BHP Billiton’s HR chief discusses the way she successfully manages over 125,000 workers with distinct cultural and professional backgrounds.
This presents a major challenge for HR, tasked with creating a shared identity for employees who come from vastly diverse cultural backgrounds, and whose roles may differ from gold extraction to diamond explorers or petroleum extractors.
“We’ve met that challenge by sticking to strict global minimum standards,” said Jo McConnell, Vice President of Human Resources. “Our charter provides the foundation for everything we do in the organisation…it articulates the values by which the entire business works under. The values are at the core of everything we do.”
This decentralised model of business is bound by a common culture, as well as unified systems and processes.
“Each business model within the group [for example, iron ore, petroleum and potash, copper] follows a set of minimum standards and, from there, the businesses set their own HR strategies and approaches, tailored to the needs of their specific operations and location,” said McConnell.
In addition, to manage remote workers, BHP Billiton has implemented a solution of fly-in, fly out (FIFO) employment. Under this arrangement, BHP Billiton can source employees from urban areas and provide them with temporary employment in sparse locations.
All workers, however, are encouraged to remain committed to productivity and achieving maximum results.
“We encourage them to think about how they are going about their work and how this will enable them to contribute directly. If you look at it from a racing perspective, we want to see people shaving off seconds from what they do,” said McConnell.