Accountable leaders are the key to psychologically safe workplaces, the recent Diggers and Dealers Mining Conference has been told.
According to panellists at the event’s Leadership Breakfast convened by the Gold Industry Group, there is a need for industry to look forward and work on solutions together, with the mining industry on a journey towards ensuring respect and inclusivity.
Northern Star Resources non-executive director Sharon Warburton said the workplace challenges were playing out across the whole of corporate Australia, and the business community as a whole must come together to affect real change.
“We have to stop saying we are so much better than we were 30 years ago. That is not good enough, we need to stop patting ourselves on the back for how much we have done and move forward,” she said.
Evolution Mining executive chairman Jake Klein said the first step was to acknowledge and accept the need for authentic change. He applauded Rio Tinto for its honesty in the Broderick Report but said there was no need for further surveys to confirm the problem.
“We have had a reality check in this industry. We have an obligation to accept that this is the reality. We can’t re-survey and change the outcome. We need to deal with it, to recognise it is real,” he said.
“Boards need to accept that the levels of incidents will go up. You are asking people to report, there are ugly truths to be brought to the surface. I see this as an opportunity for genuine and positive change.”
Gold Fields’ vice-president for people and engagement (Australasia) Karen Bradshaw said business leaders had to provide workplaces where people felt empowered to be their best selves, starting with accountability of the individual and by the individual to call out inappropriate behaviour.
“We talk about unlocking the potential of our assets, but this starts with unlocking the potential in our people,” she said.
“There has been a change in the standards of what is acceptable. Leaders have a significant role to play here, to hold people to account for their standards.”
West Coast Fever head coach Dan Ryan brought a mining industry outsider’s perspective to the discussion and drew parallels between managing the culture in a high-performing sporting team to seeking similar outcomes in a high-performance workplace.
“If you see something and don’t say something, you are a part of the problem,” he said.
“We are all responsible for holding each other to account. It is the responsibility for everyone to play their part. Everyone is just as important. If the buck stops with one person, the change doesn’t necessarily come.”
Bradshaw said one of the biggest hurdles to achieve a respectful and inclusive workplace was the reluctance of people to speak up about incidents as they occurred. She said to fix this reluctance, leaders must be more observant and hold people to account for psychological safety.
“One of the things we know is people are uncomfortable in speaking up,” she said.
“There must be different pathways for raising issues. People must feel comfortable with their reporting avenues.”
Klein said change must be embraced by every worker in every office and on every site.
“We are very early on in this journey. Society wants change. It is all around us and the mining industry has showed us where we are at. The vast majority has to demand the respect,” he said.
Warburton said education would play an incredibly important role and help with establishing best practice across the business community.
“Not all resources companies have the same level of resources. The bigger companies sharing with the juniors is important,” she said.
“Between mining and other sectors, the level of conversation does not differ, but the starting point of where we are and where we need to go is different. We need to look across all of Australia for the solutions.”
GIG chair Kelly Carter said there was an invaluable opportunity for the sector to reposition itself and further leverage the ongoing work of the group.
“Diversity and inclusion has long been at the core of the Gold Industry Group’s role and activities in strengthening the reputation of the gold sector with our stakeholders,” she said.
“Reflected across everything we do nationally, our perception-changing National Gold Education Program continues to inspire thousands of students to consider careers in the gold industry and our Gold Jobs platform and communications profile women in the industry across a range of roles.
“Our influential diversity debates and leadership forums such as this are driving important discussions on key issues, and our support of women’s sport and education is highlighted through our landmark partnership with West Coast Fever, Netball WA and Shooting Stars.”