HR – Get it right from the start!

It will come as no surprise to anyone when I say that Human Capital plays a significant role in determining the success of a project and operation, and as the most important resource, human capital needs to be aligned with business needs. Having the right leader and team following creates an exciting environment for new employees and in the end, you will attract the best because the truth is, the best want to only work with the best.  The math in the corporate world is simple: attracting high caliber talent +retaining high caliber talent = SUCCESS. 

In my position with Globe, I meet  with HR professionals at all levels from junior, mid tier and large mining companies and no matter the time of year or the stage of the project, they all agree that somewhere along the process, an HR structure failed to be implemented early enough to prevent future manageable challenges from becoming  major issues.

HR Managers know a plan has to be designed, executed and followed up on, but when a project is   ramping up, regardless of the size of the organisation the rush to get things done comes at a price with last minute changes and sometimes falls short of expectations. There is an understandable focus to get the project up and running and to worry about ‘other’ details later on.

Challenges we see most often are insufficient workforce planning, late recruitment, lack of policies & procedures, improper job description creation and evaluation, inaccurate benchmarking studies, tardiness in initial training and development, to name but a few.

Very often these products and processes exist and HR leaders bring them in from previous experiences, but these are not adapted to the specific needs of the project.  This may just be the most common shortfall i.e. having tools but not using them properly because there is not enough time to implement, people are too busy putting out other fires and to sum it up simply, too much to do and with too little time to get it all done.

For those HR managers reading, I am not pointing fingers at you and do not believe it is your fault.  The whole leadership team needs to come together with the unconditional support from the CEO to make sure these needs are addressed.  In fact, I would like this paper to serve as a reminder to those leaders starting a project or a company or going through significant growth to place considerable emphasis on getting HR right, from the start.

Every manager in the Mining team has a portion of responsibility for HR directly in their team and also indirectly via others.  We probably nod when we read the previous statement, but agree that Line Managers are also not always well trained on the value of HR and this can bring issues later on; the first one that comes to my mind is attrition – that ugly word that makes us all scared when coming to project completion time and the need to have the right amount of people with the right skills.

Another example I see being worked on later in the game is Performance Planning…what I see is that many of these companies have the right teams to create a proper plan to go as far as the design level.  Once executing comes along, internal communication becomes a challenge and it falls apart.  Seeing this time after time is another confirmation that as much as we want to focus on putting our heads down and work with our computers, it does not work!  As leaders, we need to be out there talking to our teams from the very early days and structuring HR processes that will ascertain a smooth end or transition in projects.

Recruitment is one major component of our business and it continues to amaze us how difficult it has become to find qualified personnel, even during down times in the economy!  We manage RPO (Recruitment Process Outsourcing) projects around the world and our clients, when we perform the diagnostics, always come to the same conclusion that a proper workforce plan was either not created or executed, but more often the first one.   The challenge here is that a workforce plan is not a document you create at the beginning and then leave it to read up on from time to time.  Instead, it is a ‘live’ document with many changes that could happen on a daily basis to answer the needs of the business or reactions to the market.

Sometimes companies, particularly juniors, cannot afford to hire a full time HR Manager with the appropriate experience to build their HR group, and that is okay.  A senior, professional and experienced manager will represent a significant investment and probably the company will not be able to keep him or her busy enough to justify that expense.  Just remember there are very good HR Consultants out there who can help you set up and provide further advice on an as needed basis.

I have countless stories to share on our experience as HR and Recruitment consultants, but what it boils down to is our recommendation to all leaders looking to put a project or operation together to consider adding HR Structures and Procedures, proper job descriptions and all those important and time consuming tasks from very early on.  This will save you time and money later on.

Jaime Alvarez

Regional Manger, The Americas

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