Subsidised homes, cheap flights, free shares and bonuses: how mining companies attract top staff

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By MiningFM's regular contributor Brooke Martin

How do resources companies attract and retain the best staff? This question has become paramount over the past six years of Australia's mining boom. 

It's commonly known that mining companies in regional areas, particularly residential mines, have trouble attracting quality staff as workers increasingly seek out higher FIFO wages. Smaller operations can't afford to lure miners through hefty salaries, but there's still lots they can do to attract good workers.

When job seekers from the mining, resources and energy industries were surveyed by www.seek.com.au in 2012, it was found that career development was just as important as a high salary. 

Kayleen, a HR manager in regional Western Australia, says it's become more important in recent years for mining companies to promote a good work/life balance to workers and potential employees.  "Earning a high wage often also means possibly working especially long hours and extended time rosters, which may impact on personal relationships and social lives," she says. 

Kayleen's company has set hours for each area of site. Of course there are those who constantly work overtime, but the majority of employees start and end at their set times and this is promoted by senior leadership.  "Because we are a residential mine, we attract employees by promoting lifestyles that our workers can enjoy in our community - such as leisure centres, social sports and activities on weeknights, community events throughout the year, and company family days,” Kayleen says. 

I also asked my fellow mining buddies what initially attracted them to their workplace. One of the major responses was workplace health and safety. And many believe "danger money" (the colloquial term referring to high salaries paid for potentially dangerous roles) is simply not worth it.

Mine sites are often large scale, and that goes for everything from trucks and machinery to buildings and process plants. "If a company has a reputation for injuring its employees or not being proactive in education about workplace safety, it isn’t a very attractive place for me," says fitter Mark from Queensland. And how does he know if a company is safe?  "Everyone gets on the Net these days to research mining companies, and the news is all over it when something bad happens, so everybody knows about it."

Perhaps one of the biggest factors in attracting employees is job location. Let’s face it; mines are not too often situated on a sunny Pacific island surrounded by palm trees. Also, rarely are mines located in close proximity to major cities or fully-resourced towns. Recruitment specialist Nick says, "For some employees and their families, location of the mine site is a dealbreaker. But for others, it’s more about the benefits on offer."

These "benefits" include flexible working hours, bonus schemes and incentives, extra leave entitlements, additional superannuation contributions, wages and promotion opportunities. 

One Pilbara-based mining giant actually helps its workers to buy a home. This includes substantially subsidised interest rates, assistance with the house deposit, power and water subsidies and conveyancing settlement costs – a package reportedly worth up to $100,000 per employee! 

Other inducements include:

  • Bonuses, generally based on years accrued with the company. 
  • Free flights enabling workers and their families to visit family back home once a year, especially for those living far away or overseas. 
  • Schooling costs
  • Company cars
  • Share schemes

It's not a one-size-fits-all approach of course. HR managers say employees want and need different things, and single miners generally seek completely different packages to those with a partner and children. It's worth knowing the sorts of benefits available though, especially if the salary on offer isn't quite what you had in mind.


Other great company initiatives:

If you know of a great company initiative - either for employees or the local community - please tell us about it.