By Gys Kappers, CEO of Wyzetalk
The mining industry continues to feel the pressure of mounting internal and external factors that influence results, market economies and workforce relations. And while there will always be external influences impacting the operating environment, focus also needs to be placed on workforce relations.
How much strife could be avoided if we were able to fix this channel with a communications system that really worked? If we gave mining employees the opportunity to talk back and give feedback, would the industry be able to improve decision making? Would working relations be better? Would safety be increased?
Communication with those at the coalface is still largely directed through briefs, noticeboards, and tier-down through team leaders. And while technology in no way usurps these channels, mines need to find a much more dynamic and sustainable way to communicate with their workforce on issues related to business updates, production campaigns, safety, wellbeing, health, education, literacy, training, safety, living arrangements, work opportunities and security – amongst others. Just like businesses are looking for new and innovative ways to connect, inform and collaborate, so too should the mining industry as there is something to be said for transparency and targeted communication to truly drive employee engagement.
According to Momentum’s Effective Employee Index, South African businesses are losing up to R89 billion a year due to distracted employees, who despite being present in the workplace, are unproductive. In fact, employees in the mining and electricity, gas and water supply industries were found to have lost the most productive time as a result of presenteeism, while employees in the mining industry effectively lose about seven days per employee per month. Presenteeism is defined as the phenomenon when employees are at work, but not productive due to distractions.
Proactive, targeted interventions can significantly reduce this impact on productivity, where communication technology tools supported by carefully crafted strategies can help mines inordinately.
With a number of Wyzetalk projects already in the mining space across some of the largest gold and platinum mines in South Africa, it’s easy to see how this would work with the results that are being achieved. As a workforce engagement platform and employee app, Wyzetalk meaningfully connects large businesses with all their workers to improve communication, increase engagement and boost productivity.
By combining the power of the platform with communication sector specialists, an open-channel of communication between head office and the entire workforce (not just those with access to email) is created to fundamentally transform how people experience, understand and engage with their jobs, colleagues, managers and the business.
And as the engagement platform and app can be accessed on any mobile device and integrates directly into business systems, gathering real-time analytics and any communication and feedback to and from employees is instantaneous – allowing the business to make critical decisions based on insightful employee feedback. More importantly, it builds an engaged workforce, where employee experience is just as important as the customer one.
Wyzetalk is successfully being used by over 65 000 employees in specific mining communities today, with expansion plans to reach over 174 000 by early 2019 – as the results are speaking for themselves.
Since Implats started using the Wyzetalk mobile phone-based employee engagement platform at their Impala Platinum operations in Rustenburg in January 2017, they have seen tremendous impact on their employee engagement strategy. With over 30 000 geographically dispersed employees, it is often difficult for employees to receive relevant information on time, to feel like they are heard and to connect with management.
The biggest impact the platform has had is that they now have a quick, easy, direct way to reach their employees. The operations team can now easily check through surveys to ensure that their safety and productivity campaigns are understood and they’re sharing important health and wellness information that employees are taking home to their families.
Importantly, the platform is available to employees in two languages to ensure they understand the information that is being shared and the platform is free of charge to all employees. The always-on feedback channels are important for Impala to engage with employees, and their families have shown that they are comfortable using them too.
Having the capability to send messages and receive feedback from workers across all levels at the mines, along with a 24/7 analytics and reporting service results in instant aggregated data straight to the decision-makers desk.
A trust and communication divide within businesses significantly affects productivity and is hurting the bottom-line. Effective employee engagement strategies are vital today, but engagement strategies also need to look beyond just creating an information-rich and open work environment and look at incorporating employee experience to ensure that employees are satisfied and engaged in the workplace on all fronts.
When businesses choose to open communication channels with their traditionally offline workers there is a remarkable and almost immediate shift in how the employees feel about and engages with the business. The power of feeling included and valued, receiving correct and relevant information and being asked for feedback brings the employee into the centre of the conversation and the sense of care and empowerment makes all the difference at work – exactly what the mining sector needs today.
*Gys is the Chief Executive Officer of Wyzetalk, and is an experienced businessman and entrepreneur. He is passionate about the role of social business software and the Open Innovation paradigm.