Drive To Modernise - Business Media MAGS

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Drive To Modernise

Harmony looks to new training technologies. By Nelendhre Moodley.

The mining industry’s drive to meet its zero-harm target is bearing fruit, with the fatality rate having dropped from over 200 deaths a few years ago to below 65 per annum. Gold miner Harmony Gold recently made a game-changing move when it collaborated with the Minerals Council South Africa (MCSA) and the Research Institute for Innovation and Sustainability (RIIS) to identify an innovative training partner.

Using an open-source system, RIIS ran a competition to identify a training provider that trains using the latest technology, including virtual reality and augmented reality, among others. The new technology solutions are aimed at improving the effectiveness of training delivery to Harmony employees.

Following the call for proposals, many service providers made submissions, with the top six finalists presenting their edtech solutions on 1 October to a panel consisting of the MCSA, RIIS and Harmony.

SA Mining caught up with Mark Haywood, manager of learning and development at Harmony Gold and the person tasked with championing this initiative in Harmony, to chat about the company’s drive to adopt such a game-changing move.

According to Haywood, Harmony has multiple and diverse generations in its workforce of around 45 000 employees, including contractors, and was “very cognisant of the fact that there are preferred learning styles for each generation”.

Further to this is the understanding that the old-school way of training “just doesn’t cut it any more”.

While there are a number of challenges associated with the traditional ways of training and upskilling the workforce, Haywood points to two that stand out – the generational gap with its preferred learning styles, and the literacy level of Harmony’s employees.

“Long gone are the days when a person could sit in a classroom and pay attention to an instructor using old-school facilitation methods of presenting using PowerPoint slides. It has been proven that the attention span of the younger generation has decreased and bite-sized learning is now the preferred method of skills development.

“Furthermore, the literacy levels of some employees remain a challenge, as approximately 23% of our employees are below functionally literate levels. This creates additional challenges when it comes to learning delivery. Moreover, the new modern workplace has placed greater pressure for training to shift away from the traditional methods to online, technology-driven and in-time learning.

“I believe there are only advantages that can come out of this drive to modernise our training. Not only will the adoption of new, modern ways of training reduce time in training, it will also drastically improve learning retention in the long run. This will naturally have a safety spin-off.”

Innovation leads the way

For the mining industry, which has long been considered slow to modernise, Harmony Gold’s radical move to take training and skills development into the digital arena will see it make a massive step change that will surely lead the way for the rest of the mining industry.

The top six finalists were sts3D, Jumploom (Virtutec), bizAR Reality, The Boiler Room, Edutouch and WinWin International.

Flagging some of the standout ideas that have come to the fore from the contestants, Haywood says he was blown away by how, through the use of immersive technology, or virtual reality, it was possible to put a learner into any environment and simulate any scenario to see how the learner would react.

“The technology is such that reports can be generated to actually pinpoint how long a person was looking at a specific item in an environment before moving on. Or how long a person stood motionless before jumping into action when an incident occurs. The opportunities this level of data collection brings to the fore are endless. The saying ‘If you can’t measure it you can’t manage it’ immediately comes to mind.”

Partnering to drive training innovation

“Harmony has identified the need to reposition our training to focus on delivery methods as well as content. We had just started on this journey when the opportunity presented itself to partner with the MCSA and RIIS. The timing couldn’t have been better for us.”

That said, I really believe that this will lead to a greater partnering across industry so that we can learn from, and with, one another to achieve the same goal. We look forward to piloting some of the innovations that came out of the showcase. With a properly engaged and safety-conscious workforce, we will be a step closer towards the goal of zero harm in the industry,” says Haywood.


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