Analysis: MULENGA MALATA-TEMBO
A COMPANY is only as strong as its people.A productive workplace is vital to the success and sustainability of every company.
That is why employee satisfaction remains essential to a firm’s overall success.
But what makes employees happy? How can a company excite and inspire its staff, while still juggling the competing demands from other quarters, including shareholders, capital investment requirements and cash flow management?
Understanding importance of productivity of employees
For any business to be effective and successful, management should have the ability to understand the importance of the productivity of its employees. The company should always ensure that it attracts and retains skilled people at every level, while providing them with the resources they need to succeed.
And research shows it is not just about wages. Additional benefits such as training, education, housing, health care, wellness support and sport facilities are also key.
One of the other ways companies can be productive, is by establishing the right work culture, providing the appropriate incentives and having resources to train its workers. Having happy and healthy employees is the basis of a successful organisation.
For this reason, First Quantum Minerals (FQM) has identified skills training as a key driver of long-term sustainable employment for its workforce. The company has embarked on a skills development programme aimed at creating quality long-term employment for local people. They are treated with respect and dignity, they are paid good wages and benefits, and they have opportunities to advance and contribute to their fullest through a variety of career paths.
Being a responsible and supportive company
The company, which operates the Kansanshi Mine in Solwezi and Sentinel Mine at Kalumbila, believes in empowering its employees through continuous social, economic and tertiary development.
Benefits include HIV/AIDS awareness, malaria, practical leadership skills programmes, undergraduate and graduate programmes, rent-to-own housing schemes at Kabitaka and Kalumbila, as well as family medical health schemes.
As a responsible company, FQM supports the health and well-being of its employees and the communities where it operates. The challenge lies in finding the right balance between immediate clinical care and longer-term education and prevention of communicable and non-communicable diseases among its employees and the communities they live in.
The mining firm has also constructed seven schools, four clinics and 1,586 houses for its employees. The company has also, through its Kansanshi and Trident Foundations, trained over 27,000 farmers countrywide in conservation farming.
Creating quality jobs
A comprehensive skills development programme is helping to improve operations in the mining firm’s projects as well as boost its workforce. Besides giving more jobs to local people, the mine is offering its workers training opportunities to empower them and improving their contribution to the mine.
The company suggested that one solution to the lack of skilled labour in the ever-changing mining sector is to involve industry specialists in the teaching process wherever possible. FQM also wants to create quality jobs – not just seasonal ones; jobs where each employee can grow from being a general worker and progressively rise through the ranks.
The mine is an equal opportunity employer and embraces Zambia’s diversity. It has put in place measures that help to provide suitable employment opportunities to local community members through a local recruitment database of community members established with traditional leaders, and a local baseline census.
Consistent with FQM’s local employment policy aimed at giving preference to people from surrounding communities, as at end of April 2018, 527 out of 2,785 production-level employees came from FQM’s local recruitment database. This is to ensure that those most impacted on by the mine have the opportunity to benefit economically, and it actually increases the diversity of the workforce, contrary to what one may assume, making it more representative of Zambia. And the mining firm has made it clear that standards will not be compromised during recruitment, and successful candidates must have the necessary skills for the job. Not only is this a requirement to ensure productivity, but, more importantly, it is a safety requirement.
The mining firm believes that direct employment is one of the key benefits a mine delivers in terms of social and economic impact. Skills training, entrepreneurial programmes and efforts to foster local economic development are also vital for long-term sustainable prosperity.
Remaining strategically sustainable
In line with its Sustainability Strategy, the company is dedicated to developing employees so they can perform the duties in their current and possible future positions. This is realised through promoting equal opportunities at all levels of the company and enforcing a strict policy against all forms of discrimination, while respecting employees’ right to free association and collective bargaining.
FQM remains committed to compensating its employees to enable them to meet their basic needs and providing the opportunity to improve their skills and capabilities to raise their social and economic opportunities, as well as continuing to develop a human resources management system to ensure equitable and fair management of employee requirements along with the company’s requirements to employees by managing complaints and communicating the findings received from employees through logging the complaint, investigating and documenting the findings.
Through its Sustainability Strategy, the mining firm has also been developing procedures to implement the policies developed by the human resources department, actively engaging employees on medical surveillance and occupational health-related issues. Some of FQM’s top priorities are to ensure it provides a safe and healthy workplace, protect human health and the environment, and promote sustainable development. This is dealt with through risk assessments to identify safety hazards associated with the company’s operations and activities.
By investing in its employees, a company can record worthwhile returns. And when it has a productive workforce, the company achieves its goals of investing in them and employees achieve the satisfaction they deserve.
The author is human resources superintendent at FQM’s Sentinel Mine.
Analysis: MULENGA MALATA-TEMBO