Home > News & Insights > Recruitment: Finding a balance in recruiting, onboarding, and engaging virtual teams – an Interview with Whitney A. Buhlin, Director, Human Resources at Capstone Mining Corp

Recruitment: Finding a balance in recruiting, onboarding, and engaging virtual teams – an Interview with Whitney A. Buhlin, Director, Human Resources at Capstone Mining Corp

We are now six months into the pandemic – How have mining companies coped with the impacts and current new normal? In many instances, COVID allowed the mining industry to adapt and evolve on practices, processes, and policies. One could argue that the pandemic forced the mining industry to grow in areas that will have a long-lasting, and possibly, positive impact. If we take a step back to the situation, we find that our HR teams have been front and center in ensuring companies continue to keep our people safe while delivering results in attracting, retaining, and promoting within the business. 

To showcase some of the efforts and results, Globe is grateful for the opportunity to interview Whitney Buhlin, Director, Human Resources at Capstone Mining Corp. Here you will have an anecdotal overview of the decisions impacting the different areas of HR including recruitment, onboarding, business travel and employee engagement with some early thoughts about what changes are here to stay. While Capstone is a global organization, for the purpose of this article Whitney has chosen to speak to the decisions impacting the corporate office. 

Capstone is a base metals mining company with two producing copper mines: Pinto Valley in the US and Cozamin in Mexico. Capstone also owns 70% of Santo Domingo, a large scale, fully permitted copper-iron-gold project in Region III, Chile, as well as a portfolio of exploration properties. Whitney is an HR leader with over 14 years of experience in the mining industry. She joined Capstone in 2014 and is currently responsible for the overall design and execution of the global HR strategy. Whitney has a broad range of human resources generalist expertise from her work in corporate, operations, and exploration settings. She is also the Founder & Chair of the Vancouver Mining Total Rewards Roundtable. 


1. Luis Valente: If we start with the recruitment process – how has the pandemic impacted your ability to attract, evaluate, and select new employees? What are some of the measures you have implemented to support the demands while hiring the right professionals? 

Whitney A. Buhlin: We have adapted the recruitment process at our corporate office as we continue to attract the right candidates while managing the restrictions due to COVID. When developing postings for jobs requiring travel, we have been transparent about the need for future travel while giving comfort that this will not be required until it is safe to do so. We were already leveraging virtual tools for the interview process, as we are often recruiting candidates from afar, but we have had to adapt some final interview formats to ensure physical distancing is being maintained. One of the most fascinating learnings has been the importance of having good COVID protocols in place within our organization. Candidates want to know what protocols Capstone has in place to keep our employees safe, and we have seen this as having been a large part of their decision-making process. Luckily, our Response Team has done an excellent job developing Capstone’s protocols and the feedback from new hires has been very positive. 


2. Luis Valente: Onboarding is an essential part of the employment cycle, so much planning ensures new hires have a positive experience while beginning to work in their functions. Considering the limitation around COVID. How have you adapted the process to deliver the same level of experience to new hires? Have you been able to provide the same level of access to critical information? Did you notice any impacts (good/bad) in the feedback you have received from recently onboarded employees or even their managers? 

Whitney A. Buhlin: We have had to get creative with onboarding, and in a sense, we are following a more structured format. As many of our employees continue to work remotely, new hires aren’t able to meet them informally through such things as office tours, lunchroom chats, and site visits. These informal connections are such an integral part of our employees’ work-life, so we have adapted our onboarding to include introductions in the form of quick 15-minute video calls. These calls include team members they may work with indirectly in the future as well as any key mine site contacts. We believe that our new approach for onboarding is essential as we support our new hires to be successful and also to enhance engagement and wellbeing, as it provides opportunities to build relationships and even friendships at work. 


3. Luis Valente: The mining industry is unique, as it is truly global. Many mining companies have operations in countries where they are not headquartered or have multiple operations/ projects in several countries. Historically, travel has been an essential part of the industry. With the restrictions on travel – what were some of the decisions and findings, Capstone has had to make? 

Whitney A. Buhlin: At the onset of the pandemic, all travel was halted to ensure the safety of our employees and we adapted to conducting business virtually. This was successful as most employees had strong relationships built and we were all experiencing the same COVID limitations. As travel restrictions are now lifting, we have started to permit essential business travel. This has been beneficial for business activities that can’t be done remotely and for our new hires who haven’t had a chance to visit the mine sites. We have implemented a number of measures to manage risk, such as shortened trips, to reduce the risk of our employee’s contracting and becoming ill from COVID while traveling. 


4. Luis Valente: How we maintained engagement remotely, and is it possible? 

Whitney A. Buhlin: Capstone has done exceptionally well at sustaining engagement throughout the pandemic. Our Employee Engagement Committee quickly refocused their efforts from in-person to virtual events. They have organized many great events that not only engage our employees but also engage their families. Some of the most popular events included Fridge Bingo, Eye Spy, Trivia, and a Mining Equipment Cookie Decorating Contest. On top of these events, another key part of our remote engagement strategy has been to have regular communication from leadership in the form of virtual town halls. 


5. Luis Valente: I think we can agree that Networking is a valuable process that can benchmark and learn about solutions to our challenges. We have been fortunate to have a tightknit community in mining, which is open to sharing insight and intel to keep the industry moving forward. What are the ways you have maintained your Networking and close contact with other HR professionals in the mining industry? 

Whitney A. Buhlin: We are so lucky to work in the mining community! From a professional perspective, I have really enjoyed seeing how my HR peers have come together as we face these new challenges posed by the pandemic. Through the Vancouver Mining Total Rewards Roundtable, we have done pulse surveys, shared information, and templates and held frequent virtual roundtables throughout the pandemic. Everyone is so willing to share, brainstorm, and support each other as we are all facing similar challenges. It has been a tremendous benefit to us all. 


6. Luis Valente: Thank you so much for this interview, Whitney. We really appreciate your time and thoughts on the current scenario. The last question is on the long-term impact – What changes do you think are here to stay? Or will we revert back to pre-COVID norms?

Whitney A. Buhlin: It is hard to say for certain as we are truly in unprecedented times. However, I anticipate that there will be long-term changes to remote work and travel in the mining industry. 

After productively working remotely throughout the pandemic, I think employees will have a greater expectation for remote work after the pandemic. But, in-person work will continue to be beneficial for collaboration, creativity, and team building. I hope to see a balance of both within our industry, with time in the office as a team and more flexibility to work remotely. This will allow us to compete for talent in other industries than mining, which has traditionally had more flexible work cultures. 

In terms of travel, I think there will be greater analysis of whether the travel we did before, is necessary. Less travel would not only reduce costs for companies but would also enhance efficiencies by saving travel time. However, since I started working in the mining industry almost 15 years ago, I have also seen the real benefit of building relationships with mine site employees by being there, “boots on the ground”. It is so much easier to build relationships and trust in person. Without this, I don’t think I would have been as successful in my career and I wouldn’t have enjoyed my time in the industry nearly as much. For corporate employees, spending time at the mines not only provides a greater understanding of the bigger picture, but it also brings more meaning to the work we do.


About Globe 24-7


Globe 24-7 (Globe) has been conducting human resources consulting and search assignments for local and international mining, power and energy companies around the world for over a decade. Globe has offices in the major markets of the world to ensure consulting assignments and search campaigns are effectively managed at both site and corporate locations 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.

Got a recruitment challenge, looking to fill a vacancy or even just want to have a chat?

Get in Touch