Innovative Practice/Initiative: Creating a Sustainable Workforce Whilst Promoting Responsible Operation Through the Engagement of Local Communities and Employee-supported Corporate Philanthropy
The Organisation's Initiative
As the world's largest fertilizer company, Saskatchewan-based PotashCorp is responsible for 20 percent of global capacity. The company employs more than 5,400 people around the world who support operations and interests in seven countries. A steadily growing global population especially in countries such as China and India continues to increase product demand.
In meeting this demand, PotashCorp recognizes the importance of effective human resources practices practices that not only ensure a strong, sustainable workforce but also promote responsible operation through the engagement of local communities and employee-supported corporate philanthropy. Key initiatives in both these areas are outlined below, following interviews with PotashCorp's Director, Aboriginal Strategy and Manager, Corporate Philanthropy.
Leanne Bellegarde, Director, Aboriginal Strategy - PotashCorp
PotashCorp's Aboriginal Strategy is two-pronged: it's intended to raise general awareness among Aboriginals in schools, in local communities of the company's career potential, as well as determine how to equip Aboriginal candidates with the skills to benefit from these opportunities.
The company points out that First Nations and Metis are the youngest and fastest-growing segment of Saskatchewan's population, and by 2045 are expected to comprise upwards of 30 percent of the populace. That reality, along with challenges such as an aging workforce and growing market demand, has prompted PotashCorp to look to Aboriginal communities to help fill as many as 800 new and replacement jobs that the company expects will become available over the next five years. With that in mind, PotashCorp is promoting overall awareness among students, teachers, career counsellors and the like, as well as supporting specific initiatives such as the Mining Pre-employment Program and the Business Readiness Investment Development Gateway (BRIDG) program.
Mining Pre-employment Program
The Mining Pre-employment Program is a pilot-partnership undertaken with the Saskatchewan Indian Institute of Technology (SIIT). Accepting students with Grade 12 or equivalent education, the program provides them with three months of classroom instruction followed by two weeks of job shadowing both above and below ground at PotashCorp. For the company, it's an ideal opportunity to acquaint potential recruits with what could be a rewarding career. For the students, it offers eye-opening exposure to not only the real-life experience of mining but also the wide-ranging opportunities that exist within the industry at a company that does not hire casual part-time but aims to hire for life. PotashCorp can also refer students who, though perhaps not a match for the company, may have the right skills for any number of suppliers.
Business Readiness Investment Development Gateway (BRIDG)
Fostering development and growth of potential suppliers is another component of the Aboriginal Strategy. Working with financial-management firm Westcap, PotashCorp participates in Westcap's Business Readiness Investment Development Gateway (BRIDG) initiative, helping promising First Nations and Metis clients increase skills and capacity in areas such as financial analysis and business planning. In the process, PotashCorp learns about clients' business interests and objectives, and can determine whether there might be mutually beneficial opportunities or needs a relevant project under development, for instance, or an existing supplier who needs support for an expanding business.
Introduction to Aboriginal Awareness
In addition to its external efforts, PotashCorp is also focusing internally on its existing workforce to prepare it for the addition of a growing number of Aboriginal recruits. To that end, it has implemented an Aboriginal Awareness program that seeks to dispel myths and stereotypes associated with Aboriginals, and foster greater cultural awareness and acceptance. The program has been developed collaboratively with the support of two Aboriginal consultants and is delivered to all company employees.
Rhonda Speiss, Manager, Corporate Philanthropy - PotashCorp
PotashCorp's sizeable Corporate Philanthropy program encompasses an array of initiatives that span institutions and causes around the globe. While all of them exemplify responsible corporate leadership, many such as the company's extensive investment in schools and scholarships also go a long way towards strengthening the company's human resources and positioning it as a more attractive place to work. Various types of support are outlined here.
