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Managing A Workforce In Unusual Times


I pride myself on my mining knowledge and understanding the industry inside and out so I can better help our clients. 


I’m thankful for all the different experiences I have had working on various mine sites and the people who believed in me and challenged me to reach for new heights. 


With COVID-19 having disrupted everything from the way we live to the way we do business, I can’t help but reflect upon what I have seen over my short career. 


One of those reflective journeys for me recently took me to where my mining career began… which was in Human Resources (or People Operations). 


Regardless of my intentions of why I studied HR (a conversation for another time), I found it really suited who I am. 


I have a people-first mentality and love seeing people achieve their maximum potential. 


As an extrovert;

  • I loved my time as an HR professional in the mining industry. 
  • I loved the challenge of supporting workers in a very tough working environment. 
  • I loved helping people transition and adapt to make the most of their FIFO experiences. 
  • I loved having very frank feedback discussions with people to give them actionable advice so that they took ownership of their roles. 


Taking Work Home At Work


Often I actually took these discussions to the dry mess. 


The mess for me was a great leveller on mining sites. 


For those that aren’t familiar with the term “dry mess” It’s the dining hall or lots of kitchen tables.  


This is where people from all levels came together to socialise and provide some form of normality. 


It was a time to form friendships with the crews and debrief on the day. 


Most of the time it was a time to lift your spirits with some tucker. 


So, rather than have discussions and strategise behind a desk, I took my work to dinner.


How Would I Have Handled This Uncertainty?


As I was reflecting on this journey I asked myself the question - if I was a HR professional now, during COVID-19, how would we need to adapt the mess to ensure people’s safety?

Of course, the health and safety of everyone on site is the key priority but as much as possible I would have tried to keep the essence and sanctity of what the mess hall represents. 


Here are some of my thoughts but keen to hear your experience?


In addition to increased sanitisation of food prep areas and standard protocols like gloves etc.:

  • Extend mess hall opening times to reduce the number of people dining at any one time. 
  • Arrange seating to maintain appropriate social distancing. Instead of 6 - 8 at a table reduce it down to 4 and get people to chat in micro-groups. This is more about spatial distancing NOT minimising socialisation. 
  • Encourage people to extend the mess hall beyond its 4 walls. 
  • Get the takeaway programs rolling and pre-packaged food options along with pre-packaged condiments and utensils. Wouldn’t it be cool to have ‘room-service’, maybe now I am going back to my days in hospitality? 
  • What about Zoom dinners.Set up a couple of kiosks so Mums and Dads can dial into their family and have dinner together. 
  • Get the Out Doors Pizza ovens fired up permanently and set up order ahead with a takeaway option, and go and have Pizza somewhere a little more private. 


The Industry Changes Again


When I think back to my FIFO lifestyle, I also think about how this has been dramatically impacted. 


I know that it isn’t that long since the 8 to 10 weeks away and 1 week home rosters. 


But the industry and practices have come a long way since then. 


But thinking through how effective the team were at solving problems and providing solutions that really made a difference on site I wonder how much of that engagement has taken place. I hope that it has.


To all of my friends who’s lives have changed dramatically with extended rosters with increased pressure being placed on your home situation my thoughts are with you. 


But I am keen to hear your thoughts on what is happening on your site. 


Feel free to send me an email at kim.eales@resolution.systems or give me a call.

Managing the Workforce In The New World
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