HR in Focus (Part 1) – Ready-Made HR Information Systems for the Resources Industry – do they exist?

The dilemma for many HR Managers working in the resources industry is that they work in an HR environment that is quite complex.

A typical resources company has a corporate head office overseeing one or multiple operations in usually, remote locations. They employ anywhere from 50 to 10,000 people made up of full-time, part-time, casual and contract labour, expatriates and/or nationals working either a FIFO, a residential roster or a combination of both.

Meaningful HR reporting is often non-existent or takes days to collate; personnel data is difficult to maintain; security is usually a series of obscure passwords; and there’s a never-ending procession of forms, emails and requests that a team of HR administrators continually work their way through.

The HR Manager is often snowed under with their day-to-day tasks plus has the responsibility of administering employee benefits, managing performance appraisals, dealing with performance management issues, running learning and development programs, conducting recruitment, overseeing succession planning programs, etc. etc. The list goes on.

So when it comes time to implementing a ‘system’ to improve things, it’s a daunting prospect.

In our 10 years of HR Consulting within the resources industry, we have been unable to find such a system to handle complexity that isn’t going to take two years to implement, cost a million dollars, require dozens of consultants for months on end, and still not provide 100% confidence that it’ll produce a report to tell them how many staff they have on their books or what their organisational chart looks like.

When we were asked a few months back by one of our clients to take their HR function off the excel spreadsheets and paper forms, we went to market to find a system specific to the industry that could handle FIFO and residential rosters, expatriate workforces, national workforces, different currencies, multiple languages etc. It had to be web-based so their managers could work in it remotely to perform tasks like draw up new contracts, employ a new person or simply update personnel records.

The options were limited to say the least as ready-made resource-centric HR Systems were just not to be found. There are certainly payroll providers that tack on an ‘HR module’ or system providers that can build a customised platform to cater to the idiosyncrasies of the mining and resources sector, but nothing with true HR-management features at the budget or timeline that our client required.

As our investigations led us down paths that went nowhere, we eventually met with a group in Vancouver – and the lights came on!

To our great surprise, we found a company who have spent 6 years quietly developing an HR system specifically for the international mining and resources sector founded by ex-HR mining professionals. Better still, the cost was realistic, they could customise the main system platform to specific needs without any trouble and the schedule to implement was within a reasonable timeframe.  

Interestingly as a company, we too share this organisational complexity like many of our clients. We have a corporate head office in Australia with remote sites globally; we converse in English, French and Spanish; we employ full-time workers, casuals and temps across three different payroll systems, multiple currencies and all under a variety of entities in different countries. Our employee management system is a series of excel spreadsheets and forms that requires ongoing administrative overhead and so after viewing their system, we took the opportunity to implement it ourselves!

We have started small to firstly centralise all our employee records and will integrate data from our payroll systems to get greater visibility on our global workforce. In time we may add a new module or two based on our growing needs but for now, we will start with the basics.

It’s early days and as we continue to work with them, I’ll conclude this article with a Part 2 in the New Year to share our learning’s and appraise the experience of implementing this ‘ready-made, resources-centric’ HR information system.



Lachlan Spicer

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