Get ahead, hunter

FINDING a skilled worker for a remote project is often not as simple as sticking the position up on Seek and hoping for the best. Retaining the talent that recruiters work so hard to obtain also requires strategic thinking. Brooke Showers explains.
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Brooke Showers

Western Australia’s resource sector is well known for its dominant fly-in, fly-out work arrangements compared to Queensland’s tendency to residential workforces located near the mining projects.

There is a push to use a combination of FIFO and residential in both states to attract the workers needed to fill the enormous number of positions in the industry and offer more flexible lifestyle options.

Between stealing, swapping and enticing staff over the state borders, there are many recruitment and retention methods that can be shared by both WA and Queensland companies.

Also, importantly, mining and oil and gas companies need to start thinking laterally about what they offer the workforce, besides money. For example, the regions where workers can fly into work from can make a big difference. Rio Tinto started flights from the WA’s South West and Newcrest Mining recently started running flights from Orange in rural New South Wales.

HWE Mining operated a direct flight between Geelong and the Pilbara, bypassing Perth, which BHP Billiton is looking at continuing now it has bought HWE.

Hays business director David Irvine said 57% of organisations actively employed candidates from interstate and 62% of large organisations searched overseas for employees compared to only 22% of small businesses.

Australian oil and gas company Santos sources international workers as part of its recruitment strategy. “We really don’t see geographical location as being a hindrance,” Santos HR business partner Karen Thielemann said.

Many of Santos’ positions are advertised globally and the recruiters will attend international expos.

Santos conducts the final interview in the home location where the candidate will be employed and says it keeps information “real” with the candidate.

Thielmann said employers should definitely tell prospective employees the attractive parts of the job but also explain some of the pitfalls.

It is important to explain aspects such as the personal taxation regime in Australia and connect overseas candidates with a taxation accountant so they can seek advice.

The Resource Channel director Jody Elliott was particularly passionate about what was being done to communicate with employees about what it was like to work and live in Australia.

“When you consider someone is coming from the lush green rolling hills of Ireland to the outback of the Pilbara you couldn’t get two more diverse environments,” Elliott said.

“Inform people what it’s like to work for the employer and in the environments they operate in.”

When introducing international workers to the Australian resources industry, human resource experts advise informing candidates about what to expect when living and working in remote environments.

Advancements in media techniques allow recruiters to provide a DVD presentation or online video link so workers can familiarise with the environment. It is also important to show a candidate the office space work environment, as some people can work well in an open plan office space and others cannot.

Candidate care is critical after the relocation is complete and regular contact can be the difference between retaining and losing the worker.

When the successful candidate begins, ensure they are actively engaged with the team, set up meetings with their subordinates and colleagues and make sure they understand the culture.

Thielemann said family was the most important thing. If a spouse is not happy in a new location or lacks a social and support network, the worker may not stay for long.

Investing in training and having a buddy program can increase the retention of graduates and apprentices to create support for trainees in their equally vulnerable initial few months.

Development courses, leadership training and talent lunches allow workers to meet company executives, enhancing their sense of value and contribution within an organisation. These initiatives also present the chance to coach juniors on how to prepare and present themselves for corporate meetings and how to interact with senior staff.

Companies are encouraged not to cancel out the option of reskilling people of all ages and backgrounds to help meet business requirements.

By overlooking transferable skills, businesses can be restricting themselves too.

Companies also need to think about ways to differentiate their branding in the market and be able to back up broad summarising statements.

“Think about how you expand the story around your value propositions,” Elliott said.

“Everybody reads the same old stories around key statements, such as ‘great career development’ but often don’t know how to identify its internal definition within the business.”

* This article first appeared in the April 2012 edition of Australia's Mining Monthly magazine.

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