The last two years or served as an impromptu experiment to test the effectiveness of remote work. Many organizations saw the early stages of the pandemic as an opportunity to rethink the way people, management systems and technical infrastructure are put in place not only to support the business, but also to complement the operating model. .
From a people perspective, there have been many challenges balancing work and personal commitments, mobilizing teams outside of traditional roles and operating models, and nurturing a cohesive culture in times of great uncertainty. For these and other reasons, many people strongly prefer a remote or hybrid work model, even as we begin to think about a post-COVID-19 world.
Our research shows that employees crave investment in the human aspects of work. They want a renewed sense of purpose and they want to feel a sense of shared identity with their colleagues. Yes, they want fair pay, good benefits, and plenty of perks, but more than that, employees want to feel valued by their organizations and managers. They want meaningful interactions, not just transactions, but not necessarily in person.
The following article discusses how business systems and technology infrastructure have accelerated to support revised operating models since the COVID-19 outbreak. Today, hiring, retaining and developing sufficient skills are essential to ensure that productivity is not lost due to changes in the way we work.
Future operating model will implement digital technologies and advanced analytics
In the coming years, a hybrid working model that combines being on-site and working remotely will become increasingly popular, even for mining and metals companies with many geographical locations. In fact, research shows that more than 50% of employees prefer remote and hybrid working methods post-pandemic, compared to around 40% pre-pandemic.
Organizations can leverage talent across the globe by taking this dual approach, defining teams based on the best experience and skills available rather than availability. There is also the opportunity to expand the recruiting pool for industries that are struggling to attract, whether due to remote locations, overhead and overhead work patterns, or residency situations, which are not uncommon. for mining and heavy industry players.
That said, the future operating model requires teams, as well as the management and technical systems that complement the operating model, to be agile. The technological dimension consists of selecting the appropriate IT architecture, platforms and innovation and technology projects to complement the organization’s overall digital and analytical vision, including business profitability and efficiency. for end users. Yet implementing these changes can present several hurdles.
A South American mining company has launched Remote Operations Centers (ROCs), which were designed to allow site maintenance, operations and management to function in a central location. The project succeeded in realizing all the technical capabilities needed to operate the mine remotely. However, the operations team and frontline staff were only peripherally engaged during planning and implementation. Shortly after implementation, it became clear that the site needed to rethink roles and responsibilities and ultimately the organizational structure of the operations team. Thus, the full potential for improving the operational efficiency of the team was never realized, indicating the relevance of integrating planning, ownership and decision guidelines throughout the phases of the project. .
While this example of ROC in the mining industry indicates opportunities for improvement, the concept of ROC certainly has the potential to influence an organization’s costs, technology adoption, and day-to-day efficiency.
Hire, retain and develop enough skills to support long-term sustainability
The sheer scale of workforce transitions in response to COVID-19 means that many businesses and policymakers have had to provide additional training and education programs for workers. On this point, a recent McKinsey article focused on defining the jobs and skills that will be created as automation, AI and robotics retool the workplace. The results show that high-level cognitive, numerical and self-leadership skills will become increasingly important, especially in heavy industries (exposure).
- Cognitive capacity. Having a high level of cognitive ability means adding value beyond what can be done by automated systems and intelligent machines. Being able to think critically, structure thoughts, and communicate effectively while adapting to developing circumstances is essential to achieving cognitive excellence.
- Digital skills. Having digital skills means being able to identify, evaluate and communicate concepts through digital platforms.
- Self-leadership. It is the practice of understanding the role, identifying aspirations, and deliberately guiding oneself towards achieving one’s goals. In other words, it’s about understanding what we do, why we do it and how we do it.
Three examples show how companies can make changes in hiring, retention and skills development to support the long-term sustainability of the digital and analytics mission.
A North American mining company embarked on a digital transformation with a combination of insourcing and outsourcing roles. From a process and technical management perspective, the organization has formed a digital and analytics team of data scientists, translators, and designers in Asia, Europe, and the United States. The rationale for team selection was based solely on industry experience in building similar products, depth of knowledge on optimization, and tenure in roles. By focusing on expertise, this hybrid team was able to deliver a high quality product in an accelerated time frame.
A US-based mining and processing company adopted advanced analytics and modeling to maximize production. The company did this by implementing agile practices and leveraging enterprise operations, engineering, and data science functions. Advanced analytics helped achieve record production, identify improvements to instrumentation for more accurate data capture, and initiate innovative problem solving to prioritize model recommendations for production gains.
ROCs are another example of digital platforms that can identify and communicate improvements or changes. Mining players are increasingly turning to ROCs that leverage software and analytics to run day-to-day operations, resulting in productivity, safety and planning benefits. Witness the recent success of autonomous transportation systems at some Australian mine sites.
An Asian mining company has embarked on a three-pronged strategy in which digitalization has enabled diversification and decarbonization efforts. The early adoption of digitization enabled changes to the operating model, such as reduced stretch targets for fuel and dynamic dispatch. This allowed for an increase in production and an overall better financial situation.
As the world moves towards the next normal and businesses across all industries aim to return to the status quo, it’s clear that digital technologies and advanced analytics, complemented by agile practices, are here to stay. Heavy industry players who embrace hybrid ways of working will be better positioned to provide employees with the human interactions they need as well as the tools they need to stay connected.
Additionally, these players should seek to capitalize on future work trends and integrated operations centers to realize the hybrid work models that employees prefer. Leaders must also consider the desired culture for an organization and choose the operating model that best supports safety and sustainability. It can also help answer questions on how to approach capacity building and adapt HR policies to support new ways of working for the future.