PotashCorp supports the Kelsey campus of the Saskatchewan Institute of Applied Science & Technology (SIAST) with a total of $70,000 in annual scholarships and bursaries. The $20,000 scholarship portion is matched by the government, and the $50,000 in direct bursaries is allocated as follows: $36,000 is earmarked geographically, focusing on regions and schools where PotashCorp has operations; $7,000 goes to support women in trades; and the remaining $7,000 is provided to Aboriginal students. As well, for the Saskatchewan Indian Institute of Technology (SIIT), the company provides 10 Centennial Merit Scholarships of $1,000 each; the government matches those amounts to bring the total scholarship value to $20,000.
The company also has a longstanding relationship with the University of Saskatchewan, and over the years has contributed over $10 million to the university and hired many of its graduates. For the university's engineering department, PotashCorp offers four $5,000 scholarships that, potentially renewable for a second term, span four different engineering disciplines, including geology. The company prefers as well that one be given to an Aboriginal student. The university's Edwards School of Business also receives funding in the form of two potentially renewable $5,000 scholarships in areas such as accounting and human resources, as well as receiving $5 million in capital-campaign funding. PotashCorp has also provided $5 million in capital funding to renovations at the university's Griffith Stadium enabling it to host events such as the Vanier Cup university football championship. In return, the company has benefited from publicity by naming the park surrounding Griffith Stadium 'PotashCorp Park' and with a pep rally titled '10,000,000 Reasons to Cheer'. Additional sports funding includes a $150,000 contribution to the university's athletics department to use as each program within the department sees fit.
At the grade-school level, PotashCorp recently has donated $500,000 to support renovations at St. Mary's School in Saskatoon, including the building of a wellness track for which the company will be named sponsor. Along with the exposure this provides in the school, the contribution offers the added benefit of exposure within a facility also used by the public after school hours.
There are other types of scholarships the company offers at various levels of schooling for example, 4H scholarships as well as music scholarships.
In addition, for certain types of financial support for instance, United Way donations and relief for victims of Japan's recent earthquake the company matches each employee donation.
Other Support & Employee Engagement
PotashCorp provides educational and community support through its employee-volunteer program. Initiatives include a reading program whereby employees visit a local school and read with its students (or are read to by them, as the case may be). Employees' efforts are acknowledged by recognition from PotashCorp President and CEO William Doyle.
Recently, the company has started funding a project designed to excite and engage children in science. Started by the University of Saskatchewan, the program has various engineering students visit inner-city schools to teach science to children in grades five to eight. The children then visit the university, enabling exposure to higher learning that, it's hoped, some will consider pursuing.
PotashCorp also supports and sponsors numerous career fairs. Drawing from the combined collaboration of Human Resources and Corporate Philanthropy, the company determines where its presence would be most beneficial. Similarly, in conjunction with SIAST, the company sponsors a business-industry dinner at which SIAST students and industry representatives meet and network. PotashCorp also speaks at the event.
The company has, in addition, participated in public fundraising events such as the Kinsmen Foundation's Telemiracle telethon: For an hour during the telethon, which raises money for people with special needs and medical requirements, PotashCorp employees have sported company shirts and sat in front-row seats taking phone calls from donors, each of which the company matched.
As well, the fact that PotashCorp regularly purchases tickets and tables for various events enables it to provide tickets and seats when available to employees as an added perk.
Evidence of Impacts
Clearly, as this wide-ranging list of initiatives suggests, PotashCorp takes a holistic, multi-faceted approach to recruiting and retaining employees, recognizing that there are many different ways to engage them, and that doing so is a long-term investment one that the company indicates is paying off in terms of employee quality and loyalty.
While some initiatives such as the Aboriginal Strategy are too new to report on, overall PotashCorp is hesitant to quantify results because doing so suggests that its HR efforts are short-term strategies rather than long-term partnerships. In the words of Leanne Bellegarde, Director, Aboriginal Strategy, "This is not about checking boxes or setting numbers." Rather, it's a joint effort that both the company and local communities have committed to, recognizing that the success of each is dependent on the cooperation of both.