• Mining and metals companies need to adapt to a changing workforce that can support digitalization and decarbonization.
  • Traditional methods of finding and retaining talent need updating to reflect employees with new skillsets and values.
  • A new report from Accenture and the World Economic Forum defines which skills will be needed and where and how this talent will be sourced.

As mining and metals companies adopt ever more sophisticated technology and adapt their operations for a low-carbon world and ongoing geopolitical considerations, they will move to different operating models. These models will require employees with new skillsets and experiences, including artificial intelligence (AI) specialists, climate change scientists and public policy experts.

A Global Talent Innovation Initiative by the World Economic Forum’s Mining and Metals Future of Work Taskforce has assessed the industries’ likely future skills gaps and taken a deep dive into what will be required to fill them. The findings suggest that mining and metals industries have a window of opportunity to collaborate in preparation for the cyclical skills shortages ahead.

The initiative found that new types of future talent will require different employee value propositions (EVPs) and traverse different career journeys.

Research by Youth Insight found that Gen Z perceptions of the mining industry can be relatively negative. Social and environmental issues are at the forefront of Gen Z’s value set: 88% say they care about these issues and think companies have a powerful role to play in addressing their concerns, according to a Gen Z Purpose Study.

Other studies show that a competitive salary is now less important than being able to make a difference at a societal and environmental level. A Monster study found three-quarters of Gen Z rank purpose ahead of paycheck.

A quantitative LinkedIn survey revealed future workers have a strong desire to join the industries to make a difference:

While EVPs will differ by geography, traditional packages are likely to become increasingly irrelevant for future generations. Companies that do not offer purposeful work, a strong sense of belonging and a genuine focus on well-being will struggle to attract next generation hires.

How will companies source future talent?

Mining and metals companies will also need to adapt to the idea that future talent journeys are not linear. They will need to engage with potential talent as early as possible – even at the high school stage – and use a multi-pronged sourcing approach, including:

1. Buy

Mining and metals companies will increasingly need to hire from adjacent industries – or use acquisitions to gain new skills and knowledge. To attract talent from other industries, and retain acquired employees, organizations must also build flexibility into workforce models. For example, it will be important to make previously “set in stone” shift systems responsive to individual needs – rather than the other way around.

2. Build

Where supply is lacking, mining and metals companies will have no choice but to start building internal pathways to develop, upskill or reskill internal talent. This will require organizations to move beyond providing technical certifications and build lifelong learning as a core muscle, using as many upskilling opportunities as possible. Organizations can also build talent externally by: partnering with universities to establish talent communities, where people with common skills and passions connect to hear from industry leaders; holding hackathons based around industry issues; or tapping into candidate motivators through environmental and community work.

3. Borrow

Where demand fluctuates, skills can be borrowed from other parts of an organization, or potentially from industry talent pools in a sharing economy model. Just as the airlines share crew from a common bank of pre-certified, qualified and safety-checked individuals, so the mining and metals industries have an opportunity to create their own talent banks for scarce skills with volatile demand. This will require industry-level collaboration to gain visibility of the talent marketplace and agreement on skill and certification requirements.

5. Bot

Specialized mechanical roles and repetitive tasks lend themselves to automation and will likely disappear. Other roles will be augmented by automation, with AI feeding insights to humans to support decision making and give people higher value work. Automation will in turn give rise to new roles, creating demand for workers with analytical skills.

5. Boomerang

Mining and metals companies have an opportunity to harness talent in their alumni communities by making it easy to come back in a new role or advisory capacity. A sharing economy talent solution is also available for alumni: a mine’s downtime could be aligned across different organizations, allowing people to work horizontally across the industry, rather than vertically in just one mining or metals entity.

How can companies attract and retain talent?

To prepare for this very different future of work, mining and metals companies will need to take three steps.

  • Transform the career journey at the organizational level: including expanding pathways to include those without traditional qualifications, starting careers engagement in high school and creating new types of employee value propositions with a focus on purpose and flexibility.
  • Redesign talent and leadership architecture models: including using flexible working models with dynamic rostering and remote working where possible and developing talent marketplaces that support internal mobility at scale based on real-time skills frameworks.
  • Move to grow and deploy talent at an industry level: including competing as a consortium against other industries to attract scarce talent and partnering with peers to develop sharing economy models for learning and talent.

For many organizations, making these changes will require a change of leadership mindset and cultural evolution. To take the first step in understanding how this will affect your company, read the report Transforming future talent in mining and metals.