Is it time to give people and culture a seat on the board?

Two mining industry board members meeting in a boardroom.

Why human resources deserves a seat on the board in Australia’s mining industry.

Depending on the focus of your company, your board will probably have an accountant and a lawyer, and perhaps a geologist, metallurgist, or mining engineer.


Except in the rarest of circumstances, you probably don’t have a People and Culture professional – that is, someone with a human resources background – sitting at the top table.


Is it time for that to change? Is it time we give one of our greatest assets, our people, as much top-level attention as we give our assets in the ground? There’s plenty of evidence to suggest it is – and that mining companies that do so will put themselves at a competitive advantage when it comes to recruitment and retention of the best talent.

How coronavirus showed it’s all about people

The canary in the coalmine here could well be the global pandemic.


When coronavirus hit, suddenly every decision every company made was all about people. Our people couldn’t go into the office; they couldn’t travel; they couldn’t get to site. Health and safety, risk mitigation and industrial relations were suddenly primary considerations behind every decision taken – from the board, down.


The questions that needed answering were endless — how do we stand people down? How do we get them working from home? Is this covered by sick leave? Are our patient health and safety processes up to the task — as the focus switched from issues of operational risk to people-based risk.


While most boards are made up of exceptional people with great technical expertise, most boards in our industry will not have had someone with a deep understanding of these areas. The great leaders, of course, stepped up to the plate. But a board with a people and culture professional in its make-up would have had a distinct advantage.

Vision, strategy and leadership on culture

Pandemic aside, there’s another big reason for people and culture representation on any board: a company is only as good as its people. While the asset you have in the ground is important, it’s having the right people in place that allows you to identify, develop, exploit, leverage and capitalise on that asset.


If the role of any board is to set the vision and the strategy and provide leadership, then having someone on the board who understands people will ensure that such vision, strategy and leadership extends to the company’s culture.


Wherever you have people, you have culture. Anything that affects people, affects culture. What’s acceptable behaviour? What’s not? What’s an acceptable attitude? What’s not? What values and ethics are people expected to demonstrate? What are your expectations of them? It’s all culture – and culture is the key to success.


Without a good culture, people are demotivated and less productive, and attrition rates are high. Poor culture is a drag on the success of organisational performance and profitability. In an industry experiencing a seemingly never-ending skills shortage, and a highly mobile workforce, having someone on the board focused on people and culture can only be to a company’s benefit.

The change has started; don’t be left behind

There’s some evidence mining companies have already begun to notice the opportunity having a human resources professional at the top table presents. For example, respected HR Professionals have been appointed to the boards of,

West African Resources, Sandfire Resources and Northern Star Resources.


Hopefully, it’s the start of a trend. After all, if a board requires someone with metallurgy expertise, it will go out and find someone with that skill set to join them.


Why should it be any different with People and Culture?


Mining People International has more than 26 years’ specialist experience helping mining companies uncover the best candidates for their executive and leadership roles. To find out more about our Executive Search Service, click here or get in touch directly. Lindsay Craig - General Manager Executive Search and Board Appointments +61 8 426 1548.

Lindsay Craig
Mining People International