Baja Mining Corp
Innovative Practice/Initiative: Cultural Adaptation in the Workplace
Baja Mining Corp. (Baja) is a Vancouver based mining company that is currently transforming itself into a producer. Baja and a Consortium of Korean companies own the Boleo Project, a large polymetallic property, with near-term production and a long life, located in Baja California Sur, Mexico. Baja is the majority owner of the project (70%) and will be the operator. As of November 2010, the project is fully financed with US$1.2 billion secured and is rapidly advancing through recommencement of construction activities. Production of copper is anticipated to begin in the first quarter of 2013.
The Organisation's Initiative
As a young mining Company, Baja management is working laboriously in developing a culture where success stems from nurturing relationships, dealing with change, delivering on promises as a team, and being innovative, without compromising the quality of work. It is Baja's senior management objective that this culture permeates throughout the organization and the Human Resources Department's strategy is ensuring to keep it at the core of its programs. In parallel, safety is tantamount to Baja's culture; safety of its employees, of its facilities and of the surrounding communities.
The mine plan of Boleo encompasses both underground and surface operations. The ore is contained within a clay horizon that because of its soft and flat lying nature, lends itself to high-rate underground mining techniques similar to those used in coal, potash or salt mining. Such conditions add complexity to its mining operations and to ensuring the required high levels of safety.
Once the ore is mined, either by surface or underground operations, it will be processed at the process plant by means of a hydrometallurgical process, suitable for the recovery of copper, cobalt, and zinc from mined and blended Boleo ores.
In 2010, Baja started recruitment activities with a focus on attracting talent for its operations. Talent requirements were identified and profiles emphasizing technical and soft skills were created. Due to the future operations environment, candidates' profiles included seasoned professionals from different mine disciplines, with exposure to minerals and terrain conditions similar to those of Boleo. In addition and due to the international location of the project, the profile included candidates with previous international experience, exposure to Latin-American cultures and fluency in Spanish.
HR developed a recruitment strategy with an awareness of the multicultural environment in which we would operate and of the role that cultural adaptation would play in the workplace. The strategy identified the need to recruit seasoned experts in key areas of the project, among others, safety, underground and surface mine operations, maintenance, process plant operations, and social responsibility. The strategy entails bringing on board these experts for a period of two to three years, with the specific objective of planning and implementing the different department's strategy, maintaining the highest standards in the industry, while creating a pool of potential national/local candidates for succession.
When recruiting for these positions, as is often the case in these circumstances, Human Resources faced the predicament of either recruiting for technical or for soft skills. Due to the importance of attracting seasoned experts in each area, technical skills prevailed, leaving soft skills in a vacuum. As a result, our HR staff identified supplementary programs to assist in providing employees with the tools they need to effectively adapt to the new culture, to relate to one another, and quickly assemble into effective teams.
With the assistance of reliable external resources, our HR team designed and implemented an Intercultural Sensitivity Program. Intercultural training's main focus is the science of communication, applied to the business setting.
Training in intercultural communication assists businesses and individuals in achieving their goals in negotiation, decision-making, strategic planning and collaboration as successful teams. Training addresses perceptions, cultural profiles, contrasts and differences and how these can be better managed to ensure successful outcomes.
A lack of cultural awareness can often lead to costly delays, misunderstandings and, often, personal frustration on part of the communicators.
The intercultural training we have implemented at Baja is composed of:
A preliminary assessment of each individual's attitudes and acceptance of other cultures as well as its potential for competence in multicultural environments,
A one-on-one debrief session by a certified external counsellor highlighting areas of strength and development,
An intercultural sensitivity seminar with participants from the different cultures, with the goal of enhancing intercultural competence, by improving awareness of each individual's communicative behaviour in intercultural contexts; recognizing and understanding the factors of success and failure in intercultural communication and international assignments; and learning to communicate and act effectively in intercultural business settings, specifically with regard to personal communication, communication between professionals and clients and communication within the organization.
Having previously participated in this type of training and having observed firsthand the successful results of the training in multicultural settings and employee adaptation, our HR team trusts that this type of session results in a cohesive and highly successful team for Boleo.
Evidence of Impacts
As a new initiative, we are unable to provide evidence of impacts. From former experience and having observed the results of this type of training in other organizations, we are confident that this initiative will provide attendants with a better understanding of their own behaviours within different cultural settings and how such behaviours can be adapted to become better communicators and more efficient in their roles in foreign locations.