Executive Interview: HR Observations in Africa and Middle East
Paloma Ortiz meets with Deon De Kock, FLSmidth President Sub Saharan Africa and Middle East – discussion about skill shortage from technician to executive level and the importance of a strong Diversity & Inclusion and Employee Empowerment plans.
P: Hi Deon thanks for meeting us today, it’s much appreciated.
I would like to start by commenting on your impressive career in the industry. It was a year ago that you were appointed as FlSmidth’s President for the Sub Saharan Africa and Middle East Region. What has been your experience in this last year?
Deon: It’s a great privilege working for FLSmidth. I appreciate working for a company which I have shared values with. It has been an exciting journey thus far and I know the way that the company is going which makes it more interesting. Our common goal is to serve the customers better, through sustainable productivity enhancement.
P: Indaba Cape Town was held in February of this year. What would you say were your highlights and experience at the conference?
Deon: It was a great networking event. Indaba is always a highlight in the calendar. For FLSmidth, it is the opportunity to meet with our key customers and potential customers and to have productive dialogues around industry challenges and opportunities, across the flowsheet and value chain. We have a strong focus on innovation and digitalization and recognise that working with customers to address their needs directly is crucial in getting the right solutions to market in a timely manner. So Indaba allows us to explore ways to co-create new products and solutions together with customers.
Mining in South Africa is going through a tough environment, we have some challenges such as power supply issues and appropriate business ethics. The message from President Cyril Ramaphosa was clear, it was good for us to hear what he had to say as FLSmidth share these values and has done it for a long time.
It was interesting to see the scale of development in Central Africa and again with copper and gold in West Africa. Part of the region I cover includes the Middle East where I also see great future.
Indaba has a lot of junior and mid-tier miners that find funding as the biggest challenge. For instance, coal is not attractive any more for the rest of Africa. Although that’s not relevant for the South African miners as coal is very much needed in the country. Indaba is a great place to discuss these trends and challenges – and to really connect.
P: In your perception; what challenges will face the mining industry in Africa over the next few years?
Deon: The biggest challenge I believe will have in Africa and South Africa will be water. To be sustainable, water is a core principle. Water and preservation of water in a responsible manner is absolutely necessary and this is a major focus for FLSmidth.
The second challenge would be in the Human Resources area when it comes to specialised skills, which are not necessarily available. We are facing a clear skills shortage and not only at entry level but also resources like technicians to even executive management; companies will have to compete to get the best professionals.
P: What solutions are being proposed from FLSmidth to remedy the impending skill shortage?
Deon: The company’s target is to be sustainable. We do a lot of work globally and locally in order to become a more sustainable provider. We are getting very involved in the different areas including the community and the way we look at engaging people and also the way people look at us as a company and mining as an industry.
Mining often has a negative connotation and sometimes is perceived as acting irresponsibly. Work needs to be done in order to make and show mining as a sustainable business: one that looks at its carbon foot print and after the environment. If this work is done by the mining industry in general, mining will become a more attractive option for young people.
FLSmidth is also at the beginning of its own journey to create a more diverse workforce globally, which includes hiring and retaining a more age and race diverse workforce and attracting female employees to a traditionally male-dominated industry.
If the company’s values and the way we operate is done in a way that empowers employees, the company will look more attractive. FLSmidth also targets universities and schools and educates people in mining in a sustainable way. There is a big, shared responsibility for people in the industry to show that mining is a responsible industry – this will make it more attractive for people and help shore up the skill shortage.
P: You mentioned the work FLSmidth does in promoting and attracting women to the industry. What type of programs does your organization participate in?
Deon: When we talk diversity, it obviously goes beyond gender but certainly a major focus is on gender inclusion. We are currently just at the beginning of this initiative. As a sign of things to come, we have just appointed two women to our Group Executive Management team; the Heads of Group Human Resources and Group Legal & Strategy.
So we are taking the first concrete steps and there is a great emphasis on how we can move forward from senior management including the CEO Thomas Schulz and myself. We want to embrace diversity in and of itself and because we see the value in having a diverse environment in the organisation.
We have a significant amount of work ahead, but some early steps include setting KPIs and to monitor the levels of inclusion at all levels in the company, from operators to senior management. That’s not something that we are leaving by chance. In South Africa, we have 38% women in management positions. They are there very much on merit, work ethic and what they bring to FLSmidth. I want to make clear that we hire and promote people by merit and not because of gender.
P: We saw on the news last month the buyout of Australia's IMP Automation Group. Where do you see innovation to progress forward within your own company and what does the mining world need in order to advance forward?
Deon: Innovation is part of our fibre. As a leading solutions provider, our goal is to provide sustainable products, services and solutions to the mining industry, to ensure our customers enjoy sustainable productivity. To achieve this, innovation is key. Certainly, digitalisation is a hot topic if we are looking at how mining can reduce the impact on the environment, increase safety and reduce costs. This will also increase efficiencies and, as a result, increase productivity. Digitalization is key in order to achieve all these elements.
We made the decision three years ago to appoint a Chief Digitalization Officer so we could use the connectivity of the Internet together with real data and digital methods to provide more sustainable, connected and efficient solutions to our customers. This technology can be used in greenfield projects but also in already operating mines.
FLSmidth combines its knowledge in products, projects and services to leverage the digital opportunity: we use our full flowsheet knowledge to offer data-driven process improvement and combine our machine and service knowledge to improve uptime and extend service coverage of our equipment. Our process optimisation solutions have been in the market for decades and deliver tangible results. Based on our existing automation offering, we provide driver-less operations for more and more production processes.
The biggest impact from digitalization for our customers will come from operations management (e.g. improving yield and throughput and reducing production cost) and equipment maintenance (e.g. improving availability and reducing maintenance cost).
Thank you for your time Deon, I appreciate the time in your busy diary. Have a good day.
About Globe 24-7
Globe 24-7 is a Human Resources Consulting, Recruitment, and Staff Selection company, focused on the mining industry at a worldwide level.
Globe 24-7 has placed itself in the major markets of the world to ensure search campaigns and consulting assignments can be effectively managed at both site and corporate offices and has grown internationally to now service small, mid-tier and large-scale companies through its Project Recruitment, Search, HR Consulting and HR Systems divisions.