June/July 2015

Human resources

Safety starts with the hiring process

By David Lahey

Accidents increase when new groups of miners are added to the labour pool, according to the U.S. Department of Labour, and in the Canadian mining industry, demographic and industry trends are coming together to create the perfect storm. Retiring workers, who have held their positions for decades, are taking their accumulated institutional knowledge with them. This trend has caused the Mining Industry Human Resources Council to forecast a hiring requirement of at least 145,000 skilled workers by 2023. The result will be a growing pool of younger, less experienced workers operating some of the largest machines on the planet. So how can Canadian mining executives mitigate risks and ensure safety while adding new talent?

A temporary shutdown while regulators investigate an accident could cost companies millions of dollars. In addition to lost revenues, there is also the possibility of significant fines, workers’ compensation claims and increased insurance premiums.

Mitigating risk and reducing the number of workplace accidents at mines is a matter of corporate culture. While employees must focus on the task at hand, they must also be safety conscious at all times. Behavioural analytics tools offer mining managers a scientific method for identifying employees who are predisposed to safety. Behavioural profiles can also help managers determine which roles within the organization best suit an employee’s natural abilities.

Three steps to creating a culture of safety

1) Identify potential employees: Too often it is assumed that a happy worker equals a retained worker and that retained workers are safe workers. According to a study on employee engagement by Gallup – a U.S.-based research firm – the reality is that 73 per cent of the workforce is either disengaged (putting in time without passion or connection) or actively disengaged (unhappy and working out their unhappiness in their jobs). This implies that employees who show up for work will not necessarily be focused on safety in the workplace.

Smart employers such as BHP Billiton, one of the mining companies we have worked with, identify workers who are fully engaged during the hiring process and match their natural behaviours and abilities to the characteristics of a specific position. Further analysis of employees’ behavioural traits can ensure that they are safety conscious. BHP found that safe employees tend to be thorough, methodical, work at a steady pace, risk averse and forceful, but not aggressive. By focusing their attention on employees who exhibit these traits, instead of concentrating on workforce demographics, employers are able to place workers in roles that are the right fit for their behavioural profile.

2) Prepare employees for success: Identifying and hiring employees with a behavioural profile that matches both a safety orientation and the available role in the workplace is just the beginning. Employers that fail to properly bring employees onboard during the first 90 days of their tenure typically face significant turnover. Behavioural data helps avoid this by identifying how each employee learns best and tailoring staff training to maximize understanding and retention.

As an example, in response to a spike in the price of copper, the world’s leading copper producer needed to hire 1,100 heavy truck drivers to transport materials for processing. Hiring took place rapidly due to the immediate need for drivers with availability as the key hiring criteria. Employees were hastily trained and shown to their vehicles. Within 90 days, the new hires were reduced from 1,100 to just 440 drivers. Learning from this experience, the copper producer turned to behavioural analytics tools to match employees’ personalities to traits required for their new roles for all future hiring. Building on this success, the company trained every manager in the organization to know their staff’s behavioural profile, ensuring quality leadership throughout the group.

3) Ensuring a “safety-first” culture: The final stage in creating a long-term culture of safety is successfully transitioning new safety-conscious employees who show promise onto suitable career trajectories within the company. Employers can use the data collected during the hiring process as a framework for annual assessments as well as for ongoing coaching and professional development.

Behavioural analytics can also identify leaders. For example, a mining engineer with strong communication skills, a tendency toward detailed planning and a results-oriented approach to work is well suited for a policy-driven, safety-focused environment. Mining companies should prepare such employees to take on management roles in the organization, perpetuating the culture of safety throughout the ranks.

When employees are motivated and engaged, they often exhibit a wider range of skills and abilities that impact their work positively. In addition to increased productivity, Gallup’s employee engagement research indicates that placing employees in the right role for their behavioural profile can reduce accidents by 50 per cent and ensure workers make it back home safely after every shift.

David_Lahey
David Lahey, MBA, is president of Predictive Success Corporation (www.predictivesuccess.com) and the author of “Predicting Success: Evidenced Based Strategies to Hire the Right People and Build the Best Team.” Predictive Success leverages the Predictive Index to optimize organizational development. David can be reached at dlahey@predictivesuccess.com, 905-430-9788 (local) or 1-855-430-9788 (toll free).

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