How Rio Tinto contributes to human progress and growth


Colleen Devine is the Head of Talent for Rio Tinto. Colleen is a senior leader with more than 25 years’ human resources operations and strategy experience. She has worked across multiple industries; including mining, minerals processing, engineering services, manufacturing and financial services. Colleen has experience in HR strategy design and execution, as well as organisational culture and change management. She has in-depth expertise in talent management, performance management and talent acquisition. In an interview with Connect Intelligence, Colleen explained how Rio Tinto contributes to human progress and growth through people and products. She will be sharing her valuable insights at HR Leaders Forum, 20 & 21 February 2018, Swissotel, Sydney.

Q: What does a day as the Head of Talent for Rio Tinto entail?

My role is varied, busy, exciting and challenging. As head of Talent I’m responsible for setting the agenda for our organisation to attract, engage and retain the best people. This includes how we are structured and work together, engaging and developing our people and ensuring we have the right people to prepare us for the future. One of my biggest challenges is the breadth and diversity of the organisation – with approximately 48,000 employees across the globe, it’s about knowing where to focus our efforts and put our energy.

I have to prioritise and spend most of my time meeting with people – my team, colleagues or employees and leaders from across the business as well as external networking and benchmarking. With a global remit, there is no routine – my day starts early and ends late – and therefore I embrace the flexibility afforded by the role to ensure I have a sustainable work-life balance.

Q: As you have worked across several industries, what is it about the mining industries HR strategy that differs?

In mining we make significant long term investments. The time period from exploration to the closure and rehabilitation of a mine can extend for decades in some cases. This means we’re making decisions today that will impact future generations. This puts a completely different lens on our strategic work. Our important focus areas include building an inclusive and diverse global workforce, and ensuring we have strong partnering with our communities and other stakeholders as well as having deep technical and commercial capability to ensure we can meet our commitments well into the future.

Q: What values and expectations have you implemented in the culture of Rio Tinto? How was that process?

Our chief executive recently introduced a new purpose to our organisation – a clear explanation on why we exist and what our legacy will be – with the intention of engaging our people more, helping them feel connected with their work and giving them a reason for coming to work each day. Our purpose is; “As pioneers in mining and metals, we produce materials essential to human progress”. We want to remind our employees that we all want a better world and our operations and products contribute to human progress and the growth of our people and the communities in which they live and work. Our products contribute to the latest smartphones, electric cars, as well as building the homes, roads and hospitals for our communities. We wanted our people to connect to this and to be proud of what we contribute.

We started with the leaders of our business, giving them a detailed and shared understanding of our purpose, so they could help everyone across the business understand how it gives our work meaning and how it links with our strategy, five priorities and values.

More recently we introduced our updated values to reinforce the purpose as our ‘what’ by ensuring we all know ‘how’ to behave. Our values are Safety, Teamwork, Respect, Integrity and Excellence. We have run values workshops all across the organisation with the help of over 400 employees who volunteered to be values champions and are actively introducing and sponsoring the values in their locations and teams.

Q: How do you attract the best people and ensure a diverse and inclusive workplace?

Our focus on inclusion and engagement is broad both in terms of visible differentiators, such as gender, nationality and language, but also different experiences and backgrounds. Inclusion is a driver of engagement and if we have an inclusive workplace and an engaged workforce, we will attract diverse people and they will feel valued for their contribution and will in turn be our biggest advocates. This is critical as word of mouth is an important way to attract the best people to the organisation. We do an employee engagement survey twice a year for the entire business. This provides us with valuable insights into how we’re doing – from a number of perspectives such as leadership, inclusion, recognition and of course, safety.

Colleen will be expanding on these insights at HR Leaders Forum, 20 & 21 February 2018, Swissotel, Sydney. Register here:

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