Why the industry must prioritize people again

By |  July 1, 2022
Thomas Haun PQRT 2020


Thomas Haun is well aware of the aggregate industry’s people problem.

Haun, however, is adamant that the problem won’t be solved until industry stakeholders adjust their approach to hiring and retaining people.

“It’s a year-over-year problem because it’s being done the same way year over year,” says Haun, president of Turner Staffing Group, who previously served Turner Mining Group as COO.

Recruiting, training and building teams are at the heart of the new Turner Staffing Group, which launched last month as an extension of Turner Mining Group. Turner Staffing Group was established as a means to address the growing workforce challenge, connecting skilled professionals with employment needs across the industry.

“Why Turner Mining and Turner Staffing exist is to make life better for the mining industry,” Haun says. “When we have clients and, frankly, partners who say we need this solution, we believe we’re actually capable of delivering that now.”

As Turner Mining Group president and CEO Keaton Turner describes, his company owes all of its early success to its people. Turner characterizes his employees as the engine that drives the company’s growth.

Haun, who joined Turner Mining Group in 2018, agrees. But he argues the industry at-large needs a people rebuild.

“Right now we’re recycling old habits from company to company,” Haun says. “We must break that cycle.”

Recharged approach

Says Turner Staffing Group’s Thomas Haun: “We don’t just want to bring somebody into the company to put a butt in a seat. I think that’s a recipe for failure.” Photo: izusek/E+/Getty Images

Says Turner Staffing Group’s Thomas Haun: “We don’t just want to bring somebody into the company to put a butt in a seat. I think that’s a recipe for failure.” Photo: izusek/E+/Getty Images

According to Haun, Turner Mining Group has grown in recent years behind its core values of people, safety and innovation. People are the company’s first value, though, and it’s the foundation upon which company leaders plan to build Turner Staffing Group.

“Think of how many more people we can reach when we remove the limit of Turner Mining Group sites,” Haun says. “Turner Mining Group is only going to be on so many sites. Turner Staffing Group could have our people on all of them.”

While a number of aggregate producers have fewer employees today than they did a decade ago, Haun says Turner Mining Group’s employee base has grown. He says his company has had a variety of hiring successes because of how it grabs people’s attention.

“People need to be met where they are,” Haun says. “I think we attract great people to our company because of culture and opportunity. We don’t just want to bring somebody into the company to put a butt in a seat. I think that’s a recipe for failure. We want to watch people prosper, whether that’s career progression, skills development or broadening their network of opportunity. That’s what helps people thrive. That’s what makes your company grow.”

Producers, of course, must also pay market-competitive salaries and wages – and Haun says Turner Mining Group does that. But a company’s approach cannot simply come down to dollars and cents.

“That is not the definition of a person prospering,” Haun says. “It’s career progression, skills development, network development. You need to think of the whole person.”

While mining companies have historically done a great job of managing jobsites, Haun says they have not necessarily been the best at fostering talent. The time for change on that front is now, he argues.

“I think big companies give people all kinds of career paths,” Haun says. “I don’t think it’s their focus, though. I don’t think they invest in it enough. I don’t think they truly understand how to do a people rebuild.

“I do think they understand how to run a mine site,” he adds. “I do think they understand how to make a product and deliver it.”

Just like mining companies invest in equipment and technology, Haun says they must equally invest in their people.

“You’re seeing people invest in equipment that has extra safety functionality, better fuel consumption and maybe semiautonomous or remote operation,” he says. “They are investing in making their operation better – in making the mine better.”

With people, Haun says mining companies must also come to terms with what prospective employees are willing to do and what they are not.

“We don’t have an unrealistic expectation that someone is necessarily going to give us their entire professional life,” he explains. “I think the statistics argue that that ship has somewhat sailed.”

Haun points to the military’s approach to recruiting as one mining companies should potentially adopt.

“They are asking people for tours of duty – not for their life,” he says. “There are plenty of people in the military who give their life to the military, but they actually do it step by step. They don’t say they’re committing for 40 years. They’re committing for this opportunity. Then, they get to the end of that tour of duty, and they say they want to do it again.”

Regardless of the hiring or retention approach adopted, Haun says industry companies must shift their priorities. 

“The moment you start to say anything other than ‘people first’ or ‘talent first,’ I think you’re forgetting about the actual core of the solution,” he says.

Kevin Yanik

About the Author:

Kevin Yanik is editor-in-chief of Pit & Quarry. He can be reached at 216-706-3724 or kyanik@northcoastmedia.net.

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