The Employment Dilemma Through a Recruiter's Eyes
"This is exactly the opportunity I have been looking for and one that I am certainly qualified for. Unfortunately, my family and I are unable to relocate at the present time, so do you think your client would consider putting this position on a rotational schedule?"
I am hearing this comment more and more frequently as I search for qualified candidates for my clients. Since the downturn in the economy and in the real estate market, many people have felt themselves trapped in their current location. Most of the candidates I speak with are trying to hang on to their homes until the market turns around. They tell me that they hope to be able to sell their house and, at a minimum, break even, so that they can then move on to new opportunities. A few have had to let their houses go back to the bank and, therefore, have been left without any equity with which to purchase a new home. At the same time, they do not want to leave the security of their present employment.
A recruitment crisis is looming in the mining industry, with a workforce top heavy with baby boomers heading for retirement. Every retiring veteran needs to be replaced, but the young people entering the workforce are not just another wave of fresh faces. They represent a new demographic force with quirks and characteristics of its own.
This new generation has different needs and priorities, which need to be recognized by the mining industry in order for it to move forward.
Partners and Families
One of several factors that are being highly considered by the new wave of mining professionals when it comes to making an employment decision is their families. Most candidates' spouses are employed and have solid, long-term careers that they are very hesitant to give up, especially during these economic times. Some of them have children and, in many cases, they choose to stay where their kids have their educational and social lives.
The other factor taken into account is location, which continues to be the single most important element considered by job applicants. In the mining industry in particular, location is usually looked at as follows:
"Where did you say this mine was at? I don't think so. My family will tell me to write often, because 'We-are-NOT-moving-THERE'!" Then comes the inevitable question: "Will they let me fly-in-and-fly-out?"
Some of my clients respond to that with, "Well, if they want to do it at their own expense, and in a way that doesn't interfere with their work, we can talk about it." Other clients say, "No, because it has been our experience that soon after we hire them, they begin looking for the next opportunity closer to home." Now, it does have to be said that many of my clients have some long-time employees, who have worked out a rotational schedule that seems to work well for the employee, the company and the families. However, it does appear to be the exception, not the rule. The majority of my clients have expressed concern about family separation and the added stress to the employee that it causes. Many employers have expressed the opinion that it is important for the entire family to become an active part of the community and to be able to participate in company events.
Conversations with my clients have revealed that they are struggling to attract qualified candidates, especially when it comes to remote locations. Some companies have purchased homes for some candidates, as part of their employment package. Nowadays, however, a good number of my clients are no longer offering that option.
There was a time when money was the main motivator and the thinking at that time was that, if enough money were thrown at them, candidates would come. Today, with the younger generation of mining professionals entering the market place, quality of life for the family, job opportunities for the spouse and the location of the opportunity, seem to be trumping the need for large salaries. Those who are looking at retiring in the next five to seven years or so are too settled to consider moving again, which brings us back to "fly-in-fly-out."
Mining companies today offer interesting and challenging opportunities in both domestic and remote (and therefore often not so attractive) locations in the U.S. and Canada. Regardless of the location involved, the struggle to attract and hire the industry's top talent will continue. There is no is a magic formula for accomplishing the task, but "compromise" seems to be the operative word.
* Gary Hoffman is the principal and president of Quest Search and Recruitment
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