Postmasburg is a small town in the Northern Cape province of South Africa. The region is rich in minerals and is home to several large mining operations. By and large these mining activities shape and drive the local economy, an economy which relies on a steady supply of quality service from the local community.

Our client is an SME which provides essential services to the mining industry. We were tasked to help them strengthen their employee relations, and instil a new, more productive working culture. Cultural change is often one of the more complex changes to drive successfully, and to make this situation increasingly complex, within days of engaging, the task was complicated by the sudden resignation of half the workforce! This posed an immediate threat to our client’s ability to meet their contractual obligations; consequently, our initial efforts focused on recruitment, to ensure that there was no interruption in service and that quality was maintained. The longer serving staff members also had to be prepared for the responsibility of shadowing new incumbents and fulfilling their management responsibilities at the same time.

Given the small scale of their operation, and the relatively stable nature of their business over time, there was no internal capability to manage the people side of the change; consequently, we were required to drive this from an ‘outside-in’ perspective, and within an incredibly short space of time!

Change management principles hold true

Notwithstanding the relatively small scale of the operation, the foundational principles of change management held true, and guided our initial efforts as we focused on securing the sponsorship support required to drive the change. In addition, by considering the roles and responsibilities of the respective key players in the change process (as reflected in the Prosci® Change Management methodology), we considered the critical role which the direct line would need to play in supporting this change. Whilst we were providing outside support and guidance, we insisted that the management team play an active role in driving the process.

In addition to our focused attention on the role of sponsors/managers, we established a change agent network, and equipped sponsors and managers with the skills they needed to manage the change. As part of our commitment to build competency throughout the organisation, we also focused on:

  • Developing the communication content which the change agents would use to sustain the change at an operational level
  • Designed policies and procedures to support and sustain the desired behavioural changes
  • Broadening stakeholder engagement to establish a supportive network for the company (this included liaising with local agencies and government departments)

The outcome

I am pleased to say that our efforts contributed to our client retaining its customer base, and continuing its services uninterrupted. Written contracts, policies and procedures are now in place to support the effective functioning of the business. The new appointments have settled in well and the new leadership team is adapting very well. We continue to provide guidance and support to the company which is now geared for growth, and the leadership now understands the importance of effectively managing change.

Would you like to read more about change in the mining industries? Read our partner Craig McCann’s experience.