South Africa coronavirus covid-19

With the slow reopening of the economy, mines have found themselves having to navigate a host of new challenges, not least of all being unfairly perceived as an epicentre of COVID-19 in South Africa.

However, a recent poll by Verdict revealed that the mining industry had, in fact, responded adequately in safeguarding their workers against the virus.

This comes as no surprise to Arjen de Bruin, MD at OIM Consulting, a Cape Town-headquartered business consultancy that specialises in the mining sector.

The matter of safety

“Stringent safety processes are entrenched in the industry’s very DNA. There are inherent health and safety challenges associated with a large amount of workers operating within a confined space, and thus mines are extremely diligent in enforcing adherence to protocols, which are there for the protection of workers.

“If a concern around safety arises, mines are geared to respond quickly and effectively – making the industry better equipped than most to handle the new complexities around COVID-19,” he opines.

Meeting production targets in a strange new normal

He believes that the pressing concern mines now face is the increased pressure to rapidly ramp up production, in an effort to recoup output lost during the hard lockdown.

The slow return of migrant workers – which make up a large contingent of the industry’s workforce – has had a knock-on impact on production targets.

“In addition to this, mines are now faced with an entirely new operating environment. Physical distancing, concerns within communities around COVID-19 infection and changes in day-to-day operations have altered existing team dynamics.    

Capex, digitisation, and transformation projects have taken a backseat, as the urgency to rapidly meet new production targets moves to the fore. “We’re back to basics, and the emphasis is fixed firmly on output,” says de Bruin.

The role of the frontline leader

De Bruin sees the supervisor as being key to accelerating production within this new context, and thus maintains that it is critical for senior leadership to understand what their frontline leaders are thinking, and how they’re dealing with their new reality.

“With less on-site senior leadership representation, supervisors ultimately become the organisation’s primary culture carrier; responsible for motivating teams, instilling company values, ensuring adherence to new safety processes – and importantly, meeting production targets.”

SORD in the stone

OIM Consulting, with its extensive track record in delivering tangible business results and proven expertise in driving long-term behavioural change, has responded to this complex new operating environment by developing the Supervisor Operational Readiness Diagnostic (SORD).

SORD is a rapid diagnostic product that assesses the operational capabilities of supervisors, through identifying their current competencies and how effectively they execute tasks, whilst simultaneously reviewing the tools they use to achieve their goals.

“We understand the business need for rapid adoption, with time being of essence. Thus we have designed SORD to supply findings in only three weeks, after which we will have access to the necessary data that will enable us to structure a programme that addresses three core components to enhance output – namely culture, performance and ability.”

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De Bruin maintains that SORD will merge leadership development with operational competency.

“Mobilising supervisors and frontline leaders is the quickest and most sustainable way to obtain business results over the next two quarters.”

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