Mining for Talent: My Q&A With Kinross’ Gina Jardine

Headquartered in Toronto, Canada, Kinross Gold employs approximately 9,300 people and last year produced a record 2.8 million gold equivalent ounces while generating $3.5 billion in revenue. As of 2016, Kinross was ranked the fifth largest gold producer in the world.

Gina Jardine is SVP Human Resources at Kinross, a senior gold mining company founded in 1993. Its diverse portfolio includes mines and projects in the United States, Brazil, Chile, Ghana, Mauritania and Russia.

Before joining Kinross, the Australian native was VP Human Resources for the Diamonds and Minerals division of Rio Tinto. Well aware of the challenges of being a woman in the male-dominated mining industry, she is focused on increasing female representation at Kinross.

Carolyn Ray, Managing Director of Interbrand Canada, spoke with Jardine for her insights on getting ahead and the mining sector.

Ray: Gina, what’s your advice to women pursuing careers in the mining sector?

Gina Jardine / KinrossJardine (right): Go for it! This is one of the best industries I have worked in. Pardon the pun, but it’s earthy. Mining is a difficult business. Ore is harder to get to than it has been before, new mines are harder to find than ever before and it takes really bright minds to find and develop these assets.

People in the mining business are smart. You are working with engineers and scientists, people who are solving problems that mother earth created millennia ago. The operators are incredible, they are real ‘salt of the earth’. They work in some of the most inhospitable places on earth and are happy to do it, and keep signing up for more. I can’t think of another job that offers so much variety in the type of work, the location, or challenge.

The great thing about mining is that the product ‘does’ stuff’—iron ore builds cities, gold is traded, copper fuels the connected world we live in, aluminum makes it possible to go to sleep in Toronto and wake up in Australia through the power of flight.

Ray: What can companies do to retain talent—and how important is talent to addressing business challenges specific to the mining industry?

Jardine: Regardless of where the commodity cycle is, retaining your top talent is critical and largely in your control. Of course, there are factors that most companies need to address: are salaries competitive, do benefits suit the needs of the individual, how does the pension compare etc. However, I have found, and in more than one company, it is the reputation (brand purpose), company culture and intangible rewards that are the biggest retainer of talent.

The unwritten rules and stories that are told about what your company stands for and how it treats its folks will be the determinant. All things being equal (compensation, benefits, etc.) it is the culture and what your brand stands for that will be the make-or-break decision for good talent to stay or go.

Talent challenges in the mining industry relate to the downturn in the mining cycle that started about six years ago. Over the last number of years, the focus has been on cost-cutting, strengthening the balance sheet, in some cases surviving to fight another day—and all commodities have been the same. There has been little growth in our industry, and ‘growth’ is the operating space that most people like to be in. It hasn’t made sense for people to leave one company and move to another as we were all in the same boat.

However, the winds have shifted a little and more hope is in the air. Conservative growth and acquisition is being considered and the risk is that talent may see that different opportunities exist in other companies and may be tempted to leave. So, the talent challenge is to ensure that your people understand your company’s story and how they fit into that. What is your company’s strategy, what is the role that your people play in that, and more importantly, making sure you re-engage the workforce in that story.

Ray: Why is having a purpose-driven EVP (employer value proposition) important in the mining sector?

Jardine: Mining can be perceived as a ‘dirty, male-dominated, extractive industry,’ so the mining industry must play a role to educate those entering the workforce about our industry and how it operates today. Unfortunately, the good work mining does rarely gets the headlines, so a solid narrative of what mining is about, what it delivers and how it adds value is imperative, especially to attract talent that may be tempted to go to different industries. A smart mining company will take the good about mining and will use it as part of their value proposition to attract (and retain) great talent.

Ray: Do you have a strategy to engage millennials and diverse audience and cultures at Kinross?

Jardine: Starting with diverse candidates, I am pleased to say that over 97% of our entire workforce is from the host countries where we operate. In our mines in Russia, we have about 98% Russian employees, in Mauritania, more than 90% are Mauritanian. It is just the way we do business. We want employment for the communities in which we operate as it is one of the most powerful impacts of our business.

With regard to millennials, we have an excellent talent program known as Generation Gold. This focuses on fast tracking top talent over a four-year program, which includes four rotations globally. It is very much a one-of-a-kind program. We also have great summer programs around the world to engage students and show them what working in a mining company is all about.

Ray: With regards to your talent strategy, how have you engaged senior leadership as agents of change, both globally and at a site level?

Jardine: Our talent strategy is multilayered, but starts with The Kinross People Strategy. This is a framework that we are currently developing with our leaders globally. In short, this program aims to drive business performance using the business strategy as our north star, and to leverage the asset that exists in our company values and our culture as a way to rally all our people together, and to align them globally.

We will underpin this strategy with a well-developed EVP that we can use to tell our story to our folks internally and use to attract talent to us—and we have a great story to tell.

We are starting the program with our leaders. Each leader will be asked to explore the power of our values and our culture and ask them to think about this from their employees’ point of view, but also reinforcing this for them too.

Then through the lens of our company strategy, and looking at what organisational capability we need for the future, we take the time to assess potential gaps and identify areas that we may need to focus on to ensure we are prepared as an organisation to meet any challenges that come our way.

We aim to create a roadmap for our employees so that they can see what Kinross seeks to achieve, how they fit into that story, and in return for their delivery, they can see the commitments our business makes to them (our people and culture commitments). Ultimately, leaders will use the roadmap as an engagement and retention tool.

The important piece is how we translate this to our many and varied sites worldwide. Our roadmap is a framework, and the success lies in how it is implemented locally. It will be the translation of the commitments in a local context that will ultimately be how we define success.

Success for me is delivering on the company’s performance expectation with a workforce that continues to want to be a part of ‘Our Kinross Family.’ There are your standard metrics, but for me it will be the stories that are told about how we achieve that performance and how the commitment that we made to our people is honoured.

Originally published in brandchannel in 2017

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