical labour, in conjunction with the benefits and growth development this presents to Barrick’s employees, being able to respond quickly and efficiently to critical requests will help the company achieve its global objectives on many fronts.

This initiative is new to Barrick, although the company has enjoyed success with its first round of short-term assignees, from both an employee and an operational standpoint, evidenced by the desire expressed by more sites/projects and employees to participate in this program. It will continue to monitor the success of assignments and the demand by the operations to balance the supply and demand of internal assignees and, if necessary, will look to take this one step further and open it up to the market in an effort to have a pool of external assignees in the database.

Lindsay Forcellini is marketing and communications coordinator at MiHR.

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