June/July 2011

HR Outlook

New collaborative platform showcases mining HR practice

By Lindsay Forcellini

Talking work/life balance with De Beers Canada

Industry collaboration is central to achieving an effective workforce. Simply put, by working together, we can accomplish more.

The Mining Industry Human Resources (MiHR) Council’s latest initiative is taking idea sharing to the next level. In an effort to facilitate the exchange of ideas, an online collaborative platform for sharing innovative practices in mining HR was developed. Launched last November with a call for companies to submit their HR success stories, MiHR Innovate is the first Canadian mining-specific HR community.

“We know Canadian mining companies are developing some incredible innovative HR practices, but the industry doesn’t hear about them,” explains Ryan Montpellier, executive director at MiHR. “The more ideas we bring forward, the more we learn from each other and strengthen the industry because one great idea inspires another.”

The following includes excerpts from one example of the innovative HR practices that can be found in the MiHR Innovate compendium.

Case study

The CHALLENGE: A perceived lack of work/life balance among the senior management team

Because an issue with work/life balance was seen as a potential impediment to our organization practicing at a high performance level, a workstream (similar to a focus group) of six senior managers from a variety of disciplines volunteered to proactively address this concern. The workstream mandate was to validate, determine and/or synthesize the issues and common themes that affect work/life balance at De Beers Canada Inc. and to provide recommendations for improvement.

The PLAN: To interview a selection of employees for their input on work/life balance

A subset of 18 people from all departments, disciplines and levels within the Toronto office, which included corporate and exploration employees, were interviewed in March 2010 on an individual basis to ensure confidentiality.

The interviewer asked a series of open-ended questions, with approximately 90 minutes each to complete. Individual identification numbers were assigned to the response sheets to ensure anonymity. Following the interviews, the workstream provided the findings to employees in the Toronto office and anyone who had not had the opportunity to provide input was invited to do so either by email or by anonymously depositing the completed feedback sheets in designated repositories. An additional 18 responses were received.

The FINDINGS: Work/life balance means something different to each person and no “one-size-fits-all” response will meet the needs of the workforce.

A number of employees indicated that although they had supportive managers and work colleagues, they still did not feel comfortable leaving on time because so many of their colleagues remained working into the evening. The fact that the executive team worked on weekends, i.e. sending emails to colleagues and subordinates, left the recipients of the emails feeling as though there was an expectation that they, too, should be working and providing responses to these emails even though no such expectation had ever been indicated. This clearly was the perception. Quite a number of the employees used the word “stressed” when describing the morale of the organization, emphasizing that they thought other employees seemed stressed but they, themselves, were okay.

The SOLUTIONS: Employees were also asked to provide enhancing behaviours that would improve relationships with supervisors/managers and peers, as well as what they would like to see changed to enhance work/life balance at the company.

As a result of the feedback received, De Beers is:

• Preparing a policy regarding flexible working hours providing employees a basis upon which they can meet with their managers and set up a schedule, addressing both the individual and business needs of the organization.

• Scheduling time for employees from a variety of disciplines to meet together as a multi-disciplinary team with one member of the Executive Team for lunch and talk about issues, concerns and/or successes to help employees feel more engaged.

• Members of the workstream decided to remain intact and follow up on the results and impact these changes may have on the organization going forward.

The RESULTS: Employees expressed gratitude and enthusiasm for having been given the opportunity to provide input into not only impacting, but also changing the culture of the organization. While De Beers is at the initial stage of implementing the recommendations, it is too early to fully appreciate the impact this exercise will have; however, the company is confident this exercise may very well form the model of future employee engagement mechanisms at De Beers Canada Inc. and looks forward to seeing this exercise through to ultimate conclusion.

Lindsay Forcellini is marketing and communications coordinator at MiHR.

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