Mobility in Mining: Embracing a Culture of Care 05.31.2022 | Jennifer Connell

Established. Predictable. Old faithful, if you will. That used to be the mining industry, at least when it came to mobility. As a mobility partner, we were accustomed to working with mining clients operating programs with consistent employee demographics and needs that seldom changed. The “traditional” assignment was often male, head of household, working in remote locations and therefore unaccompanied. These assignments were described as difficult, and the recruited employees were typically accustomed to long durations away from family and in harsh conditions. They returned home for a short time before embarking on a new assignment. Lather, rinse, repeat.

But increasing costs and competition for talent within a post-pandemic workforce are disrupting these established patterns, and the mining industry is undergoing big changes to the way it supports employees. We recently invited a dozen mining industry leaders to share insight into some of these culture and process changes, as well as their current obstacles when it comes to workforce mobility. Some of what they shared may surprise you:

A More Flexible Focus

Many of our program attendees reported that they continue to administer traditional assignments without significant changes to the overall packages. Work structures vary among the group with projects ranging from several weeks up to several months “on” location, and periods in between of up to two weeks “off”. Despite the unchanged nature of the assignments, one attendee noted that “The focus is very different than two years ago.”

While some attendees are considering enhancements to existing benefits, several indicated the need for built-in flexibility, such as additional destination support or “Fly-In, Fly Out” (FIFO) benefits.  These FIFO (or Commuter) benefits – generally a stipend or allowance to accommodate travel – are needed to bridge the gap for families at home and to support the mental well-being of the employee.

Weichert’s Advisory Services Recommendation: Work closely with the travel provider or department to review T&E policies to ensure the travel benefits and procedures facilitate this activity and don’t add to the burden of family separation.
Addressing a Reluctance to Mobility

Mining organizations are not spared the impact of the Great Resignation. One attendee stated, “It should be referred to as The Great Re-Engagement” as more companies prioritize how to invest in their current talent.

With many assignments placed on hold during the pandemic, this sector has found that employees are not ready to go back to work the way it has traditionally been presented. Candidates are prepared with more questions, are weighing their options, and are prepared to leave if they feel that the company isn’t prepared to support their career and personal lives.

One attendee noted that they experienced three recent failed moves due to family challenges. Monetary benefits were cited as examples – such as tuition reimbursement for spouses or work opportunities with the company – for accompanying partners. Benefits that support the accompanying family are incorporated more often than before, however, one attendee noted that “cash is not enough to accommodate the spouse or partner.”

Companies are responding to these concerns by engaging in more lengthy discussions early on – with a focus on the entire family – and experimenting with creative combinations of benefits such as cultural training and enhanced destination services.

Mobility and a Culture of Care

Several attendees cited having a Culture of Care throughout their company and the mobility programs that support employees. They reported that engaged and empowered employees are prepared with eyes open to the lasting impact of the assignment and potential disruption to their families. They are asking more questions about the benefits and their role after each assignment to determine if the assignment will enhance their career and the impact on the family.

Collectively, attendees agreed that transparency is critical to supporting a Culture of Care. This value must be reflected in the supply chain so that all partners in the mobility process can provide information seamlessly to their stakeholders and be agile in an industry that, like others, is feeling the sting of increasing costs.

Elements of Culture of Care, as told by roundtable attendees:

  • View mobility with succession planning in mind.
  • Frequent check-ins with mobile employees.
  • Invest in retaining employees before new talent.
  • Encourage connections to the home location.

Want to learn more sector-specific mobility insights? Talk to us!

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Written by Jennifer Connell


Jennifer Connell, SCRP, SGMS-T, is Vice President of Weichert’s Advisory Services group. She has over 25 years of experience in the workforce mobility and employee benefits industries and is a recipient of Worldwide ERC’s Distinguished Service Award. She has spoken on workforce mobility topics at industry conferences throughout North America and written for mobility- and HR-themed blogs and magazines worldwide.

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