Critical Challenges Faced By Metal And Mining Companies Commerce Essay

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Today, the metals and mining industries are rapidly changing. The industries are facing critical challenges in improving workforce adaptability, developing leaders, attracting and retaining employees and analyzing the workforce to make business decisions. Addressing these challenges will require a combination of executive focus, transformed processes and technology enablers.

As business becomes more global and competitive, companies are being challenged to reassess where and how products are made and marketed. A less understood challenge, however, is how to make the best use of the enterprise's most important asset: the workforce.

First challenge- Developing an adaptable workforce: a Critical Capability

Today, most metals and mining companies must constantly change in the face of new market dynamics, rising costs, the introduction of new technologies and an evolving workforce. But a recent studied found that only 16 percent of metals and mining respondents believe their workforces today are very capable of adapting to change, despite the rapid shifts in these industries.

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There are three main key capabilities which influence the workforce's ability to adapt to change. First, workers must be able to collaborate across their organizations, connecting individuals and groups that are separated by organizational boundaries and different physical locations. Second, workers need to effectively identify and locate experts. And last, organizations must be capable of predicting their future skill requirements to keep ahead of changing conditions.

COLLABORATE: Only 7 percent of the metals and mining survey respondents say they are very effective at collaboration - the ability to bring together workers to solve problems and to innovate, either formally or informally. To address this issue, a number of leading metals and mining companies are actively using technology enablers today for collaboration, knowledge sharing and learning, as Figure 2 indicates. However, our evidence indicates that the real hurdles to collaboration are not technology, but issues of the company culture. The top reasons given for lack of collaboration in metals and mining were too busy to assist others (53 percent), followed by a lack of performance measures to reward collaboration (34 percent) and organizational silos (31 percent).

Such technology enablers initially can be a challenge to the operations workforce, which may be less familiar with Internet-based technologies. Companies also may face resistance from older members of the professional workforce when implementing these technologies. Despite such challenges, we believe technology enablers are crucial to competitive vitality, especially in a more globally integrated environment.

IDENTIFY EXPERTS: Only a small number of metals and mining respondents (14 percent) believe their companies are very capable of identifying individuals with specific expertise. Yet these days, finding experts quickly is critical for problem solving and for innovation, especially as enterprises grow and spread around the world. Our survey indicates that technology-based solutions are becoming increasingly popular ways for better identifying experts in the organization; tools such as employee directories, resume repositories and skills tracking databases top the list. Looking forward, emerging technologies such as automatic expertise locators and Web 2.0 social networking tools can identify experts according to a variety of criteria.

These tools can identify experts across the whole enterprise, within a specific business unit or country or even based on proximity to the searcher. And some emerging tools can also identify the social connections that exist between knowledge seekers and sources. To optimize their value, however, these new tools need to be woven into the day-to-day fabric of work within the company culture.

ANTICIPATE FUTURE SKILL NEEDS: Only 13 percent of metals and mining respondents said that their organizations have a very clear understanding of the key workforce skills required in the next three to five years. Yet being able to anticipate future skill needs is critical for success in a fast-changing industry.

Meeting future skill requirements demands an understanding of the company's current skill inventory and business strategy for the future, combined with the ability to identify options for closing expected skill gaps. Those companies that can anticipate future workforce skill needs will gain a head start on adapting to rapidly changing business conditions. Going forward, companies can improve workforce adaptability by focusing on:

• Fostering collaboration through communities, welldesigned and aligned performance measures and collaborative technologies that are embedded into day-to-day processes

• Developing an expertise location capability that combines formal skills management efforts with employee profiles and other social networking technologies

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• Reassessing skill needs based on likely future business scenarios for a changing industry, and training and/or hiring based on those projections.

Revealing the leadership gap - Future growth at risk

Great organizations develop leaders who deliver today's business results while guiding employees through ongoing turbulence and uncertainty. Highly skilled leaders are needed today as organizations face new challenges associated with globalization and increasing demand for innovation. Recent IBM research indicates that future leaders for the new global marketplace will need to excel at visioning, collaborating, evaluating and executing on a more complex, global stage.

