Patricia Helbig
Client Partner
Korn Ferry
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View from the Top

Best Mining Leaders Need Leadership and Adaptability

Wed, 10/21/2015 - 11:56

Q: What have been the main contributions of Korn Ferry’s Mining, Metals, and Minerals division within the Mexican mining industry?

A: We work with large Mexican and international companies that are established here and engage in searches for CEOs, C-level and senior executives, and technical experts, among other positions. We have placed some of the most important executives in mining companies in Mexico. At the moment, polymetallic companies require our services the most. In general, Korn Ferry focuses on building a talent strategy that supports our clients’ business strategy. This includes respecting cultural alignment, strategic alignment, building and developing talent within the company, and attracting talent from outside.

Q: What criteria is your Talent Strategy and Organizational Alignment practice using to determine the ideal future leadership profile needed in the mining industry?

A: The leader profile has changed over the last few years, and knowledge of mine operations is no longer enough. The challenges faced by the mining industry make it important for operational leadership and executive officers in mining companies to know how to cost-effectively deal with tighter margins. There is too much pressure on executives to deliver short-term results in an industry where a long-term approach is essential to success. The leadership qualities required of a mining executive today involve the ability to assess company risks, politics, environmental impact, social commitment, and being well-versed in financial matters such as strategic planning, banking, public credit, and so on. Candidates with strong interpersonal skills combined with high business acumen are also highly coveted. The importance of strategic agility has never been greater than it is today. As a result, senior executives in mining companies will have to work far more on operational excellence, have to be quicker to adapt to new environments, have to be much more strategic, and include financial acumen in their competencies. One of the most important characteristics that we take into consideration is learning agility. This is comprised of a candidate’s willingness and capability to successfully adapt to a new environment, and has proven to be a predictor of success in an executive. We also assess the mental agility of a candidate, which is their capacity to have a broad perspective and be inquisitive, as well as their people agility, which includes interpersonal skills and the capacity to deal with different cultures and personalities. The third component is change agility, meaning how they adapt, lead change, demonstrate innovation and take risks. The fourth component is results agility, which does not only regard performance but also regards the resourcefulness of a person and their ability to multitask. The fifth component, which I deem to be the most important, is self-awareness. A person who is highly conscious about themselves will develop new skills more easily.

Q: What areas of HR will be the most difficult to source for mining companies arriving in Mexico?

A: There are some positions that are hard to source worldwide, not just in Mexico. These include project leaders, highly technical metallurgists, processing engineers, and other highly technical positions in general. We encounter difficulties in terms of language skills, safety priorities, CSR, and environmental responsibility. We need more graduates to go into the mining industry and build their knowledge up from the inside. The most sought out individuals are those that have a record of business improvement with a direct impact on the bottom line. We know where these people are and we know how to develop them within organizations to be more effective. We also have a cultural alignment program. Mexican culture is quite different from the American and Canadian cultures, for example. In Mexico, people like to have constant and direct communication with their leaders.

Q: How will Korn Ferry remain a leader in talent acquisition within the mining industry in Mexico?

A: Today, we are a single source for leadership and talent consulting services. Our solutions range from executive recruitment and leadership development programs, to enterprise learning, succession planning, and recruitment process outsourcing. We are in close contact with the key talent in the industry and have people dedicated to market research, who in turn keep the teams updated on the important developments in the industry. Over the past five years, our global mining practice has placed somebody in a life-changing position every five to six days.