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How to motivate your mining staff or risk losing them

iron ore statue

Salaries are a contentious issue. Some companies can pay more; others provide non-monetary incentives instead.

A common interview question is “what motivates you?” I’ve heard all sorts of answers to it, from “a sense of accomplishment” to “working in a team”. These are answers, I am sure, candidates think recruiters and decision-makers want to hear. But earlier this year, someone gave an entirely different answer: the money.

“I work for money to provide for my family,” the candidate said.

Honest, to the point and, frankly, the reason most of us get up, get in the car, plane, or bus and go to work.

Thirty years ago, the boss’s pay was 30 times that of the average worker. Now it’s 240 times. Still motivated? Yet according to this article by Harold Mitchell, that is the reality of many employees in the United States. While it is likely not the same in the mining industry, it is food for thought given the current low wage growth in Australia.

Salaries are always contentious within any industry. Some companies can pay more, others provide non-monetary incentives instead.

Alternatives to Salary

Mitchell tells an incredible story about how he managed his business. Bonuses? They were based on annual salary and each employee was paid four weeks’ pay. Sydney Olympics? He took his entire workforce of 400 people. And, based on the comments, many people remember him as a great manager and loved their time working at his company. I imagine staff turnover was low.

I recall years ago, getting off the plane at the airport at the end of a 14-day roster to be greeted with a hamper for Christmas. More than 400 people received the same hamper. For some, this approach may be out-of-date, or even considered unfair for high performers who want a larger piece of the bonus pie. But what it does is send the message that each person’s contribution is valued. And everyone wants to feel valued.

Nowadays employee retention is based on training and development, succession planning, remuneration, recognition and acknowledgement.

As a business, you can usually implement training and development programs for employees. Succession planning, though, is not always possible in smaller companies or at smaller operations. But there are ways around this, such as adding projects or vacation student supervisory responsibilities to an employee’s job description.

Recognition and acknowledgement does not have to be a set reward system — although some companies do have honour boards on site and corporate offices marking years of service. Sometimes it can be as simple as a thank you from a supervisor or manager.

What about salary?

How do you know if your salary levels are commensurate with industry? In mining, there are many variables: rosters, DIDO, FIFO, residential, location, commodity, business size and operation size, to name a few. A lot of the time mining companies only really find out what others are paying when a valued employee leaves.

As the market begins to gain momentum, is waiting for someone to leave the best business practice?

Knowing what similar operations and companies are paying can be a valuable tool in your retention toolbox. With established networks, and 23 years of data, we can assist with this research and provide a detailed report on what is offered by companies who will potentially be targeting your employees. Want more information? Find out more here.