Going forward, companies must be innovative in the ways they attract and develop employees by:

• Marketing to prospective workers in the same way leading organizations market a product to a customer segment

• Using outreach methods that appeal to desirable target populations, including virtual worlds and social networking sites frequented by Generation Y

• Leveraging both e-learning and collaborative technologies for employee development to build a skilled workforce that is more flexible than the traditional full-time employee model

• Capturing knowledge from experienced workers before they leave the company.

Driving growth through workforce analytics

Given the pace of change in the metals and mining industries, we would expect the HR organization and the business units to engage in an ongoing dialogue about strategic workforce investments and transformation programs. Is this happening today?

The good news is that, after years of effort, HR sees itself slowly moving beyond its traditional transactional role and migrating toward a more strategic relationship with the business. The bad news is that just 46 percent of metals and mining companies in our study are actually conducting these strategic two-way discussions on a regular basis. Missing from many of these strategic conversations are the analytics needed to develop insights and formulate business cases for investment. HR analytics can provide answers to questions such as "How many people were promoted last year, by level?", "How is the composition of my work force changing in emerging versus developed countries?", or "How were safety levels improved by individuals who participated in a set of training initiatives?"

Findings indicate that many companies are unable to analyze their workforces due to a lack of systems integration, an inability to extract data and a dearth of clearly defined metrics. Not only are organizations finding it difficult to link human capital information with data from Sales, Finance and other related departments, they are often unable to share information across applications used within HR itself. Overall, only 4 percent of the metals and mining respondents say they are very effective at using human capital data to make decisions about the workforce

Conclusion

In today's rapidly changing metals and mining industries, an adaptable workforce is a critical element of business success. To achieve such a workforce, metals and mining companies first need a global model for leadership development. Companies also need to develop a talent model that can help them recruit, develop and retain valued segments of the employee population. This requires the ability to identify experts and foster an environment where knowledge and experience travel beyond traditional organizational boundaries. And companies need to encourage worker collaboration and knowledge sharing. Finally, metals and mining companies need to establish an infrastructure that supplies data and information about the current and projected state of the workforce, along with the ability to apply that information to develop strategic insights and business recommendations. The HR function needs to take a lead role in providing strategic guidance on workforce issues and in designing human capital programs that can enhance workforce effectiveness. However, the human resources organization, by itself, cannot be expected to shoulder this entire effort. All members of the executive suite need to play a role in improving workforce performance.

Among the potential challenges metals and mining ETFs could be facing in the coming months include:

China. Investors are primarily concerned about any slowdown in the Chinese economy, which could have a contagion effect in the metals market. China's imports of refined metals grew a whopping 126% last year, reports BusinessWeek. To some, it's vitally important that China keep up that pace or even extend it.

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Energy in South Africa. Eskom has made application for a 35% tariff hike after its 45% application hit a rock late late year, and the lowered price demands come after the unions, the business sector and other players attacked. The South African utility company has been struggling to source funding for its expansion program, with very little coming from the government itself, reports Afrol News.

The industry has some positive things to watch out for in the future, as well:

M&A. Canada's mining patch is undergoing many take-over deals, as steadily rising metal prices may drive busy dealmaking in 2010 after a lull in acquisitions last year. Many of the miners financial positions are healthier now, as new sources of financing are now opening up. China has opened up its coffers to the larger players in hopes of smaller developers taking the bait, as well, reports Cameron French for Reuters on Canada.com.

Imports and Exports. Chinese data for commodity imports and exports have surpassed all expectations. The Chinese government reported recently that the country's exports for December jumped 17.7 %, breaking a 13-month losing streak. China's finance minister also said that the government would probably spend the full amount of planned stimulus in 2010, despite improvements in its economy and efforts to control bank lending, reports AAP on BusinessDay